Premium sporty/performance car; Built in Germany
  • 2-door convertible
  • 2-door convertible
  • 2-door coupe
  • longitudinal front-engine/rear-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $9,200 – $40,000*


2003 Mercedes-Benz CLK


2004 Mercedes-Benz CLK


2005 Mercedes-Benz CLK


Mercedes-Benz CLK interior

Pros:
  • Acceleration (V8 models)
  • Steering/handling
Cons:
  • Control layout (navigation system)
  • Rear-seat entry/exit
  • Rear-seat room

Stylish, solid, and sporty, CLKs aim at folks who value fashion over utility. They make sense for well-heeled buyers whose lifestyle can accommodate a four-seat two-door automobile. Balancing their costly impracticality are a long list of safety features, performance that stretches from outstanding to outrageous, and strong resale values–which keep used-car prices high.

Overview

Mercedes-Benz redesigned its midsize luxury coupe for 2003, with new two-door styling that eliminated the middle roof posts. Based on Mercedes’ latest C-Class sedan, the CLK coupe again came in V6 and V8 form. The CLK320 model reprised a 3.2-liter V6, while the new CLK500 held a 5.0-liter V8, replacing the 4.3-liter V8 of the prior generation.

CLK convertibles continued into another season in 320 and 430 form, using the 1998-vintage design.

All models included a five-speed automatic transmission with manual shift feature, antilock four-wheel disc brakes, antiskid/traction-control system, front side airbags, and Mercedes’ TeleAid assistance system. Coupes got standard rear side airbags and full-length curtain side airbags.

Styling details differed between the two coupe models, but they shared the new hardtop design, which was slightly longer, wider, and taller than the car it replaced. The new models weighed about 250 pounds more, but interior dimensions changed little.

Tires were wider at the rear than the front. The CLK320 rode on 16-inch wheels, with 17s available in an Appearance Package that also included aluminum interior trim. The CLK500 had standard 17s and offered aluminum cabin accents in an available two-tone leather package.

Optional for all CLKs was Mercedes’ COMAND video-screen control for audio and available navigation and phone functions. Also newly available for CLK coupes were rear-obstacle detection, a power rear sunshade, and radar-based cruise control to automatically maintain a preset following distance. Another first-time coupe option was Mercedes’ Keyless Go system, which used a credit-card-sized transmitter that allowed unlocking and starting the vehicle simply by touch.

CLK competitors included the Acura CL, Audi A4 Cabriolet, BMW 3-Series coupe and convertible, and Infiniti G35 coupe.

Yearly Updates

2004 CLK
By the time the 2004 model year began, CLK cabriolets (convertibles) had adopted the styling that began with the redesigned true-hardtop coupes. Convertibles had a fully automatic power fabric top and a heated glass rear window. Roll bars in the rear headrests were designed to pop up if sensors detected an impending rollover.

Both body styles came in three trim levels. CLK320s had a V6 engine, CLK500s held a 302-horsepower V8, and CLK55 models, developed by Mercedes’ AMG performance arm, used a 362-horsepower V8. All models used a five-speed automatic transmission with manual shift feature. The CLK55 added manual-shift steering-wheel buttons. Antilock braking, antiskid/traction control, and front and rear side airbags were standard. The convertible’s front side airbag covered the occupant’s head and torso. Coupes also had head-protecting curtain side airbags. All V8 models had 17-inch wheels, which were optional on CLK320s, in place of 16s. CLK55 models had a sport suspension. CLK500 convertibles had exclusive AMG-designed trim. Mercedes’ TeleAid assistance was standard. Rear-obstacle detection and Distronic cruise control were optional. For 2004, CLKs were factory-prewired to accept a newly optional dealer-installed satellite radio.

2005 CLK
A seven-speed automatic transmission replaced the five-speed in the CLK500 series. For 2005, the CLK55 adopted 18-inch wheels. All models were mildly facelifted and gained a new center console.
2006 CLK
2006 brought no changes for the CLK.
2007 CLK
New V8 engines trigger model-name changes for these four-passenger coupes and convertibles. Three 2007 models are offered. The CLK350 returns with a 268-hp V6. The CLK550 has a 382-hp V8 and replaces the 302-hp CLK500. The high-performance CLK63 has a 475-hp V8 and replaces the 362-hp CLK55.
2008 CLK
The 2008 Mercedes-Benz CLK63 AMG Black Series made its debut as an ultra-high-performance addition to this premium sporty car’s roster. It used the 6.2-liter V8 tuned to 500 horsepower.
2009 CLK
CLK’s high-performance AMG models, the CLK63 AMG and CLK63 AMG Black Series, were discontinued. Heated seats and a 6-disc CD changer were standard on all CLK-Class models for 2009.

