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First look: Mercedes refines its CLK

Faster, safer: new engines and safety features comprise the CLK facelift.

Mercedes-Benz reveals a facelifted CLK-class coupe and convertible

3 May 2005

SOME may find it hard to believe the Mercedes-Benz CLK has been with us almost three years, but the two-door coupe and convertible range has in fact reached middle age.

To prove it, DaimlerChrysler has wheeled out a facelifted version featuring an updated nose, improved safety features and three new six-cylinder engines.

Due for release in Europe in June and Australia around September/October, the revised CLK is headlined by a lightly massaged front bumper and grille, which feature a larger airdam and three louvres (instead of four) respectively.

CLK’s peanut-shaped twin-headlight cluster remains unchanged, retaining themodel’s visual link with the C-class sedan upon which it is based.

Five-spoke 17-inch alloy wheels will come standard with the top-shelf Avantgarde equipment line, while the mid-range Elegance line will use nine-spoke 17-inch items (except for the base CLK200K variant, which will employ 16s).

Far more significant, however, is the arrival of three new six-cylinder engines to the range, including the long-awaited fitment of Benz’s superb new 200kW 3.5-litre DOHC V6.

While the C-class sedan is left to soldier on with its predecessor - the decade-old 160kW 3.2-litre SOHC V6 - and the SL350, S350 and ML350 models continue with a less powerful 180kW 3.7-litre V6, the CLK will join last year’s new SLKconvertible and, more recently, the E-class sedan in offering best-in-class V6 performance.

Like SLK350 and E350, CLK350 will come standard with ZF’s revolutionary seven-speed 7G-Tronic automatic transmission, making the 25 per cent extra power and 13 per cent more torque even easier to extract.

While the 225kW 5.0-litre V8-powered CLK500 and 270kW 5.5-litre V8-powered CLK55AMG variants continue mechanically unchanged at the top of the CLK range, positioned below the CLK350 is a new CLK280 variant to replace the current CLK240.

The new CLK280 offers a 170kW V6 delivering 36 per cent more power and 25 per cent more torque than its 2.6-litre predecessor, and is in fact more powerful than the current CLK320.

Like the CLK350, Mercedes-Benz claims its 0-100km/h acceleration figure hasdropped by up to 1.8 seconds, to 7.4 seconds. The CLK350 completes the 0-100 dash in a claimed 6.4.

European Mercedes-Benz dealers will also offer their first diesel convertible from the last quarter of this year in the CLK320 CDI, while an entry-level CLK220 CDI will also eventually be made available overseas.

The direct-injection CLK320 CDI turbo-diesel produces 165kW and a massive 510Nm of torque and combines with the 7G-Tronic auto to return combined average fuel consumption of just 7.2L/100km in the coupe. The 110kW C220 CDI, meantime, returns a claimed 6.5L/100km.

Another significant CLK development is the crash-active Neck-Pro head restraint, which aims to increase protection for front-seat occupants during rear-end collisions.

Standard across the revised range, Neck-Pro comprises sensors to determine if a collision exceeds a defined level, then releases prestressed springs in the head restraint, which moves forward 44mm and upwards 30mm within a split-secondto reduce the risk of whiplash injuries.

Other CLK features will include a tyre pressure monitoring system and, as an option, active bi-Xenon headlights.

4 center imageThe CLK facelift also brings an updated interior with greater differentiation between equipment lines. Avantgarde line cars will get new black fabric and Artico imitation leather seat trim as standard, while a new leather option willbe available featuring contrasting seat, door and rear side panel trim colours.

Elegance line vehicles will get a new fabric design in black or basalt grey (coupe), a new black, basalt grey or stone beige leather option and new dark ash woodgrain trim.

Finally, CLK will introduce two new sports equipment packages, including 18-inch wheels with 225/40 R18 front and 255/35 R18 rear tyres, perforated brake discs and 15mm-lower sports suspension.

Inside, the sports package offers multi-contour front seats and gearshift buttons on the steering wheel in auto versions, while the AMG sports package will include an AMG front apron, AMG rear spoiler, AMG twin exhausts and 18-inchAMG alloy wheels.

The current C209 CLK coupe was launched in Australia in June 2002, while the A209 cabriolet arrived in June 2003. Since its May 2002 global release, more than 200,000 CLKs have been sold worldwide.

* MERCEDES-BENZ is planning to launch a small 4WD – dubbed X-class – to compete against BMW’s X3, the Audi Allroad and the upcoming redesigned Land Rover Freelander.

The new vehicle, spotted testing in Germany recently, borrows design cues from the larger M-class but has a more steeply raked rear window treatment.

It is believed the X-class will use the platform architecture of the next-generation C-class, which arrives in 2007.

DaimlerChrysler has already registered the X280 and X350 model designationsas well as the X55 and X63 names, which may suggest hot V8 AMG versions.

Diesel and V6 engines are tipped initially when the X-class goes on sale in 2007 with pricing close to the BMW X3, from around $65,000.

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