A new high-performance model from Mercedes-Benzs AMG performance division has joined the CLK-Class lineup. Like the equivalent coupe thats been on sale, the new CLK55 AMG Cabriolet carries a handbuilt, 342-horsepower V-8 engine and rides a special AMG suspension.
Only 1,400 CLK55 AMG Cabriolets will be produced in its single-year life cycle, and they will be priced at $79,645 (including the destination charge). As a comparison, the CLK430 Cabriolet stickers for $57,945. The sticker price for the CLK55 AMG coupe is $69,095, which is $18,200 higher than the price of the CLK430 coupe.
Mercedes-Benz says both AMG models promise supercar performance. In addition to the hot V-8, both CLK55 AMG models feature aero body trim, a sport suspension and 17-inch wheels. Convertibles have a power top with a glass rear window.
As for the regular CLK-Class models, a Sport Package is newly available for the CLK320; this package features AMC aerodynamic bodywork and 17-inch tires. New five-spoke alloy wheels go on the CLK430 models.
Derived from the prior-generation C-Class midsize sedan, the rear-wheel-drive two-door CLK-Class coupes and Cabriolet convertibles display a more curvaceous profile. The CLK320 has a 215-hp, 3.2-liter V-6 engine, while the CLK430 is powered by a 275-hp, 4.3-liter V-8. The two standard models compete against the BMW 3 Series, Lexus SC 430 and Volvo C70. Mercedes-Benz sold 19,423 CLK-Class models during 2001, down from 17,796 units in 2000, according to Automotive News.
The styling of the CLK-Class group is strictly Mercedes-Benz but with more rounded lines than the C-Class sedan features. Oval headlights instead of rectangular units sit within a lower front end that flanks a tapered, classic-look grille. Full body-colored rocker panels are installed on the CLK320 to match the air dams and rear bumpers. Convertibles have an automatically activated roll bar and a power-operated top that includes a glass rear window with a defogger. Except for modified doors on the convertible, the two body styles share little structural features and no body panels behind the A-pillars.
AMG-designed Sport aerodynamic enhancements are installed on CLK430 models. Front and rear fog lights are mounted on all models. Riding a 105.9-inch wheelbase, the CLK-Class models are 180.2 inches long overall. Coupes stand 54 inches tall, vs. 54.3 inches high for the Cabriolet. Seven-spoke alloy wheels hold 16-inch tires on the CLK320, while 17-inchers equip the CLK430 and CLK55 AMG models.
Both the CLK-Class coupe and convertible are built to provide ample interior space for four occupants on leather-upholstered seats. The front seats have a 10-way power adjustment with drivers seat memory. A split, folding rear seat is installed in the back. Cargo volume is 11 cubic feet in the coupe and 9.4 cubic feet in the Cabriolet, but the latter dips to just 5.7 cubic feet when the roof is down.
One-touch operation controls the coupes sunroof, and opening the doors drops the side windows by about half an inch to assure the best seal when the doors are closed again. An optional COMAND (Cockpit Management and Data) system controls audio functions, as well as those of the integral satellite-based navigation system and available cellular phone by using a dashboard screen. An Internet-based InfoServices option, available separately, uses the same screen to display news, stock quotes, sports scores, weather reports and other customized information.
Standard equipment includes automatic dual-zone air conditioning, a telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel, cruise control, power windows and door locks, heated power mirrors with memory, a Bose cassette/weather-band stereo with CD changer, tachometer, digital clock, intermittent wipers, a universal garage-door opener and a theft-deterrent system.
All CLK-Class models have a Tele Aid emergency assistance system with features that include remote door unlocking, alarm notification and remote diagnostics. Tele Aid can summon emergency help by using cellular and satellite-based technology that provides a direct link to the companys roadside assistance program.
Under the Hood
Three CLK-Class engines are available. A 215-hp, 3.2-liter V-6 goes into the CLK320, and a 275-hp, 4.3-liter V-8 powers the CLK430. The V-6 is also equipped in the E320 sedan and other Mercedes models, while the 4.3-liter V-8 is used in larger vehicles. The 5.5-liter V-8 in the CLK55 AMG coupe and Cabriolet generates 342 hp and 376 pounds-feet of torque.
All CLK models have a five-speed-automatic transmission that makes use of Touch Shift for manually controlled gear changes by tipping the gearshift lever to the left or right. Mercedes-Benz claims the new CLK55 AMG Cabriolet can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 5.9 seconds and reach 155 mph, while its AMG coupe companion performs the 0-to-60-mph dash a full second quicker, making this the companys fastest production model ever.
Side-impact airbags, traction control, antilock brakes and Mercedes Electronic Stability Program are standard on all CLK-Class models.
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