The debut of Mercedes-Benz CLK class was a breath of fresh air for luxury-car enthusiasts. Its sportier demeanor caught the eye of all those drivers who were seeking more style from the German automaker. No longer limited to staid and reliable sedans, Benz served up tasty two-door coupe and convertible versions of the CLK that still seated four. Sleek, sexy, and curvy, it appealed to the price-conscious luxury market.
Assembled at Mercedes-Benz plants in Bremen, Germany, and Monterey, Mexico, the CLK was a mid-sized grand touring machine featuring a wide range of engines. First-generation CLKs were available with base-model 2.0-liter, inline four-cylinder engines cranking out 134 horsepower. The top-of-the-line model offered a 5.4-liter V8, delivering a righteous 367 horsepower. Second-generation CLKs offered power trains ranging from a 1.8-liter engine producing 184 horsepower, to a 6.2-liter V8, serving a whopping 475 horsepower.
The Mercedes-Benz CLK arrived on the scene in 1996 and continued in production through 2009, when it was replaced by the E Class. The CLK cabriolet was the most successful convertible ever produced by the automaker in its first year of availability. First-generation CLKs were only available with four- or five-speed automatic transmissions. The second generation, lasting from 2002 to 2009, underwent a significant redesign that made the CLK a little longer, a little wider, and offered 10 engine choices. Mercedes upgraded the automatic transmission to a seven-speed while still offering a six-speed manual option.
Trim levels reflected predictable Mercedes-Benz standards in both generations, with leather upholstery, power seats, and dual climate control. Upgrade options included a sports package, an on-board navigation system, keyless entry, more interior color choices, and a high-quality audio system. Exterior trim options included a V8 ground-effects package, and paddle shifters for the automatic transmission models. Trim versions varied according to engine size and power, rather than according to interior and exterior amenities.
Mercedes offered the CLK-DTM-AMG sportscar model as a hot speedster option in the CLK line, based on the GTR model designed for the 1997, FIA GT championship series. A more street-worthy version of the GTR, the DTM-AMG beast used a supercharged 5.4-liter V8 with an output of 582 horsepower. The top speed for the coupe model was 200 mph. The convertible version's top speed was only about 190 mph, because the ragtop could not withstand the air speed above that mark
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