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Car reviews - Mercedes-Benz - CLK-class - CLK200K cabriolet

Our Opinion

We like
Keen pricing, mid-range torque delivery, equipment levels
Room for improvement
A whopping $15k more than Audi's A4 1.8T equivalent, some vibrations are felt through cabrio structure on uneven surfaces

Mercedes-Benz logo9 Mar 2005

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

PRICING is the great appeal of the supercharged four-cylinder Mercedes-Benz CLK 200 Kompressor, as it allows entry into open three-pointed star four-seater motoring for less than 100 big ones.

And what an appealingly benign package it is, offering excellent front-seat comfort, tolerable short-trip rear-seat accommodation, a first-class fabric roof system, top-notch safety equipment and an unrivalled image.

Equipment levels are high too, including all the goodies found in the next model up, the smooth $106,600 CLK 240 Cabriolet.

And don’t worry. Performance isn’t too shabby, with the eager supercharged 120kW 1.8 engine easily able to engage the 220Nm of torque on tap for brisk acceleration.

In the mid-ranges the CLK 200 K performs even better, kicking down diligently when overtaking manoeuvres are on the menu.

However you wouldn’t exactly call this quick, or especially responsive, in most other driving scenarios. The 200 is about building up speed and maintaining a pleasant rate of knots.

Keen drivers will find plenty to like about the dynamics considering the compromise needed to overcome the missing roof support structure, with fluid steering, a firm but acceptably absorbent ride and a weighty, knuckled-down feel.

Some vibrations do shimmer through the structure on uneven surfaces, but no more than most other sedan-derived drop-tops at this level, although BMW’s still-superb 3 Series Convertible may be slightly better in this regard.

So is a 1.8-litre drop-top good value at $97,600?

Absolutely, if it’s a comfortable and refined four-seater soft top you’re after with superb residuals and envious onlookers virtually guaranteed. And don’t forget – the CLK’s social image is in a stratosphere all its own.

However Audi’s A4 1.8T costs $15K less, is an automotive sculpture in comparison inside and out, and is more rewarding in a straight line.

But it is considerably less fun around corners and on any surfaces you care to mention, and the CLK will probably pack a far stronger resale punch.

Meanwhile the 325Ci Convertible is also cheaper, drives harder and corners like a BMW should. But with an all-new variant not too far away, the Benz is definitely the safer buy in the longer term.

Combined with a bottom line like that, the CLK 200 Kompressor is a welcome addition to the luxury convertible stable, and should help Mercedes maintain its lead there.

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