Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book
KBB.com 2004 Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class Overview
One V8, One Convertible Top, One Fine Day Driving
Rewards are lifes little incentives that help keep us going. When someone rewards us, its an especially nice feeling, one that says all our hard work, dedication and commitment have not gone unnoticed. Yet the sweetest rewards can often be the ones we bestow upon ourselves, rewards attained only after pushing to reach some lofty goal that otherwise would be out of reach. Should your budget allow it, we can think of no greater reward than a new car and if youve really done well for yourself, you would want to make that car the Mercedes-Benz CLK500 cabriolet.
The CLK line was completely redone in 2003. The new body is simply stunning, with sleek low-flowing lines and a protruding front grille flanked by elongated oval headlight housings. The CLKs new sheetmetal is clearly Mercedes, yet its smooth lines and elegantly sculpted hood seem to recall a time long ago when styling was not dictated solely by the results of wind tunnel testing. This car feels alive, it has soul and character and it is as easy to fall in love with as a big-eared puppy.
The convertible models only serve to enhance the beautiful CLK body, stripping it of its roof to create a fetching open-air coupe. The most desirable of the convertibles is the CLK500, a V8 powered super chariot with the heart of an Olympic athlete. From the minute Mercedes dropped off our Silver CLK500, it was love at first site. And after just a few minutes of testing, the temptation to elope and never return became almost overwhelming.
Of course the first thing we needed to do after our delivery team was safely out of sight was to drop the top and hit the road. To do so, the CLK requires little more than the use of one finger, which needs to be firmly planted on the center-console mounted switch for about 30 seconds. Pull the switch up and the automatic latching mechanism releases its grip upon the windshield pillar while the rear deck simultaneously opens to receive the convertible top. The entire symphony of whirring gears and moving parts culminates with the top resting neatly beneath the solid tonneau cover. Ready to roll, we close our door and reach for the seatbelt, assisted by an electronic arm that delivers the belt clasp just ahead of the left shoulder.
Looking around the interior, it is clear that Mercedes understands the importance of good packaging. Though the cockpit feels tight, it does so without also feeling confining. The instrument cluster, audio and heating controls are all within easy reach and clearly placed so as not to be obstructed by the steering wheel or shifter. The cryptic symbols sometimes required us to hit the owners manual (the dual-zone climate control seemed particularly perplexing) but once we read up on how each unit operated, everything worked as promised. Our CLK was equipped with the optional COMMAND navigation system that had previously come under fire for being too complex. The new menus are much simpler to navigate and provide a window within a window screen that allows you to see such functions as the radio settings without having to switch off the navigation route. There is also a nice round display screen set into the center of the speedometer that shows functions for the audio and trip computer.
Finding a comfortable position is easy in the CLK. The power seat switches are mounted on the door and form the shape of a seat. We found the CLKs seats have a wide latitude of positions including the ability to raise the seat bottom at a significant rake, a favorite position for our long-legged drivers who need more thigh support; oddly, the seats do not offer any form of adjustable lumbar support. Heated seats keep you warm when the air turns cool and you can order an optional set that can cool for when the sun is at its worst. The optional Bose audio system in our test car simply rocked, with crisp highs and rich base that easily trumped even the most rowdy wind gusts. We were very much impressed by the fit, finish and design of the power top that when in place kept all but the loudest noises from entering the vehicle. Unfortunately, something had come loose in the rear deck, creating a constant rattling that forced us to drive with the top down most of the time. We suffered through. A quick trip to the dealer would probably have silenced the culprit, but we were having much too much fun to give up our precious new toy for an entire day.
Beyond its elegant trappings and clever electronics lies the heart of an old-fashioned American muscle car. The 5.0-liter V8 churns out 302 horsepower and is controlled by a slick-shifting five-speed automatic transmission whose operation is so seamless it almost feels as though there are no gear changes at all. Stomp on the gas and the CLK leaps to attention, rocketing you forward while leaving behind the angry growl only a V8 exhaust pipe can emit. The handling is wonderfully neutral, requiring only minor input to the wheel and offering excellent feedback. In the CLK500, you can tear through turns, allowing the back end to step out slightly before the electronic traction control kicks in, bringing the car back in line to eagerly await your next move. Top down or up, this is one fine handling road machine. Mercedes also includes a two-setting electronic suspension, one for comfort and one for sport. For our part, we felt the sport setting offered better handling without sacrificing much in the way of ride quality. That being said, we basically left the suspension in the sport mode for most our time and never felt the ride to be too harsh.
If there is drawback to owning the convertible version of the CLK, it is the diminutive trunk space afforded to you. The power top has to go someplace, so most of the trunk area is now off limits to large suitcases and golf bags. On the other hand, the CLK has a usable rear seat that can be used for short-term storage when not occupied by passengers.