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May 21, 2008 > Auto Review: Mercedes-Benz CLK 550 Cabriolet

Auto Review: Mercedes-Benz CLK 550 Cabriolet

This week's test car was fantastic. It was a Storm Red, 2008 CLK550 ragtop that commanded attention wherever we went.

The CLK's cloth convertible top material was different from other tops. It always looked clean and perfect no matter what the weather or how dirty the body got. We have reveiwed many convertibles in the past and the top is always the first thing that looks dirty. But not the Mercedes-Benz top, it always looked good.

This was also the quietest convertible that I have driven. In most, you can hear the wind and road noise loudly. The CLK's top reduced the outside noise level significantly. In fact, you almost can't hear a semi-tractor trailer when it is next to you. The top went up and down quickly at the touch of a button. Trunk space is reduced, because the top is lowered into it.

The size of the CLK series is "just right." It's not too big or too small. The back seat has room to seat two adults comfortably. Instruments are easy to see and their functions easy to understand.

The CLK series has two engine choices. The 3.5-liter, 268 HP is the base power plant. Then you can splurge and get the big guy, the 5.5-liter, 382 HP V-8 with 391 foot pounds of torque. This V-8 provides great performance; the CLK550 can leap off the line leaving a lot of luxury cars in the dust. The seven-speed automatic transmission can be shifted using paddles on the steering wheel. When you are ready to have fun driving, the CLK550 is ready and willing to help.

The CLK550 two-door coupe leads off with a $55,675 MSRP. The Cabriolet ups the ante by $8,000 to $63,675. Our test car's $73,035 sticker had the $2,290 DVD navigation system, a $530 electronic trunk closer, and a $3,720 package that included many nice features and a better sound system. The $1,110 "Keyless Go" system allows starting and stopping the engine without inserting a key. As long as the key was in the car (in your pocket or handbag for example) a button on top of the shift lever can be used to start or stop the engine.

EPA numbers are 15/21, but large amounts of throttle will reduce these numbers significantly. The high (10.7 to 1) compression ratio requires use of premium unleaded fuel.

My wife and I loved the way the CLK550 rode and handled. It had the smooth feel of a high-end luxury car but when pushed, it would respond like a sports car. It felt very heavy, but was fun and responsive on twisty roads.

As you would expect, the CLK550 is packed with many electronic systems. The Electronic Stability Program helps keep you out of trouble by sensing impending problems and correcting them. The Brake Assist System senses the driver's braking movements and applies full braking power when necessary. Tele Aid, GPS-based stolen vehicle system, helps recover the CLK if it is stolen. Wipers automatically sense the amount of rain on the windshield and adjust their speed accordingly. It even has a system to move the seat belts forward so they are easy to reach.

The CLK Cabriolets also feature automatic rollover protection. An electronic system senses when there is a potential for a rollover in an accident. If this system is triggered, it fires the pop up roll bars out of the back of the car to prevent occupants from being crushed while the car is upside down. We all hope there will never be a need for this system, but it's good to know its there.

By Dick Ryan
Freelance Automotive Journalist
Member of the Western Automotive Journalists

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