Kelley Blue Book ® - 2003 Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class Overview

Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com 2003 Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class Overview

Body
Mercedes Sleek Coupe Gets Sleeker

The CLK has been completely overhauled for 2003, adopting the new front-end design already worn by the new S and C-Class sedans and touting a true hardtop design. Unlike previous generations, the CLK is more than just a popular sedan with two of its doors removed. It has been designed from the ground up to be a true coupe through and through; a point emphasized by the removal of the center B pillar which allows for a completely open-air feeling when the front and rear windows are rolled down.

Mercedes wants the new CLK to be an aggressive competitor in the performance-coupe market, and it hopes the cars new styling will attract younger buyers to the MB fold. To accomplish this task, Mercedes-Benz has equipped the CLK with a host of standard and optional equipment that is sure to delight customers, as well as instill in them a sense of exclusivity. Two models make up the line, the CLK320 and CLK500; for the time being, the convertible CLK will retain the old body style until its replacement arrives for the 2004 model year. If you look closely, you will notice that there are subtle visual differences between the CLK320 and the CLK500. For example, the 320s grille is composed of gray plastic vanes, while the 500 has black plastic edged in chrome. The front valances are also different, as is the color of the window tint (green for the 320, blue for the 500). New this year is the optional Sport Appearance package that gives the 320 model larger wheels and tires and chrome exhaust tips.

The interior of the CLK has been given a thorough re-working and the result borders on sheer automotive art. The dash employs a series of gently flowing curves that come together to form the instrument cluster hood and center console; four large round air vents punctuate the design. The theme repeats itself on the doors and in the center console. The seats in the CLK are designed not only to cradle your body, but also to absorb any disturbance telegraphed by the suspension. And as if to further emphasize the luxury status of the car, Mercedes-Benz has chosen to cover the entire seat in leather, not just the seating surface. Speaking of seats, you should take note of the CLKs spacious rear accommodations; they can comfortably hold two full-sized adults for hours on end, a rare feature among coupes in this class.

The instruments themselves retain the traditional Mercedes look, but have been freshened with a more artistic design that includes two digital bar graph readouts for fuel and temperature and a circle within a circle speedometer gauge that exposes only the leading edge of the analog needle. We think youll agree that the most noticeable change to the CLK interior is the open-air feeling you get with all four windows rolled down. There is nothing like the unobstructed view out the passenger side windows when cruising scenic byways and the joy of resting your arm on the door sill without being nudged forward by the cumbersome B pillar. Ah, joy!

Of course, looks and comfort are only part of the CLKs allure; power is its trump card. The CLK320 uses a 3.2-liter V6 to produce a respectable 215 horsepower. This engine, when coupled to Mercedes' superb 5-speed-automatic transmission, delivers excellent throttle response and smooth, liner acceleration. For an added measure of fun, the CLK transmission includes a Touch Shift feature that allows you to manually shift gears without the use of a clutch pedal. For those of you who crave the ultimate rush brought on by obscene amounts of horsepower and torque, the CLK500 will probably be the CLK of choice. Saddled with the 5.0-liter V8 from the S-Class, the CLK500 is rated at 302 horsepower and 339 lb-ft. of torque. That translates into a lot of power in a coupe that doesnt weigh all that much.

To handle the larger engine's output, Mercedes redesigned the CLKs suspension and steering box. The new suspension settings feel much more in touch with the road, yet the ride remains smooth and controlled, unaffected by road imperfections. The steering feel is greatly improved with the introduction of a new rack-and-pinion system that also reduces front-end weight. A host of electronic gadgets monitor and correct the CLKs ability to remain in contact with the road surface at all times. Aiding you in your driving skills are such features as ABS, Electronic Stability Control and a sophisticated multi-link rear suspension.

Finally, there are some great bells and whistles to add to your CLK. In addition to the Command navigation and Tele-Aid emergency systems, the CLK offers such innovative features as the Distronic adaptive cruise control that automatically maintains a preset distance between you and the car ahead of you. Coolest of all is the new Keyless Go system. Keyless Go responds to a small transponder inside the key fob. So long as the unit is in your pocket or purse, it will unlock the doors automatically the second you pull on the handle. Once inside the car, you need only depress the brake pedal and touch a button located atop the shift lever to start the engine.

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