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2004 Mercedes-Benz CLK 500

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San Francisco: The arrival of the new CLK coupe for 2003 marked another Mercedes model that received the beauty treatment. While the old CLK was pretty nice, the new 2004 car is nicer, taking after its larger sibling, the CL.

Who could have foreseen a decade ago the svelte, curvaceous shapes on today’s Mercedes-Benz products? Mercedes vehicles used to be conservatively drawn, solid and sober. Someone must have liberated the designers to create these gorgeous cars. Even their advertising flaunts a younger and hipper edge.

As on the big CL, the CLK’s nose carries peanut-shaped twin light headlamp covers at each corner surrounding a low, horizontal grille. The Mercedes cars of yore had massive chrome noses, but today aerodynamics rules. A soft, friendly feeling pervades the body and works its way into the interior too.

2004 brings no significant changes to the year-old CLK coupe, but a new CLK cabriolet (convertible) is getting all the attention this year. Regardless of its top, however, there are no plain Jane CLKs. The three available levels are based on engine size and power.

The starting point is the CLK 320, with a proven 3.2-liter V6 engine that puts out 215 horsepower. In the middle is the CLK 500, with a potent 302-horsepower five-liter V8 engine, which is shared with the high luxury SL 500 and CL 500. At the top of the pack is the mighty CLK 55, which pours out an amazing 362 horsepower from its handbuilt 5.5-liter V8.

My test vehicle, a Brilliant Silver CLK 500, wore standard seventeen-inch AMG wheels, and an AMG design sculpted front air dam, side skirts, and a rear apron. The CLK 500 also receives bigger brakes and some other goodies.

Putting a big engine into a modestly proportioned car makes for some rocket like performance. While the CLK 320 can go from zero to 60 in 7.4 seconds, the CLK 500 can do it in just 5.7 seconds. The Environmental Protection Agency touts mileage at 17 city, 22 highway, but I averaged 16.7.

All CLK coupes and cabriolets receive the same electronic five-speed automatic transmission. Like so many other gearsets these days, you can manually shift it if you’d like using the Touch Shift system. All you have to do is push the lever from side to side instead of forward and backward.

The CLK 500 can go fast, but even if you spend most of your driving time in commute traffic you can enjoy your time behind the wheel. The handsome burl walnut interior trim on the console and doors is restful on the eyes, and is surrounded by a delicate chrome edge that gives it the look of handmade jewelry. Shiny metal also graces the gauges, air vents, long arching glovebox handle, shifter surround, and the famous logo on the steering wheel.

For comfort’s sake, the automatic dual-zone climate control has a dust/charcoal filter to remove the unpleasantness of large trucks and aged vehicles ahead. Its sun sensor optimizes air distribution throughout the interior. The heavily padded doors and dash, along with the firm, form-fitting seats, promote inner peace on the interstate. Those seats adjust ten ways electrically. The car even hands you your seatbelt with a presenter. With the CLK’s long doors, that’s a real pleasure. My car’s interior’s harmony-inducing Pacific Blue, along with a brilliant eight-speaker Bose audio system, helped me sail above the tide to work and back.

The CLK offers steering wheel access to a complex grid of information and controls. You can sort through a series of menus and then single pages of information within them all displayed one at a time in the center of the instrument panel. This is handy for selecting preset radio stations on the radio, as well as displaying a range of useful data, including distance to an empty fuel tank and average fuel economy.

You can also set features that relate to how the car works, for example, how you want the alarm system or automatic seat pull-back to function. There is engine condition feedback, too, such as engine oil life. Emergency messages display as required, along with suggestions like Fasten Seatbelt and Low Fuel. You can use two buttons on the right side of the wheel to change the volume or answer the phone (if so equipped).

I got a kick out of the rain-sensing automatic windshield wipers, which are handy on those days where it never seems to rain the same amount from one minute to the next. I also appreciated the pillarless coupe shape, which is a rare thing today.

Of course, safety and security are priorities at Mercedes-Benz. You get dual stage front airbags, front and rear side airbags, head protection curtains, and the BabySmart Child Seat Recognition system. The Tele Aid emergency calling system comes with the car, and, Mercedes pays for 24-hour roadside assistance.

The CLK 500 is a premium vehicle, and carries a commensurate price. Starting at $52,800, my tester added the Brilliant Silver paint ($670), a CD changer ($410), and a glass sunroof and rear window sunshade ($1,410), as well as destination charges ($720), and a Gas Guzzler tax ($1,000) to come to $57,010. To get much of the enjoyment with less power, the CLK320 starts at $44,350. To go whole hog and postage, the limited edition CLK55 begins at $70,620.  By Steve Schaefer AutoWire.Net - San Francisco

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Byline:  Syndicated content provided by Tony Leopardo AutoWire.Net
Column Name:  The CLK 500 is a premium vehicle
Topic: 2004 Mercedes-Benz CLK 500
Word Count:   952
Photo Caption: 2004 Mercedes-Benz CLK 500
Photo Credits:  Mercedes-Benz Internet Media
Series #:   2004 - 09

Download the Microsoft Word version here:   2004 CLK 500

Download the original image file here:  2004 CLK 500 21k

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