Mercedes-Benz CLK Coupe 1997 - 2002

Mercedes-Benz CLK Coupe 1997 - 2002

Review by it
Monday, May 16, 2016

Pros:

  • Looks bigger and more expensive than it actually is
  • Comfortable for a sports coupe
  • Sporty and responsive

Cons:

  • Expensive to maintain

Overview

The CLK is an abbreviation of Coupe/Leicht/Kurz in German, which means Coupe/Light/Short. It's neither particularly light nor short and people always confuse it for something else. From the front end the car looks exactly like its contemporary E-Class sedan, but apart from the styling, there are no further similarities to the two cars. The CLK is actually built on the C-Class platform, although 3 inches longer than the "Baby-Mercedes", it is closely related to it.

Exterior and Interior

The CLK is a very stylish car that has taken inspiration from the E-Class Mercedes with its signature four headlamps. The flanks of the coupe make it look aggressive and quick. Unlike some other sports coupes, its seating layout is not 2+2. It offers 4 full-size seats and there's plenty of leg room both at the front and at the rear. At 240litres, the boot space is not bad either. In 1998 a cabriolet version was offered. The resemblance to the E-Class continues in the lavish interiors. When designing this coupe, they've also used the inspiration from the top of the class SL roadster to make the CLK look even sportier. All controls and instruments are laid out conveniently making it easy to operate this high-speed vehicle. The A-pillars are quite hefty to ensure a good level of safety but thanks to the position of the driving seat, the visibility is still good.The car was sold in 4 trims offering a various level of equipment: Sport, Avantgarde, Elegance and AMG. The latter is the most expensive as both the engine and much of the interior is hand-assembled to a very high quality.

Performance and Economy

It's not a cheap car to keep. The fuel consumption is high for a family coupe but then, it wasn't built as a family coupe. The aim of the CLK is to provide a sports car-like performance at a reasonable price. If you consider it a sports car, fuel efficiency is not at all bad and the smaller engines manage around 30mpg. The quicker 3.2-litre units still achieve around 28mpg. For the V8 version the fuel economy will go significantly down and only achieve 22mpg at best. Insurance is not too expensive for the basic model ‐ it falls within the group 27. Most of the more powerful versions sit around group 36 with the AMG modification touching group 47, only 3 groups short of a Ferrari. The AMG is probably out of reach for many buyers, but there's no need to worry as the 4.3-litre 275BHP engine is almost as good and the top speed of both cars is limited to 155mph. Performance-wise there's only one second between the 5.4-litre and 4.3-litre engines, the 4.3-lite version accelerates to 60mph in 6.2 seconds, the AMG is one second quicker. If you want to get the most of your CLK, don't choose the 2.0-litre engine as that is not powerful enough to suit the type of car that the CKL is.

Like to Drive

The CLK is a lovely car to drive. It feels as comfortable as the E-Class, but much quicker and sportier than the saloon. In order to enjoy the CLK to the full, you need a straight stretch of a highway. It's very quick to accelerate and fun to drive, but high-speed cornering is not as refined as on proper supercars. Nevertheless, there is a stability control system that will assist the driver and correct his mistakes. The suspension is quite stiff and you'll be able to feel it on bumpy roads, yet you cannot demand a sports car to provide both a smooth ride and stability at high speeds.

Faults and Repairs

As any other sports car, the CLK might have excessive wear if driven carelessly or too hard. It depends on the previous owner. If it has seen regular maintenance, the car should be in a good condition so you should try and find a CLK from a person who can prove a full service history. Regular repair and maintenance should be done at an accredited service station. The CLK is a specialist car and cannot be repaired at your local garage. A well-maintained example will have very few technical issues as it is a reliable vehicle.