A narrow strip of blacktop
edges around granite cliffs high above an azure sea on the Mediterranean island
of Majorca, where we're pushing the pace and squealing the tires on a muscular
new convertible that wears the tri-star medallion of Germany's Mercedes-Benz.
a ride on the wild side in a gorgeous Mercedes drop-top rigged with awesome power
and paraphernalia for high performance.
as the CLK55 AMG Cabriolet, the sleek two-door concoction capped by a power-motivated
convertible lid amounts to a pumped-up version of mid-size CLK convertibles.
there are three different trims for American-bound CLK Class convertibles, which
have been redesigned and cast on a new chassis with the issues of 2004.
are derived from slinky CLK Class hardtop coupes off the new versions of 2003,
then cut down to airy convertibles by German car crafter Karmann.
spend a day steering each of the three new convertibles on a circuitous route
around Majorca, traversing the jagged Serra de Tramuntana mountains along the
rugged western coast and zipping past ancient groves of almonds and olives in
the Llanura del Centro valley before heading to the picturesque fishing village
of Portocolon on the eastern shore.
three versions end up parked side by side at the harbor quay in Portocolon, where
we scrutinize the sensuous package designs and pick out trim distinctions.
edition is the CLK320 Cabriolet toting a 3.2-liter V6 engine and rolling on seven-spoke
alloy wheels measuring 16 inches tall.
to a V8 engine leads to the CLK500 Cabriolet with a 5.0-liter V8 and 17-inch thin-spoke
CLK55 AMG Cabriolet goes further with its 5.5-liter high performance V8 built
by AMG, even bigger wheels plus heavy-duty brakes and shifter paddles set behind
steering wheel spokes for hands-on transmission control.
prime convertibles from an automaker renowned for designing elegant topless cars
seat four in luxury.
also carry tightly tuned mechanical systems to kindle a lively personality skewed
toward the sporty side of automotive behavior and provide the Mercedes retinue
of sophisticated electronic gear for safety and convenience.
the new package design looks absolutely stunning in an emotional statement of
front end reflects bold geometric shapes off the E320 sedan with four articulated
oval headlamps separating a chrome grille with the Mercedes emblem pinned prominently
in the center spot.
angle exaggerates the aerodynamic fluidity of motion: Grille slants back further
than on E Class sedans, the hood slopes more seriously and the windshield tilts
rearward in the extreme to achieve that windswept suggestion of swift movement.
cloth soft top, in multiple layers draped over an aluminum frame,
quickly tucks beneath a metal bonnet by motorized means. With
the top down, CLK convertibles look slick and aggressive as
the bonnet shows nacelle blisters trailing behind rear seatbacks
like ones once worn by vintage race cars.
posed behind rear seatbacks are loop-like roll bars that can pop up instantly
if on-board motion sensors detect potential roll-over movement.The
convertible conversion is controlled by a one-touch switch mounted on the console,
but it also operates remotely from a button on the key fob.
against original CLK Class convertibles, which debuted as 1999 models, the new
2004 editions measure larger in all physical dimensions.Wheelbase
stretches an inch longer and the length runs 2.4 inches greater, while the width
grows by more than half an inch and the height rises by 1.6 inches. These figures
point to more space in the passenger compartment.
the platform -- adapted from chassis underpinning Mercedes compact-size C Class
cars -- measures stronger and stiffer for a 40 percent improvement in torsional
suspension elements from the C Class were revamped and tuned for tighter control
and sporty traits. Components include a three-link design up front with MacPherson
struts, while at the rear there's a five-link arrangement, plus a stabilizer bar
mounted fore and aft.
mechanism switches to a direct and responsive rack and pinion system, and there
are devices aboard to stabilize forward movement and tire traction, plus smart
brakes with anti-lock control system (ABS) and multiple air bags to cushion the
human cargo including new seat-mounted air bags for shielding head and thorax
regions of riders in the two front seats.
for CLK Class convertibles conforms to the alphanumeric designations employed
by Mercedes for all of its vehicles, with the class size defined by alphabetical
letters and the engine volume expressed in liters and translated into three digits.
the CLK320 Cabriolet takes its name from the CLK Class of mid-size two-doors and
its 3.2-liter V6 engine turns into the numbers 320.Likewise
with the CLK500 Cabriolet and its 5.0-liter V8 or the CLK55 AMG Cabriolet with
the forceful 5.5-liter V8.
Mercedes V6 -- which has a single overhead cam plus an electronic throttle called
"adaptive accelerator" -- makes 215 hp.
adaptive accelerator, linked to a computer, adjusts the throttle to fit a driver's
the CLK500 the single-cam V8 reaches to 302 hp, while the larger V8 in CLK55 AMG
pumps out 369 hp.
for all three engines is the impressive Mercedes five-speed automatic, which brings
clutch-less shifts through a TouchShift stick. To-and-fro movements of the lever
allow a driver to step up or down the gear ladder one notch at a time with the
control of a manual stick.
new design for the cabin draws on fine leathers and glossy polished
hardwoods plus an eight-speaker Bose audio system. Individual
seats feel firm and comfortable and the buckets in front adjust
in multiple directions and feature strong side bolsters.
new instrument panel with analog gauges ringed in chrome focuses on a large speedometer
in center spot flanked by a tachometer on the right and a big clock to the left.High-tech
Mercedes equipment may be added optionally, such as Keyless Go, Distronic adaptive
cruise control, Parktronic distance sensors, bi-xenon headlamps and a DVD-based
MSRP figures for new CLK Class convertibles to extend from $50,000 to $76,000.
Click here for more information on the Mercedes CLK.
For the Mercedes Benz 2004 Model Guide: Click