2008 Mercedes-Benz CLK Class Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
September 10, 2008

If you appreciate luxury and complex engineering solutions, then you'll love the 2008 Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class.

The resident luxury-car enthusiasts at TheCarConnection.com studied a wide range of road tests from around the Web to compile this comprehensive review of the 2008 Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class. Editors from TheCarConnection.com also drove the Mercedes-Benz CLK and added their firsthand driving impressions where they help you to make a more informed decision.

The Mercedes-Benz CLK-Series debuted in its current form in 2003. That year, the CLK coupe was released, and the convertible came out in 2004. Why do editors at TheCarConnection.com bother to fill you in on this history? Because the 2008 Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class may be the last model year for this generation of CLK. Experts at TheCarConnection.com know that an all-new CLK Coupe will break cover late in 2008 as a 2009 model, with the cabriolet coming as a 2010 model.

But if you want this Benz today, the 2008 Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class offers several good options. There are coupe and convertible versions of the four-passenger 2008 Mercedes-Benz CLK. The five models include the V-6-powered CLK350 Coupe and Cabriolet, the V-8-powered CLK550 Coupe and Cabriolet, and the uber-exciting high-performance CLK63 AMG Cabriolet. The 3.5-liter V-6 engines produce a fully satisfying 268 horsepower, while the larger 5.5-liter V-8s produce 382 horsepower. The even larger hand-assembled 6.2-liter high-performance V-8 in the AMG model produces an asphalt-smoking 475 horsepower that can propel its surrounding convertible body to 60 mph in approximately 4.6 seconds. All 2008 Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class cars use a seven-speed automatic transmission.

Those of you fully entrenched in everything Mercedes-Benz also know that 350 copies of the 500-horsepower CLK63 AMG Black Series were available to U.S. buyers early in 2008. But the chances of finding a new one by the time you read this are slim, so as impressive as this model is, we're not going to focus on it here.

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The 2008 Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class, regardless of body style, is a handsome car with a modern yet classic Mercedes-Benz appearance. Unlike on some other Benzes, the look isn't forced. Editors at TheCarConnection.com like that all V-8 models get AMG styling details, including a different front air dam.

Inside the 2008 Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class, there's plenty of room up front, and the rear seats are acceptable for modest cross-town trips. But if you really wanted room for four or five, you'd pick a sedan, right? Detailing is a Mercedes-Benz strong suit, and the leather mixed with chrome accents are pleasingly blended.

Safety-wise, electronic stability control and a full range of airbags (including side curtains in coupes) help the 2008 CLK-Class accept accolades as being prudent and thoughtful. In these days of retractable hardtops, some buyers might see the CLK Cabriolet's soft top as a safety issue. Experts from TheCarConnection.com don't, but we appreciate the extra refinement these tops provide.

Dynamically, acceleration is never an issue with the 2008 Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class. Of course, V-8 models are quite impressive when moving away from a stop. Editors from TheCarConnection.com have only one complaint (and it's a common issue with several Mercedes-Benz vehicles): The steering feel isn't the best. It tends to be slower than our enthusiastic drivers like, and there is a "dead" spot on center. Aside from this flaw, the 2008 Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class, regardless of which powertrain or body style you select, would be easy to live with.

BMW serves up two potential CLK competitors: the BMW 6 Series on the upper end and the BMW 3 Series at the lower end. The BMWs tend to be more performance-oriented and offer their M Series cars to face off against the 2008 Mercedes-Benz CLK63 AMG.

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2008 Mercedes-Benz CLK Class

Styling

The 2008 Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class upholds a fine old tradition of Euro styling.

The 2008 Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class, regardless of body style, is a handsome car with a modern yet classic Mercedes-Benz appearance. Unlike on some other Benzes, the look isn't forced. Editors at TheCarConnection.com like that all V-8 models get AMG styling details, including a different front air dam.

It is what Car and Driver calls "dignified styling"; Kelley Blue Book says the Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class' "timeless design remains fresh and alluring," adding that the "stunning Cabriolet takes full advantage of the rakish CLK lines." A more complete description of the 2008 Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class comes from Cars.com: "Mercedes-Benz's three-pointed star sits at the center of a low, wide grille...twin ellipses form a single headlight unit on each side of the grille." The reviewer notes that "elegance is the CLK350's front-end theme, while sportiness takes precedence in the CLK550, [and the] CLK63 AMG has a hunkered-down stance with bulging fenders, taking inspiration from Mercedes-Benz's race cars."

