2001 Mercedes-Benz CLK Class Photo
Quick Take
You review the CLK430 Cabrio NAVARRE BEACH, Fla. – It’s making everyone sick. For weeks I’ve... Read more »
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You review the CLK430 Cabrio

NAVARRE BEACH, Fla. – It’s making everyone sick. For weeks I’ve been bragging about my new getaway on the Emerald Coast of Florida, an impossibly perfect stretch of shoreline punctuated by a national park, the occasional school of dolphins, and a population density that makes eastern Wyoming look like Calcutta.

When a friend found out our next jaunt to the panhandle paradise would take place behind the wheel of the latest Benz V-8 convertible, he pointed out: “If it got any better, your head would be even balder from the excitement.”

Balder, yes, and redder because the entire trip through rural Alabama begs for top-down driving. And because the CLK’s fluid grace and massive V-8 power eggs even expedient drivers on to the narrower, windier byways, a normal five-hour journey is usually turned into something vaguely resembling Gilligan’s tour of duty -- minus only a CD changer powered by two coconuts, that is.

Escape hatch

The CLK is the middle child in the world of Benz convertibles, too grown-up to be mistaken for the cutesy SLK-series roadsters and way too vigorous and youthful to get confused for the aging SL-Class dowagers. It’s also the only four-place convertible in the Mercedes lineup -- a practical novelty that almost makes it socially acceptable to splurge on a nearly $60,000 car.

Regular readers know our fondness for the Benz CLK coupes in all versions – especially the 342-hp rifle shot that is the CLK55. That ardor goes equally for the Cabriolet versions of the same platform, but in a different way. Somehow, slicing off the roof transforms the more businesslike CLK430 into a ragtop with a matchless grace.

The top is operationally simple, but mechanically complex. Twist a handle on the windshield header and press a console-mounted button, and it first pops off the rear part of the top and raises a body-color panel behind the rear seats. The top folds away into the hold, and the panel closes to fit nearly flush with the trunk lid.

Reviewed by Marty Padgett
Editorial Director, The Car Connection
$4,991 - $10,999
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