Engines

longitudinal front-engine/rear-wheel drive

A 3.2-liter V6 engine that produced 215 horsepower has been installed in CLK320 models, while the CLK500 held a 5.0-liter V8 that delivered 302 horsepower. A 5.4-liter V8 rated at 362 horsepower has gone into CLK55 AMG coupes and convertibles. All CLK models have a five-speed automatic transmission, except for the latest CLK500, which uses a seven-speed unit. For 2007, New V8 engines trigger model-name changes. The CLK350 returns with a 268-hp V6. The CLK550 has a 382-hp V8 and replaces the 302-hp CLK500. The high-performance CLK63 has a 475-hp V8 and replaces the 362-hp CLK55. The new-for-2008 CLK63 AMG Black Series used the 6.2-liter V8 tuned to 500 horsepower.

ohc V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.2/195
Engine HP 215
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 229
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed automatic

19/27

ohc V8
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 5.0/303
Engine HP 302
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 339
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed automatic
7-speed automatic
16/23
17/25
ohc V8
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 5.4/332
Engine HP 362
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 376
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed automatic

16/22

18.7

ohc V8
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 5.5/333
Engine HP 382
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 391
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
7-speed automatic

16/23

ohc V8
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 6.2/379
Engine HP 475-500
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 465-478
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
7-speed automatic

13/20

Road Test

Among coupes, CLK320s satisfy in most situations. A test CLK320 coupe accelerated to 60 mph in 7.2 seconds–swift enough for most. V8 models are quicker: 5.6 seconds for a test CLK500. The CLK55 is a paragon of smooth, ready muscle, able to zoom ahead like a rocket. Convertibles weigh about 250 pounds more than coupes, yet trail only a little in acceleration. Pedal travel is not always commensurate with power delivery. All engines have fairly “soft” throttle response that annoys in low-speed driving and delays midrange passings. Downshifts can be tardy in passing situations with the CLK320/500 models. CLK55 power overcomes any delay, and steering-wheel buttons quicken manual-mode shifts.

Fuel economy is about as expected in this league. Test CLK500 coupes have averaged 15.0 mpg in mostly city driving, and 19.4 mpg with more highway miles. A CLK320 coupe managed 20.3 mpg, versus 20.1 mpg for a 320 convertible in city/highway usage. A CLK55 averaged 18.7 mpg in mostly highway driving. All models require premium fuel.

All CLKs are composed at high speeds. A base-suspension CLK320 coupe soaks up most rough stuff without much jiggle or tire slap. Coupes with optional 17-inch low-profile tires are only slightly more fidgety over bumps. The CLK55 reacts abruptly to broken pavement on its stiffer-yet sport suspension. Convertibles ride about the same as coupes, and are impressively solid with little cowl shake.

Though not sports-car agile, every CLK corners with precision, modest body lean, fine grip and stability. Braking is strong with excellent control, but pedal action has felt spongy in some nearly-new test cars, and touchy in others.

Engines sound classy–muted even at full throttle. Rough-surface tire noise is present, especially in the CLK55, but not intrusive. Coupes suffer little wind rush, despite lacking middle roof posts; but one test CLK320 had a low whistle around the driver’s door window. Top-up convertibles are nearly as quiet as coupes.

Switchgear is typical Mercedes and mostly convenient, but few markings are obvious, and bar-graph fuel and temperature gauges may be too small for some eyes. The difficult-to-use navigation system is a puzzle of teensy buttons. The remote keyfob opens/closes windows and the optional coupe sunroof, which is handy for hot days. Cabin finish generally matches the CLK’s premium pricing. Some tested coupes have suffered from creaks and door rattles.

CLKs are cozy inside with ample leg space up front, plus decent six-footer head room. Low-set seats are not ideal for long-distance comfort, and may be short on thigh support for some drivers. Coupe visibility is generally good. Top-up convertibles aren’t bad either, due to fairly slim rear “pillars.” Long, cumbersome doors and a lowish build hamper entry/exit.

Two rear occupants get hard but well-shaped cushions and scant head room, as well as little leg space unless front-seaters move well forward. Rear entry/exit demands some stooping and crawling, despite front seats that power ahead when tipping the backrest.

