Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class CLK 63 AMG Cabriolet
Subtle styling is made more aggressive by the AMG bodykit
- Hood operation is smooth, quick and efficient
- V8 engine is an absolute gem
- Image is strong and adds to desirability
- Cabin is well specified and great to use
- Running costs will be high
- Rear seats unsuitable for tall passengers
- Weight has negative effect on handling and economy
- Exterior looks slightly dated compared with newer rivals
One of the few genuine four-seater convertible cars on the market, the CLK Cabriolet is designed to offer a mix of traditional Mercedes comfort and luxury with the added appeal of a folding roof. The range-topping AMG version benefits from an all-new V8 engine for exceptional performance and desirability.
Mercedes has a long history of producing capable and dynamic convertible cars, and the introduction of folding metals roofs with the SLK model in the early 1990s made it a must-have for many buyers. The CLK is aimed at a different buyer, one who wants the fun factor of a drop-top but with a fabric roof, to retain viable rear seats and a usable boot space.
As a part of the updated CLK range, the AMG version has a new 6.3-litre V8 engine, replacing the 5.5-litre unit. As well as an increase in capacity, the 6.3-litre V8 uses the latest technology to deliver more power but also greater efficiency than the previous engine, so although it remains less than economical, it shows an improvement when driven with restraint.
On the outside the CLK has received a number of detailed improvements to refresh its appearance, and the AMG version is arguably the best looking version. Its shape remains traditional, with a long bonnet and a high bootlid, while the twin headlights and Mercedes grille give it a more conservative appearance. The AMG variant benefits from the 18-inch alloy wheels, deeper front bumper and side skirts fitted as standard.
In terms of everyday use the CLK has few obvious reminders that it has a fabric folding roof. Road and wind noise levels are kept under control, and the roof itself has several layers and provides good insulation from the outside world. Additionally, the cabin is roomy and comfortable, particularly for front seat passengers, and the boot is big enough to cope with most loads although the aperture is quite narrow.
Our verdict on the Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class CLK 63 AMG Cabriolet
Although older than some of its rivals, the CLK still feels fresh. The AMG model is a very rapid sports car and can switch between comfort and sporting driving with ease. The keenest drivers may want something more dynamic, but as an ownership prospect and a car to enjoy, the CLK AMG is a fine machine.
Inevitably a car like the CLK will suffer from substantial running costs, though the fuel economy is improved over the outgoing CLK AMG. Depreciation will also be relatively modest, helping to offset the high insurance, servicing and purchase costs.
Space and practicality
For a car of this nature, the amount of space on offer is good. Front seat passengers are well catered for, with excellent head and legroom. Less space is on offer in the rear, while the boot is relatively generous regardless of whether the hood is up or down.
Controls and display
A typical Mercedes strong point, the controls and displays of the CLK require a little familiarisation, but once this has been achieved it is informative and easy to use. The main instruments are clear, and the comprehensive information display within the speedometer is very useful. The central control unit which houses the navigation, audio and telephone controls uses a series of buttons down each side, which makes operation simple.
With electrically adjustable seats, getting comfortable is easy in the CLK. They offer plenty of support, and are comfortable even over a long distance. The rear seats are heavily sculpted and quite narrow, although they do offer reasonable support. Better still is the ride quality, which is composed and refined, with only larger bumps taken at speed creating any significant intrusion into the cabin. Noise levels are also impressively low, even with the fabric hood.
Remote central locking, locking wheel bolts and an interior alarm system are all fitted as standard, providing the level of security necessary for a desirable car like the CLK. Even the fabric roof offers a degree of protection, thanks to six layers of material. The alarm system can also operate with the roof in the stowed position.
The level of safety equipment in the CLK is impressive, including pop-up rear roll hoops to make up for the lack of a metal roof in the event of a rollover. Standard front and side airbags, plus ABS, Brake Assist and ESP brings a high level of safety.
With the 63 AMG variant, the driving experience is dominated by the engine. When driven conservatively, the huge torque output makes the CLK AMG very relaxing to drive, requiring just a small squeeze of the throttle to accelerate briskly. Use all the performance and the CLK is very fast indeed, easily piling on the speed. The seven-speed gearbox is well matched to the engine, only occasionally being caught out, although proper paddles are now fitted allowing much better manual control. The firmer suspension is composed and reassuring, and the accurate steering makes for an impressive all-round package.
Family car appeal
Few cars with a folding roof can claim to be suitable for families, but the CLK may well fit the bill for some. The rear seats are viable for children below a certain height, while the boot provides a reasonable amount of luggage space. The added appeal of top-down motoring would make it an enjoyable car for all the family.
First car appeal
The CLK - especially the AMG variant - is not in the right price range for a typical first car buyer, although the controls and operation of the car are unlikely to cause problems for an inexperienced driver. The running costs may well be out of reach for most buyers looking at their first car however.
Quality and image
The CLK sets a high standard of quality inside and out. There a very few areas where the car feels anything other than well made, and fans of the German marque will not be disappointed by the standard of finish. The image of the CLK is boosted by the strength of the Mercedes brand, but the model suffers from a slightly elderly reputation against its sportier and more youth-oriented rivals from BMW and Audi. The AMG models also carry a reputation for high performance that is well known amongst enthusiasts.
Front seat access is excellent, with long doors and a suitably high roofline. An excellent extra feature on the CLK is a pair of belt feeders, which slide electrically forward once the doors are closed, moving the seat belt closer to the shoulder of the passengers. Access to the rear is more restricted, though for occasional use the access is sufficient. The boot lid folds back beyond 90 degrees to allow simple access to the rear.
Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)
With the optional Harmon Kardon audio system fitted, the sound reproduction is excellent, with inputs from radio, CD or DVD. It is also easy to operate thanks to the big controls and the steering wheel buttons and instrument display.
Colours and trim
When fitted with optional leather upholstery, the trim inside the CLK is of a very good standard. All the plastics and fabrics are pleasant to look at and to touch, and feel robust and well constructed. With a mix of light fabric colours, dark woods and plastics, the interior of the CLK is airy and civilised, making it a good environment for the passengers and the driver.
With a high tail and restricted rear visibility, reversing the CLK can be a little tricky. However, the automatic transmission and light power steering require little effort, and the door mirrors provide a good view down the side of the car. Parking sensors are also available, with audio and visual displays.
Space saver spare wheel fitted beneath the boot floor.
Engine options: 2.0-litre supercharged petrol (163bhp), 3.0-litre petrol (231bhp), 3.5-litre petrol (272bhp), 5.0-litre petrol (306bhp), 6.3-litre petrol (481bhp). Six-speed manual, five and seven-speed automatic transmission are available. Trim levels are Elegance, Avantgarde, Sport and AMG.
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