The Mercedes-Benz CLK feels right in just about any role. It's good looking, stylish, sporty to drive and personal, yet it will work for two couples during an evening on the town. Those who prefer understated, buttoned-down elegance will like CLK Coupe. Extroverts and sun worshippers can choose the one-button convertible top on the CLK Cabriolet.
For 2007, the V8-powered CLKs have new engines. The CLK550 gets the latest-generation Mercedes V8, with variable valve timing and 27 percent more power than the engine in the 2006 CLK500, yet the same EPA mileage ratings as before. The new CLK63 AMG has a race-inspired V8 built start-to-finish by one technician at the company's AMG high-performance subsidiary.
The new engines mean a slight change in model nomenclature, but the CLK lineup really has not changed. There's still a coupe and convertible, with either a V6 or V8 engine. The super-fast AMG model is available only as a convertible.
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 some mid-size luxury cars lack. In general, the CLK is one of the sportiest cars in the Mercedes lineup. Most buyers 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.
Drivers who demand more performance can choose the CLK550. Its new 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.
The limited-production CLK63 AMG goes a couple of magnitudes better. It will out-accelerate, out-brake and out-corner all but a handful of four-place cars anywhere. Yet around town it's incredibly docile and belies its 475-hp AMG engine.
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.
What's new for 2007: More powerful engines for the V8 models. The CLK550 replaces the CLK500, with a new 5.5-liter engine generating 27 percent more power than the previous 5.0-liter V8. The ultra-high-performance CLK63 AMG Cabriolet replaces the CLK55 AMG, with a hand-built 6.2-liter V8 producing 475 horsepower. Also new for 2007 is a Sport Appearance Package ($490) for the CLK350. It includes a firmer sport suspension, cross-drilled brake rotors and 10-spoke, 17-inch aluminum wheels.
The Mercedes-Benz CLK is available as a coupe or convertible. Three models are distinguished by engine size, and all come with a seven-speed automatic transmission that can be shifted manually with buttons on the steering wheel.
The CLK350 Coupe ($46,200) and Cabriolet ($54,200) 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 ($54,900) and Cabriolet ($62,900) get the new-generation V8 introduced in the big S-Class sedan. This dual-overhead-cam 5.5-liter engine generates 382 horsepower and 391 pound-feet of torque.
The CLK63 AMG ($89,200) is available only as a cabriolet. Its 6.2-iter V8 is built by a single technician at Mercedes' AMG racing subsidiary, with 475 horsepower and 465 pound-feet of torque. The CLK63 also gets sporting upgrades to its brakes and suspension, and comes with a longer list of ultra-luxury features.
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 harmon/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.