2004 CLK-Class New Car Test Drive
The second-generation Mercedes-Benz CLK now includes a full line of convertibles. The CLK coupes and cabriolets offer comfortable, luxurious accommodations and sporty performance. They look stunning even when sitting still, and are a delight on the road. They sit at the head of their class for looks, performance and passenger space.
In many ways, the CLK line is in a class by itself, sporting sleek lines carefully sculpted to make a statement different from sedan-derived coupes like the BMW 330Ci. Completely redesigned last year, the current CLK models replace the first-generation (pre-2003) CLKs. The CLKs are all about style, and from Mercedes' point of view, their direct competitors aren't even on the road yet.
The CLK models offer excellent handling and are a joy to drive. They feel taut, like a true sports coupe, and don't lean in corners. The ride is firm but comfortable. The CLK500 is more exciting to drive than the CLK320 and its interior seems nicer.
Three models comprise the CLK line and each is available as a two-door coupe or cabriolet. Each offers progressively higher levels of performance, but are otherwise similarly equipped.
The CLK320 coupe ($44,350) and cabriolet ($51,400) are powered by a 3.2-liter V6, which develops 215 horsepower at 5700 rpm and 221 pounds-feet of torque at 4600 rpm.
The CLK500 coupe ($52,800) and cabriolet ($59,850) get a 5.0-liter V8 that produces 302 horsepower at 5600 rpm and 339 pounds-feet of torque at 4250 rpm.
The CLK55 AMG coupe ($69,900) and cabriolet ($79,500) are limited-production models with an ultra high-performance 5.4-liter V8 rated at 362 horsepower at 5750 rpm and 376 pounds-feet of torque at 4000 rpm.
All three engines are mated to a smooth-shifting five-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission, which features software to adapt its shift points to suit the driver's style. The transmissions also allow the driver to shift manually. The CLK55 AMG transmission lets the driver choose between Formula 1-like buttons on the back of the steering wheel and the shift lever to select gears when in the manual mode.
All CLK models boast 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. All boast extremely well-equipped and attractive interiors, with two-tone leather and aluminum trim available as an option on the CLK500 and an exclusive, monochromatic black interior on the CLK55 AMG.
A notable addition to the line's robust list of standard features is Mercedes' Tele Aid system, which calls an emergency response center and gives the car's location in the event any seatbelt tensioning retractor or airbag deploys. The cabriolet also boasts a new design of side-impact airbag mounted in the front seat that adds head protection to the usual chest protection expected from such systems.
Options include a navigation system combined with a computerized management system for stereo and air conditioning ($2,170); Distronic, an adaptive, radar-based cruise control ($3,010); a Comfort Package available only on the CLK320 and CLK500 and consisting of ventilated seats and multi-contour front seats ($1,200); a keyless automatic-unlocking and engine-start system ($1,040); and Parktronic, a park-assist system ($1,060). The CLK320 can be spruced up with an appearance package featuring 17-inch wheels, low profile tires and various chrome and brushed-aluminum exterior and interior trim pieces ($1,080).