Unlike the reactions to most automotive interiors, reviewers express almost equal admiration for this Mercedes-Benz 2008 interior. Car and Driver says the Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class "interior is posh," while Edmunds notes this Mercedes-Benz 2008 model as having a "cabin [that] is appropriately sumptuous, with plenty of leather, wood and elegant chrome." ConsumerGuide reports "monochromatic interior panels and carbon fiber trim," while Kelley Blue Book comments on this Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class' "familiar Mercedes-Benz styling cues."

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2008 Mercedes-Benz CLK Class

Performance

Sport handling or no, the 2008 Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class is a Mercedes that is unlikely to elicit complaints from any but the most hard-core purists—and the Black Series addresses their grievances.

Not all the reviews studied by TheCarConnection.com have much to say about 2008 Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class performance, but those that do offer strong opinions.

According to Cars.com, this Mercedes-Benz 2008 offers four different engines: "a 268-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 goes into the CLK350 coupe and Cabriolet, while a 382-hp, 5.5-liter V-8 powers CLK550 models...the CLK63 AMG Cabriolet holds a 475-hp V-8 that makes 465 pounds-feet of torque. The CLK63 Black Series coupe makes 500 hp." According to ConsumerGuide, there is "plenty of power in all engines...the V-6 has plenty of power, and the V-8 is seriously quick." From what Kelley Blue Book reviewers have to say, it is apparent that each of these Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class engines are designed to appeal to different sensibilities: "where the CLK350 and CLK550 clearly place luxury above any really serious performance ambitions, the 475-horsepower CLK63 AMG and 500-horsepower AMG Black Series make no bones about their intentions...the 2008 Mercedes-Benz CLK550's V8 develops 382 horsepower, which rockets the car forward while leaving behind the unmistakable note of a V8 exhaust."

Cars.com reports that all of these Mercedes-Benz 2008 models "use a seven-speed automatic transmission," for which "Touch Shift permits manually selected gear changes." According to Edmunds, "AMG versions feature modified programming for ultra-quick gearchanges." ConsumerGuide says the Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class "transmission is sharp and responsive."

None of the sources consulted by TheCarConnection.com's team of automotive experts had anything specific to say on mileage figures on any particular Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class engine, but for the smallest V-6 that powers the CLK350, the EPA estimates 17 mpg in city traffic and a respectable 25 mpg on the 'bahn.

The CLK offers a slightly more relaxed driving experience in base versions, but AMG models are set up as hard-charging sports coupes. Kelley Blue Book simply reports "a rigid body, firm ride." Car and Driver tags the base versions as softer: "the CLK is really more about luxurious cruising than back-road driving." Edmunds also notes what motor-sport enthusiasts would consider flaws: "serious enthusiasts are apt to prefer the sharper reflexes of the less expensive BMW 3 Series coupe...supercar personality is marred by its steering, which feels lackluster compared to the rest of the car." Edmunds remarks that the "latter complaint doesn't apply to the sharply focused Black Series coupe, however, as its recalibrated steering provides quick and wonderfully accurate response." ConsumerGuide states that the 2008 Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class Black Series features "razor-sharp handling response...the Black Series carves corners with minimal body lean and exceptional steering feel...straight-line stability is also top-notch."

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2008 Mercedes-Benz CLK Class

Comfort & Quality

The 2008 Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class is fine for two passengers, but four can be a tight squeeze.

Like most coupes, the front seats in the 2008 Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class are comfortable and roomy; the rear seats are somewhat cramped.

This is the overall conclusion that reviewers studied at TheCarConnection.com generally express. Cars.com reports that each Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class model "holds four occupants on leather-upholstered seats." ConsumerGuide says that "headroom and legroom are adequate for six-footers, though folks taller than that will be short on both," adding, however, "Black Series cars have specific sport seats that keep occupants snug during spirited driving, though some drivers will want more lumbar support." Car and Driver warns "rear-seat space is tight for adults." According to Kelley Blue Book, Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class seats "offer a wide range of positions, including the ability to raise the seat bottoms to a significant rake."

