First pictures: Mercedes CLC (updated)

* Official images released * CLC features 1100 new parts * On sale in June...

First pictures: Mercedes CLC (updated)

The Mercedes C-Class Sports Coupe will become the CLC in June

Merc is refreshing its seven-year-old rival for the three-door BMW 1 Series and Audi A3, itself due to get an update in the summer.

There are more economical engines across the range, the front and rear ends and the interior have been changed to give the car more of a family resemblance to the latest C-Class saloon, electronic features that ought to have been available aeons ago are now offered, and the C-Class's more direct steering is fitted to Sport models.

Beneath the mild reskin, though, it's the same car, based on the platform and suspension of the previous C-Class.

However, Merc claims to have retuned the suspension, and Sport models get a stiffer and lower set-up as well as the revised steering. This gives quicker responses at high speed for sporty driving, without hindering low-speed manoeuvrability.

Engine line-up
There are four petrol and two turbodiesel engines, all familiar from the outgoing car. The supercharged 200K gains 20bhp to bring it into line with the C-Class saloon, though, while Merc claims up to 7% better fuel economy from petrol models and as much as 11% with the diesels.

The full range is made up of two supercharged cars (CLC180K and 200K), two V6s of 2.5 and 3.5 litres (CLC230 and 350) and a couple of 2.2-litre turbodiesels (CLC200 CDI and 220 CDI).

There will be SE and Sport trim levels (Sport only with the V6s), and prices arent expected to differ from those of the current range.

Things that buyers of premium-badge cars now take for granted, such as Bluetooth phone connectivity, iPod plug-ins and Europe-wide DVD sat-nav, are now offered, and new integrated infotainment units will become available in September. Buy a six-CD changer and voice controls are part of ther deal.

Seats have been reshaped and made more sporty, and parking sensors are now fitted to every model.

At the launch party...
What does a car manufacturer do when it wants to add a bit of extra sparkle to a fairly low-key car launch? Piggy-back on an even bigger event, thats what.

So, the unveliing of the Mercedes CLC, successor to the C-Class Sport Coupe, was timed to coincide with the start of (Mercedes-sponsored) Berlin fashion week.

The great and the good of the Mercedes 'brand ambassadors' were present alongside a smattering of skinny girls and unshaven men in outfits most of us wouldnt be seen dead in.

There was former Wimbledon champion Boris Becker, who seemed so taken aback to be seated next to a stunning girl for the car's unveiling that he promptly spilt a drink down himself.

Then Mika Hakkinen, winner of two Formula 1 championships with McLaren-Mercedes, chauffeured in Eva Padberg, Germany's latest supermodel. Fine, until he opened the car door for her and she towered at least six inches over him.

Finally, Naomi Campbell arrived to drape herself over the car, causing photographers to start the kind of stampede last seen when buffalo roamed the plains of America's mid-west. Time to go.