2003 CLK-Class New Car Test Drive
The Mercedes-Benz CLK coupe turned heads when it went on sale five years ago, but it didn't exactly snap them back when blasting down a twisty road. The CLK was lovely to behold, but its performance never quite lived up to its looks, and its cramped interior belied Mercedes' promise that it was a real four-passenger coupe.
Say hello to the all-new 2003 CLK, and goodbye to all that.
Mercedes' new coupe is stunning sitting still, and a delight on the road. It goes immediately to the head of the class for looks, performance and passenger space.
In many ways, the CLK is in a class by itself. Its sleek lines were carefully sculpted to make a statement different from sedan-derived coupes like the BMW 330 Ci. Intended to evoke luxury coupes of the past, the CLK is all about style, and from Mercedes' point of view, its direct competitors aren't even on the road yet. Mercedes thinks the CLK puts it a lap up on competition from the upcoming BMW 6 Series, Audi A4 coupe and Infiniti G35 coupe.
Two models are initially available: CLK320 and CLK500. We expect them to retail between $43,500 and $54,500.
A convertible will join the lineup in about a year. A very early guess puts prices for that around $52,500 for the CLK320 cabrio and $61,500 for the CLK500 cabrio. A high-performance AMG CLK55 coupe goes on sale in December, with an estimated MSRP of around $71,500. An AMG CLK 55 convertible is also in the pipeline
The CLK320 features Mercedes' 3.2-liter V-6, which develops 215 hp at 5700 rpm and 221 lb.-ft. of torque from 3000 to 4600 rpm. The CLK500's 5.0-liter V8 produces 302 hp at 5600 rpm and 339 lb.-ft. of torque from 2700 to 4250 rpm. Both engines are mated to Mercedes' smooth-shifting 5-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission, which features software to adapt its shift points to suit the driver's style and TouchShift for quick manual shifting.
The two models differ in little but their engines and a few cosmetic touches. Both have a long list of standard equipment including: 10-way adjustable power seats with three memory settings; ABS with emergency brake assist; electronic stability control; and dual-zone climate control with pollen and dust filter.
The two models' exterior differences are minimal. The CLK320 has green-tinted glass and gray vanes on its grille; the CLK 500 gets blue-tinted glass and high-gloss black vanes with chrome trim on its grille. Below the grille, the CLK500's front valance has mesh grillwork and three separate sections.
Both models boast extremely well-equipped and attractive interiors, with two-tone leather and aluminum trim available as an option only on the CLK500. An exterior appearance package featuring 17-inch five-spoke wheels, low-profile tires and aluminum interior trim is optional on the CLK320. The CLK320 has standard 16x7-inch 205/55 HR16 front and 16x8-in 225/50 HR16 rear tires. The CLK500 uses 17x7.5-inch front 225/45 ZR17 and 17x8.5-inch 245/40 ZR17 rear tires. The CLK500 tires are part of the CLK320's optional appearance package.