This is the new Mercedes CLK, taking a breather after some undercover ice-dancing with an Audi A5. Perhaps it’s practicing for the main event – a showdown with the 3-series Coupe when the C-class-derived two-door is launched in early 2009. We’ve also snapped the car testing in Germany and bagged the first interior shots of the CLK.
Like the current CLK, the next generation coupe will sit on the new C-Class platform, but with boast a bespoke cockpit to justify its premium over the saloon.
How will it look under all that cladding?
Out goes the E-Class-in-a-tracksuit ambience of the current car and in comes design cues lifted from the CLK’s siblings. Sharp, jutting lines hark back to 1980s Mercs when the build quality was second to none. Our shots in the snow give us the clearest look yet at the rear of the CLK, while the front will mirror the C-class and CLC.
Will the CLK continue Mercedes’ recent upturn in quality?
Yes. Mercedes knows that a Benz has got to be bombproof to cut it these days. Gone are the cheapo plastics, the boy-racer instruments and dodgy ergonomics of the current coupe, replaced by an exclusive, C-class inspired dash and some nice touches like massaging, ventilated, easy-access chairs. The CLK is majoring on luxury, because the 3-series coupe has the ‘sport’ thing wrapped up.
Are you telling me it won’t excite me on the blacktop then?
Actually, you might be surprised. C-Class underpinnings mean the drive should be vastly improved over the current car’s wallowy poise. Sadly it’ll have to do without the air suspension and active body control seen in Mercs higher up the pecking order, but it will feature 4Matic four-wheel drive for the first time on the 3.5 V6.
The engine line-up includes a 300bhp CLK350, a twin-turbo CLK450 with 354bhp and a 428bhp CLK550. And Mercedes has asked their AMG tuning arm to fettle no fewer than three variants on the manic coupe theme: a 481bhp CLK63, a 525bhp Black Series and a limited-edition, barely believable 700bhp Signature Series. That’s some halo model.
That’s all well and good, but what about a version suitable for the place most of us live – the real world?
Ah yes, the green versions. Two Bluetec diesels will be available for the more eco-conscious; a 204bhp 2.0-litre and a 3.0-litre V6 with 252bhp. Expect prices to start at just over £30,000
But no Mercedes coupe line-up would be complete without a chop-top version. Expect the cabriolet in late 2009, complete with a heated ‘silent top’ fabric roof rather than an ungainly folding hard top. Expect the convertible, when it arrives, to feature Mercedes’ Airscarf system that blows warm air around the passenger’s necks.