There are mixed reactions to storage and cargo space; according to ConsumerGuide, this Mercedes-Benz 2008 offers "good space by absolute standards, but the cargo hold is shallow and doesn't extend far back, [and] interior storage is subpar." Edmunds reports that the Mercedes-Benz 2008 "rear seats fold down completely, providing a flat load floor that allows long items to be carried inside the car."

Similarly, these sources express different views on interior materials. ConsumerGuide says 2008 Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class cabin materials "are more sporty than luxurious...assembly quality is top notch," but Edmunds notes that while "fit and finish is generally excellent, some of the plastic trim on the upper door panels seems somewhat low-grade for this class of automobile."

Motor Trend attests of the convertible versions, “Inch-thick padding and slippery aerodynamics (0.30 Cd) make the convertible nearly coupe-quiet inside at speed, and reinforcements boost chassis stiffness 12 percent over the previous model.”

Nor is the Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class the quietest in its class, according to ConsumerGuide: "the throaty V8 engine makes its presence known regardless of whether it's idling or at full throttle...there's moderate body drumming and plenty of coarse-surface tire thrum as well."

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2008 Mercedes-Benz CLK Class

Safety

Only the absence of test data keeps the 2008 Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class from earning a perfect 10 in safety.

Despite a lack of crash-test data from either the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), an abundance of active and passive safety devices earn the 2008 Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class a near-perfect score from TheCarConnection.com.

Cars.com reports that all Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class models "have four side-impact airbags...front-seat side-impact airbags in [Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class] Cabriolets provide head and thorax protection, while [Mercedes-Benz 2008] Coupes have full-length side curtain airbags, [while] antilock brakes and an electronic stability system are standard."

Edmunds notes that Mercedes-Benz 2008 "rear side airbags on convertibles are optional," although they are standard on the CLK63 AMG, and "pop-up roll bars behind the rear seats that deploy in a roll-over are standard."

Drivers of the 2008 Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class enjoy an exceptionally clear view behind the wheel; according to Kelley Blue Book, "the absence of a center pillar between the front and rear window on each side...improves active safety by allowing an unobstructed view, with the windows in place or lowered." As for the Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class convertible, Edmunds reports that it "features large side windows and a relatively slim roof design for good top-up visibility."

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2008 Mercedes-Benz CLK Class

Features

The 2008 Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class sports plenty of luxury features—but its convertible top may be the best one.

TheCarConnection.com's team of auto experts notes plenty of equipment both standard and optional for the 2008 Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class.

According to Kelley Blue Book, there are four Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class trim levels: the "base CLK350 has a seven-speed automatic transmission, front and rear fog lights, Bose audio, front side-impact and front and rear head-curtain airbags, automatic roll bars (Cabriolet), 10-way power leather seats, Electronic Stability Program with traction control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with touch controls and memory for the front seats, outside mirrors and steering column position."

Standard equipment, according to Cars.com, also includes "a Tele Aid emergency assistance system, automatic dual-zone air conditioning with a sun sensor, 10-way power front seats and rain-sensing wipers." For audiophiles, a "Harman Kardon LOGIC7 system offers seven-channel digital surround sound" in these Mercedes-Benz 2008 models.

Cabriolet models, of course, have a power-operated convertible top. “The niftiest new feature could be the remote-controlled convertible top. Now, drivers can lower the roof as they approach the car, using the key fob. The top stows itself under the Batmobilesque hard-tonneau cover in 17 seconds and goes up in 20,” Motor Trend reports.
Kelley Blue Book notes the 2008 Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class lineup offer "numerous options grouped into packages." Edmunds reports "option highlights depending on trim level for the CLK-Class include a navigation system, bi-xenon adaptive headlights, heated and ventilated front seats, the Logic 7 sound system, a glovebox-mounted CD changer, satellite radio, rear parking sensors and keyless ignition (Keyless Go)." Edmunds adds that Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class Cabriolets' "standard and optional equipment levels essentially mirror those of the coupes." Other Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class options as cataloged by Kelley Blue Book include "SIRIUS Satellite Radio, bi-xenon headlamps and an electronic trunk closer."

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March 5, 2016
2008 Mercedes-Benz CLK Class 2-Door Cabriolet 3.5L

Best convertible I ever owned

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Plenty of trunk space, comfort and speed.Can drive like a sport car at autobahn speeds.Top down driving is fantastic.Average 26 mph.
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Styling 8
Performance 8
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Features 8
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