The Mercedes-Benz CLK Convertible

by : Trevor Nicholls

The stunning looks of the cabriolet are classic Mercedes-Benz, with sweeping lines and sparkly grille; the four-seater soft-top has the practicalities of an executive saloon with the pizzazz of a convertible for sunny days. It's certainly not cheap but then potential owners wouldn't want it any other way. If anyone says they didn't buy one for posing in, ask them what the remote controlled roof mechanism is for. Updates in 2005 included two new six-cylinder engines and seven-speed autos for some models.

Subtle curves and traditional style instruments with modern white LED distinguish the interior of the CLK - the analogue clock is the same size as the rev counter, perhaps hinting that ringing every last rpm from the engine will not be a priority for the owner. Materials feel reassuring in quality compared with a few earlier models from Mercedes-Benz. Visibility is good with the inevitable compromise of the convertible roof increasing blindspots to the rear.

Passable as a full-time four seater with decent rear legroom and enough headroom for most passengers. Does a good job of coccooning occupants from the outside world. No stretching behind for seatbelts with the risk of pulling a muscle here - after closing the door, front seat occupants are handed their seatbelts as an electric arm extends from behind your shoulder.

Earliest models made do with a cassette player as standard, although most owners would have chosen a CD player. Air conditioning is also standard. A CD was made standard equipment in 2004. Otherwise most things you'd expect to find, but you'll pay handsomely for any extras like satellite navigation, audio upgrades, leather and AMG alloys when buying new.

Entry-level engine badged 200 Kompressor is a supercharged 1.8-litre. Feels livelier than the 2.6-litre CLK 240. CLK 320 offers smooth performance, while V8s in CLK 500 and CLK 55 AMG are brisk and refined. Changes in 2005 resulted in two new six-cylinder engines to replace the CLK 320. The CLK 280 matches the CLK 320 for performance while the CLK 350 bridges the gap between the smaller six-cylinder car and the V8s. New sixes and the CLK 500 use seven speed automatic transmissions from 2005. Unlike the coupe version, there are no diesels in the cabriolet range.

A great long-distance cruiser. The rear-wheel drive handling characteristics allow for precise steering with good feedback, but if you're in the higher power models watch out for that back end on wet roads. Ride comfort is excellent. - it can easily break away without much provocation. Luckily an electronic stability programme is standard. Very little in the way of dreaded 'scuttle shake' - the vibration you feel in a convertible through a loss of rigidity from lacking a proper roof.

A decent sized boot - helped by the fact that the roof is made of fabric and is more space efficient than modern convertibes with a folding metal roof - and a few storage spaces in the cabin mean the Cabriolet is a reasonably practical four-seat soft-top.

Overall, the Mercedes CLK is a Beautiful elegant looking car from nearly every angle. Build quality is excellent. It truly seats 4 people in comfort, equipment levels are good once you add some options to standard equipment. Safe secure handling, hood mechanism is great. A sensible & secure investment, a pleasure to own,.