Cargo space isn’t bad for the coupe’s exterior size. The coupe’s fold-down seatbacks with in-trunk releases help with packing. Convertibles lack fold-down rear seatbacks and forfeit about 2 cubic feet of space, but the trunk is still useful. Cabins have door and seat pockets for small items, but just one cupholder. The dashboard glovebox and console bin are almost useless if fitted with an optional CD changer and phone, respectively.

Ratings

Model Tested: 2004 CLK500 coupe

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.

Performance

Acceleration - 8
80%
Fuel Economy - 5
50%
Ride Quality - 7
70%
Steering/Handling - 7
70%
Quietness - 7
70%

Accommodations

Controls/Materials - 6
60%
Room/Comfort Front - 7
70%
Room/Comfort Rear - 2
20%
Cargo Room - 2
20%

Other

Value - 4
40%

Total: 55

Specifications

2-door convertible
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
105.9 180.2 67.8 54.3
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
9.4 16.4 37.5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
36.5 41.9 27.4
2-door convertible
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
106.9 182.6 68.5 54.4
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
8.6 16.5 4
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
38.4 36.3 42.0 30.4
2-door coupe
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
106.9 182.6 68.5 55.4
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
10.4 16.4 4
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
37.1 35.8 42.0 33.0
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 2003 CLK 2-door coupe

NHTSA

(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
N/A0%
Front Passenger Injury - N/A
N/A0%

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
N/A0%
Rear Passenger Injury - N/A
N/A0%

HLDI

(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision N/A
Injury N/A
Theft N/A

Trouble Spots

Air conditioner
Description: Rumbling or squealing noises may come from the A/C compressor due to a bad pulley or bearings for which there are improved components. (2003-06)
Alternator belt
Description: The alternator may not provide adequate charging due to a faulty internal voltage regulator. (2003-05)
Blower motor
Description: The blower motor may quit working after a minute or so, then work momentarily and quit again due to internal circuit breaker in blower regulator which must be replaced. (2005-06)
Blower motor
Description: The blower motor may quit, but run again only to quit again due to a faulty blower motor regulator. (2006-07)
Blower motor
Description: The blower motor may quit, but run again only to quit again due to a faulty blower motor regulator. (2006-07)
Brake noise
Description: A whistling or squealing noise may be heard coming from the brake booster when the brakes are released. (2005-07)
Cruise control
Description: The cruise control may quit working if all four tires are not the same size due to differing tires or lack of rotation. (2004-06)
Horn
Description: The horn may honk all by itself due to inadequate clearance between the horn contacts and airbag assembly in the steering wheel. (2005)
Power seats
Description: The power seat may quit working due to failure of failure of the seat control module. (2005-06)
Starter
Description: Moisture gets into the crankshaft position sensor on the 3.2L V6 engine causing hesitation, rough idle and hard starting requiring that both the sensor and wiring harness be replaced. (2003)
Steering problems
Description: The steering wheel controls may not work to control the auxiliary iPOD interface. (2005)
Tail/brake lights
Description: The tail light bulbs keep burning out prematurely and the fix is to install a jumper harness having resistance the drops the voltage by one volt. (2003)
Transmission leak
Description: Transmission fluid leaks from the electrical connector and may also travel through the wires to the electronic control unit requiring the connector and necessary O-rings be replaced. 2003)
Trunk latch
Description: The trunk may not open and a message that the convertible top is operating is due to a faulty switch for the convertible mechanism. (2005-07)
Seatbelts/safety
Description: The rear head restraints may not lock due to a faulty actuator. (2006-07)
Convertible top
Description: The convertible top may jam when lowering due to faulty hydraulic cylinder which has be redesigned. (2006-07)
Convertible top
Description: The trunk may not open and a message that the convertible top is operating is due to a faulty switch for the convertible mechanism. (2005-07)
Convertible top
Description: The convertible top may jam when lowering due to faulty hydraulic cylinder which has be redesigned. (2006-07)
None
Description: The rear head restraints may not lock due to a faulty actuator. (2006-07)

Recall History

2003-08
Description: An incorrect software calibration number (SCN) coding received during a recent workshop visit can affect a number of functions: (1) the fuel gauge readings may be incorrect; (2) a stuck fuel-level sensor may not be displayed in the instrument cluster; (3) the check engine light may illuminate incorrectly; and, (4) the speedometer may be out of tolerance. In the event of a vehicle crash, the electrical fuel pump may not receive a crash signal that is required for the fuel pump to disconnect and prevent future fuel delivery as designed. Dealers will recode the SCN.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.

Pricing

Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.