2000 Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class
2000 Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
Smooth, fast and beautiful.
Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class blends luxury, power and performance with graceful looks and innovative technology. Lean and quick, any one of these can cruise at scofflaw rates of speed all day.
No one truly needs more power than the smooth, highly efficient 3.2-liter V6 provides for the CLK320 models. But for those who crave power, there's the CLK430, a great supercoupe with a powerful 4.3-liter V8 that will elevate its owner into rarified automotive air. Both coupes perform flawlessly. Last year, Mercedes added the CLK320 Cabriolet to lineup. For 2000, the CLK430 Cabriolet joins the line to bring the CLK-Class to four models.
All CLK models sport interior and exterior enhancements for 2000: Aerodynamic enhancements alter their appearance, while a bevy of interior upgrades add convenience. Enhancing safety are side-view mirrors that feature turn signal repeaters, and the superb Electronic Stability Programming that is now standard equipment.
Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class is available as a coupe and convertible with a choice of two engines.
CLK320 ($41,600) is powered by the first V6 in Mercedes-Benz history. This 3.2-liter is lightweight and sophisticated, and comes with an intelligent 5-speed automatic transmission. It's a superb combination that gives the CLK320 excellent response around town and great high-speed cruising capability on the open road.
CLK430 ($49,100) ups the ante with a 275-horsepower 4.3-liter V8. It comes with a sports suspension developed by renowned German tuning firm AMG that turns the CLK into a limited-production high-performance luxury coupe.
CLK320 Cabriolet ($48,100) and CLK430 Cabriolet ($55,600) offer upscale, top-down motoring.
This car has presence. It makes a strong class statement, immediately enhancing the appearance of any driveway. CLK-Class models mix exterior design elements from other Mercedes lines to create a uniquely graceful presence. In particular, the four ovoid headlamps, which made their debut on the E-Class, lend an unmistakable Mercedes touch at the front, while the sweeping arc of the rearmost roof pillars sweetens the whole shape.
For 2000, CLK320 models gain new body-colored front and rear aprons around the perimeter of the body, new body-colored sculpted rocker panels and side rub strips, and new-design seven-spoke 16-inch alloy wheels. Mercedes-Benz gives all CLK430 models AMG-designed Sport aerodynamic enhancements, plus new body-colored door handles (without chrome), new black window trim and blue-tinted windows. CLK430 features a staggered tire setup with wider, lower-profile tires on wider AMG thin-spoke Monoblock wheels in back than in front.
CLK is equipped with front and side airbags for the front passengers. The front passenger seat uses a sensor that tells the airbag sensors whether it's occupied; if it's unoccupied, the passenger-side bags won't deploy, which can save a bundle in repairs. Allied with this is the BabySmart system, which lets the airbag computer know when the passenger seat is occupied by a child restraint seat, thus deactivating the right front airbag. It requires the purchase of a specially designed seat from Mercedes to work.
For 2000, two special designo Editions with unique paint, interior upholstery and trim join the CLK lineup: Slate Blue ($6,700) and Espresso ($5,900).
CLK-Class boasts room for four with outstanding seats. In terms of its firm comfort, luxury features, no-nonsense instrumentation, and excellent control layout, the CLK interior is like other Mercedes-Benz automobiles. The interior is not, however, traditional Mercedes in terms of decor: there's warmth in the interior color scheme. Mercedes has emerged from a long tradition of funereal hues and dark wood trim into something more contemporary. For 2000, CLK430 comes with black Birdseye maple wood trim and light gray gauges.
Front seating adjustments work fluidly and it's easy to find a comfortable position. Two adults will find ample leg, knee and shoulder room in the rear seats, though the convertible top makes Cabriolets more cramped. Getting into the rear seat of coupes isn't always easy, but the Easy Entry system automatically moves the front power seats forward, then returns them to their original position.
From the driver's point of view, we found the new coupe's sight lines to be very good, including the rear quarters. In addition to their elegant appearance, the slim rear roof C-pillars minimize blind spots so common in sport coupes. There is some wind noise at higher speeds.
