2004 Mercedes-Benz CLK Cabriolet
2004 Mercedes-Benz CLK Cabriolet. Click image to enlarge

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By Chris Chase

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First introduced in 1996, the Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class was a two-door coupe/convertible based on the mechanicals of the C-Class sedan but positioned price- and equipment-wise more closely to the larger E-Class. The CLK was redesigned into its second generation for 2003, but it wasn’t a radical departure from the original, as the convertible version was the most successful convertible the company had produced to that point.

The 2003 CLK line began with the CLK 320, powered by a 3.2-litre V6 (215 hp/229 lb-ft). The step up in coupe form was the CLK 500, with its 5.0-litre V8 (302 hp/339 lb-ft), while the convertible, which carried on in first-gen form in 2003, got that previous model’s 4.3-litre V8 (275 hp/295 lb-ft) and was marketed as the CLK 430. The ultimate CLK was the 55 AMG model, sold as a coupe only, which used a 5.5-litre V8 good for 362 hp and 376 lb-ft of torque. In 2004, the convertible was moved onto the second-generation platform, and gained an AMG version of its own. All versions used a five-speed automatic with manual shift function.

In 2005, the CLK 500 gained a seven-speed automatic transmission.

2004 Mercedes-Benz CLK 500 coupe
2004 Mercedes-Benz CLK 500 coupe. Click image to enlarge

For 2006, the CLK 320 coupe and cabrio were replaced by the CLK 350, so named for a new 3.5-litre V6 that produced 268 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. The 350 also used the seven-speed transmission, leaving the AMG model as the only one with the five-speed.

There were more new engines for 2007: a 5.5-litre V8 (382 hp/391 lb-ft) replaced the old 5.0-litre in what became the CLK 550, and the AMG model got a new 6.3-litre engine (475 hp/465 lb-ft), turning that model into the CLK 63 AMG.

The sheer number of powertrains available in the CLK means that I could write an entire article just on its fuel consumption ratings; here’s the Cole’s Notes version: the CLK 320’s 3.2-litre engine was rated 12.2/8.1 L/100 km (all figures city/highway), the 2003 CLK 430 cabrio’s 4.3-litre V8 official numbers were 13.3/9.0 and the 5.0-litre V8 in the CLK 350 coupe earned ratings of 14.5/9.4. The 5.5-litre AMG motor was rated 15.3/9.8.

2004 Mercedes-Benz CLK 500 coupe
2004 Mercedes-Benz CLK 500 coupe
2004 Mercedes-Benz CLK 500 coupe. Click image to enlarge

In 2006, the CLK 350’s new V6’s numbers were 12.2/7.7; meanwhile, the 5.0-litre engine’s ratings had improved to 14.0/8.7, and the 5.5-litre AMG motor had improved to 14.4/9.7.

The 2007 CLK 550’s 5.5-litre motor was rated at 14.5/9.2, while the monstrous 6.3-litre engine in the CLK 63 AMG was a thirsty beast, with ratings of 18.4/11.

A number of Mercedes models produced up to September 2003, including the CLK, had faulty radiators that leaked coolant into the transmission (many cars with automatic transmissions have tranny fluid coolers built into the radiator). The coolant contaminates the transmission fluid and, if not caught soon enough, causes serious problems. By now, most of the affected cars will either have had the problem fixed (either a replacement radiator (best case) or a new or rebuilt transmission (worst case)), or may have avoided problems altogether to this point, but I did come across a handful of Internet postings by Benz owners complaining of this problem as recently as 2009. In any event, keep this issue in mind when shopping for a CLK. Read up on the matter here, here, here and here.

Consumer Reports notes engine oil leaks as being a well-known problem with the CLK (as well as with a number of other Mercedes models).

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