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What Car? says

4 out of 5 stars

For The elegant design allows four adults to travel in style and comfort

Against Expensive to maintain, with some items costly to replace if they fail

Verdict Few coupes have this much class, but poor examples will cost you

Go for… V6 autos

Avoid… 2.0-litres and manuals

Mercedes-Benz CLK Coupe
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Mercedes-Benz CLK Coupe full review with expert trade views

The CLK is an elegant four-seater coupe, with excellent space in the front and enough room for two adults in the back. An effective tilt-and-slide seat mechanism makes it easy to climb into the rear quarters as well, but the boot is only big enough for two suitcases.

The coupe borrows much of its style from the bigger SL roadster and E-Class saloon. The instruments are well laid out, the seats are well shaped and comfort levels are excellent, especially in models fitted with electric seat and steering wheel adjustment. And, for a coupe, it also has decent visibility.

The CLK is most at home on motorways and sweeping main roads, where it feels as stable and comfortable as a Mercedes saloon. It struggles more on challenging roads and tight bends, and the more powerful versions, like the AMG, can feel too powerful for their own good. However, all models get a range of traction and stability aids to keep things in check, which is good news.

Trade view

Kurtis Williams

Rock-solid classic design. Kompressor engines are strong. High-mileage models still feel tight

Kurtis Williams
Buyer,
Lex Vehicle Leasing

The four-cylinder engines become coarse at high revs, and even the V6 can sound strained when you work it hard. However, they're all quiet when cruising, and the CLK cuts out wind and road noise well.

Overall, the V6 offers the best blend of performance and running costs, and acceleration is effortless with it or the 4.3 V8 - and simply incredible with the 5.6 AMG. The only slowcoach is the non-supercharged 2.0-litre unit, but both the Kompressor engines are reasonably brisk.

Whichever model you go for, try to find one with the excellent automatic gearbox, which is standard on the V6 and V8. The manual is clunky and frustrating.

The hairy 5.5-litre 342bhp AMG version was designed to take on the BMW M3. And, although it had the performance - 0-62mph in 5.1sec - it fell short of this ambitious target.

Every model comes with plenty of comfort and safety features, but it's worth avoiding pre-1998 cars, as they didn't come with standard air-conditioning.

Trade view

John Owen

Eclipsed by sharper-looking replacement. Four-cylinders good value. Six- and eight-cyl cars costly

John Owen
Buyer,
Fords of Winsford

Routine running costs are high and, depending on the age of the car, you need to make a decision about who will carry out the maintenance. Major services are at 9000 miles, but you should be able to halve your bills if you go to an independent specialist rather than a franchised dealer.

Fuel consumption is around 30mpg for the smallest engines, dropping to about 22mpg for the V8 versions. That's not exactly good, but it is acceptable for the performance they provide.

Insurance could well be costly, too. The larger engines are in group 19, but the less powerful versions are in group 15.

Rivals like the BMW 3 Series and Alfa Romeo GTV are cheaper to buy and run, but don't have the charm and character of the CLK. More exotic competitors like the Porsche 928 and Jaguar XK8 are a step ahead in performance, but will cost you more in the long run.

Trade view

Kurtis Williams

Rock-solid classic design. Kompressor engines are strong. High-mileage models still feel tight

Kurtis Williams
Buyer,
Lex Vehicle Leasing

The CLK doesn't feel quite as solid as older-generation Mercedes, and owners have had problems with them. However, there are few serious reliability issues, as long as the car has been properly maintained.

So, in an ideal world, look for a full Mercedes-Benz service history, which should indicate that it's been looked after. However, stamps from specialists are acceptable on older examples.

Neverthless, there are quite a few potential - and potentially costly - things to worry about. Replacing a failed catalytic converter is likely to set you back at least £900, for example, while oil leaks from the cylinder head are a sign of engine problems.

About a third of cars suffer some type of axle and suspension problems, and electrical gremlins are also not unknown, so make sure all switches and controls work.

Also check that, where necessary, the recall work to replace the rear seatbelt mechanism was carried out. Look at the fog lamps as well, as they are prone to misting up, and at the single arm wiper mechanism, which needs regular lubrication that is not included in normal Mercedes service schedules. It's prone to failure and costs £800 to replace.

Trade view

John Owen

Eclipsed by sharper-looking replacement. Four-cylinders good value. Six- and eight-cyl cars costly

John Owen
Buyer,
Fords of Winsford
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