CLK's spacious trunk is nearly the same size as that in the C-Class sedan. Coupes come with split folding seatbacks to increase cargo capacity. Putting the top down on the Cabriolet reduces its cargo space by 40 percent.
This is a technologically advanced automobile that is a joy to drive. We've driven the CLK320 and CLK430 and it's difficult to pick a winner. CLK430 is a terrific high-performance coupe, but CLK320 offers plenty of power, European luxury-sedan ride quality, extremely precise steering, and a much smaller number on its window sticker.
These cars are supremely stable in high-speed sweeping turns. Every time I went through a corner while driving through rural Maryland (in a CLK430), I felt like I could have taken it much quicker. Other cars become rolling chicanes, mere serfs lumbering along in second-rate machinery. You could get a big ticket in one of these things.
It offers sports car responses, including the most precise steering we've ever experienced in a Mercedes. It is truly wonderful on fast, sweeping roads. Just don't be rummaging around, looking for that cell phone because this car demands your attention. Its response is quicker than racecars we've driven. Road feel at high speeds is excellent, yet I found plenty of power-assist for easy maneuvering through Washington's tight underground parking garages. If there is a flaw it's that this car does everything so well that initially it seems to lack character. But the more time that's spent with it, the more the appreciation grows.
Braking performance is really impressive given the weight of this car, thanks to its big four-wheel discs and grippy tires. Go beyond the limits of the tires, and the superb anti-lock brake system (ABS) will prevent a skid, allowing you to maintain steering control. However, Mercedes claims most of us don't apply maximum braking force in emergency situations. Few people have really experienced ABS in operation and many will unconsciously release pressure on the brake pedal when they feel the ABS pulsing underfoot. To address this, Mercedes developed its Brake Assist System, which comes standard on all CLK models. How Brake Assist works: The computer that governs the antilock brake system (ABS) monitors your braking habits. It then senses when you're in an emergency braking situation, primarily on a basis of how quickly the brake pedal is depressed, and applies maximum hydraulic pressure to the brakes, up to and over the ABS threshold, even if you panic and ease pressure off the brakes. Brake Assist does not actuate under normal hard braking, such as an enthusiast or racing driver would use to slow the car from high speeds for a tight corner. It only kicks in when the driver suddenly jams on the brakes in a panic stop, the kind that occurs when you look up in heavy traffic and everyone has parked it, or the kind that occurs when a kid on a bicycle suddenly appears in front of you. Mercedes claims this system can reduce stopping distances by as much as 45 percent. It's a great feature that could save lives.
CLK320 coupe comes with a 3.2-liter V6 engine capable of propelling the 3,240-pound CLK320 from 0 to 60 mph in less than seven seconds. Rated at 215 horsepower and a robust 229 foot-pounds of torque from 3,000 to 4,600 rpm, its real strengths are low weight and exceptionally good emissions performance. A lighter engine reduces weight over the front wheels, which improves balance and handling, and this V6 weighs just 330 pounds. It also meets the requirements for California's tough Low Emissions Vehicle (LEV) classification.
CLK430 is powered by a 4.3-liter V8 rated at 275 horsepower and 295 foot-pounds of torque available from 3,000 to 4,000 rpm. This is fast traffic that will keep you at the front of the Autobahn barnstormers. Step past this point and you're shopping Aston Martins that will set you back six figures.
For 2000, the CLKs come with a redesigned 5-speed automatic transmission. Its Touch Shift feature allows the driver to manually select all five gears by pushing the gear lever slightly left to downshift or right to upshift, all while in the Drive position. It isn't necessary to move the lever to another gate or se.
Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class represents a beautiful line of two-door coupes and convertibles. Fast and comfortable, this is fine machinery.
Comparisons are inevitable. CLK320 offers plenty of power and a much smaller number on its window sticker than the CLK430. CLK320 Cabriolet is priced similarly to CLK430 coupe, offering a choice of power or alfresco motoring for about the same outlay. Cabriolets are a bit more cramped than coupes.
CLK320 ($41,600); CLK430 ($49,100); CLK320 Cabriolet ($48,100); CLK430 Cabriolet ($55,600).
Options As Tested
K4 Package ($1515) includes heated front seats, headlight washer system, Xenon headlights.
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