2008 CLK-Class New Car Test Drive
The Mercedes-Benz CLK feels right in just about any role. It's good looking, stylish, sporty to drive and personal, yet roomy and comfortable for four adults.
The CLK comes in coupe and convertible versions, with a V6 or V8 engine. Those who prefer understated, buttoned-down elegance will like the CLK Coupe. Extroverts and sun worshippers can choose the one-button convertible top on the CLK Cabriolet.
New for 2008 is the limited?edition CLK Black Series with a 500-horsepower engine. The V8 engines are still new yet now tested, having been introduced for the 2007 model year.
The CLK is one of the sportiest cars in the Mercedes lineup. The CLK has rear-wheel drive in a class increasingly populated by front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive cars, and it has a sporting flair many mid-size luxury cars lack.
We think most drivers will be quite happy with the CLK350 and its 268-horsepower V6. With its seven-speed automatic, the CLK350 delivers a fine balance of spirited acceleration, quiet cruising and decent fuel mileage. The CLK350 gets an EPA-rated 17/25 mpg City/Highway.
Drivers who demand more performance can choose the CLK550. Its V8 generates 382 hp and an even more impressive 391 pound-feet of torque. (Torque is that force that launches the car from intersections and propels it up hills.) Measured by acceleration and engine response, the CLK550 meets just about any standard of high performance. The CLK550 transmits a feeling of being more stuck to the road than the CLK350 does, with sharper handling and better high-speed stability.
Meanwhile, the limited-production CLK63 AMG performs magnitudes better, delivering racecar levels of performance. It will out-accelerate, out-brake and out-corner all but a handful of four-seat cars anywhere. Yet around town it's incredibly docile and belies its 475-hp AMG engine. The CLK63 AMG Black Series kicks it up just a notch, boasting 500 hp.
On the open road, the CLK, no matter the model, is satisfying, responsive and exceptionally stable at high speeds. It inspires confidence on twisty roads and bears up well in a spirited drive. It's also easy to live with. Its ride is firm, but not intrusive. Its relatively small size makes it easy to park and maneuver in crowded city centers, but its back seat is roomy enough for two adults.
In a word, the CLK is balanced. Its stylish design and elegant interior make it a pleasant place to spend time, and it delivers Mercedes cachet that works in almost any circumstance.
The 2008 Mercedes-Benz CLK comes in coupe and convertible body styles. Three models are available, distinguished by engine size: CLK350, CLK550, CLK63AMG. All come with a seven-speed automatic transmission that can be shifted manually with buttons on the steering wheel.
The CLK350 Coupe ($46,450) and Cabriolet ($54,500) are powered by a 3.5-liter V6, which develops 268 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque.
Standard features include leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control with pollen and dust filter, 10-way adjustable power seats with three memory settings and rain-sensing windshield wipers. Black-stained ash wood trim is standard, and more traditional burl walnut is available as a no-charge option. The Cabriolet features a fully automatic, heavily insulated convertible top.
The CLK550 Coupe ($55,150) and Cabriolet ($63,200) get the 5.5-liter engine that generates 382 horsepower and 391 pound-feet of torque.
The CLK63 AMG ($89,500) is available as a cabriolet and as the Black Series ($135,000). Both are built by a single technician at Mercedes racing subsidiary AMG.
Options are grouped in three packages: Premium I, II, and III. Exact content and price vary with the model. On the CLK350 Coupe, Premium I ($2,530) includes auto-dimming mirrors, a programmable built-in garage door opener, a premium harman/kardon stereo with six-CD changer and a glass sunroof. Premium II ($3,630) adds turning bi-xenon headlights with washers and a heated windshield washer system. Premium III ($4630) includes everything in PI and PII, plus ventilated seats.
Stand-alone options include a navigation system combined with on-screen control for the stereo and air conditioning ($2,270); Sirius satellite radio ($510); hands-free telephone communication ($925); wood and leather steering wheel ($540); heated front seats ($700); electronic trunk closer ($520); and Keyless Go push-button starting ($1,100). For that extra special touch, designo Silver Edition and Graphite Edition trim packages are available ($7,050).
Safety features that come on all CLKs include multi-stage front-impact airbags. Coupes get front passenger side-impact airbags that protect the torso, and curtain-style head protection airbags for both front and rear passengers. The convertibles combine both torso and head protection in the same side-impact airbags. The also feature pop-up rollbars that automatically deploy if the electronics sense a pending rollover. TeleAid accident notification is standard. Side-impact airbags for the rear passengers are optional ($390). Anti-lock brakes (ABS) with emergency Brake Assist and Electronic Stability Control are standard. The Extended Mobility package ($200) includes run-flat tires and a tire pressure warning system. 4Matic all-wheel drive adds a measure of safety in slippery conditions.