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1998 Mercedes-Benz CLK320

1998 Mercedes-Benz CLK320
Lovely to look at, delightful to drive.

By Tony Swan

Review Pages
1. Overview
2. Walkaround and Interior
3. Driving Impressions
4. Summary, Prices, Specs

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If Romeo and Juliet were around today, their story might not end so unhappily because their families--the Montagues and the Capulets--would have something they could agree on: the new Mercedes-Benz CLK320.

But what, you may ask, do Romeo and Juliet have to do with a seductive luxury sport coupe? Well, Verona, Italy, is where their gloomy love story unfolded--Juliet's balcony is one of the city's principal tourist stops--and it was also the site for the worldwide press preview of the CLK.

Unfortunately, the unhappy couple missed it by about four centuries. Too bad, because they'd be just the kind of upscale young people Mercedes-Benz hopes to attract. Mercedes newest campaign is designed to make us fall in love with its newest line of cars. And few of them are as alluring as this handsome new CLK320 coupe, an impressive blend of graceful good looks, innovative technology, luxury, power, performance--and value.

We realize a $40,000 sport coupe isn't exactly a mainstream set of wheels. But in the luxury realm, its combination of features, quality, style, and revitalized Mercedes panache add up to a very good value.

Perhaps even more significant, the CLK is yet another signal that this is a changed company. As recently as five years ago, Mercedes was rapidly losing ground to longtime rival BMW as well as the newer Japanese luxury entries from Lexus, Acura and Infiniti. Mercedes-Benz cars began to be perceived--not inaccurately--as overweight, over-engineered and overpriced. And the parent company was perceived as arrogant and insular.

The CLK provides proof of a new corporate philosophy in development: leaner, quicker, more flexible, less expensive.

It's also a treat for the eyes and a blast for the senses when driving it.

With a formula like that, how can you lose?

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