Full 2009 Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class Review
What's New for 2009
Only minor changes make their way into the 2009 Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class. All models get standard heated front seats and a glovebox-mounted six-CD changer. For 2009, a limited number of "Grand Edition" CLK350 coupes and cabriolets will be available, which feature 18-inch AMG wheels and AMG styling elements. The high-performance CLK63 AMG and last year's even quicker Black Series edition have been discontinued.
With an impending redesign on the horizon for next year, the Mercedes-Benz CLK carries on relatively unchanged for 2009. But don't think that automatically makes this year's models lame ducks -- the current-generation CLK still boasts many qualities befitting a luxury performance coupe.
One of the most recognizable styling cues from this generation is the CLK's lack of a B-pillar -- the vertical strip of metal normally seen behind the driver and passenger windows. This elegant touch has helped extend the shelf life of the CLKs' somewhat aging design. The convertible version of the CLK -- the only Mercedes convertible that can seat four people -- also maintains clean lines, especially when its traditional cloth top is retracted. There is also no shortage of power in the 2009 CLK models -- 268 horsepower in the CLK350 and 382 hp in the CLK550.
But looks and power alone aren't enough to claim dominance in the highly competitive luxury performance coupe (and convertible) segment. In fact, one of the CLK's biggest deterrents is its price. At a base price of nearly $47,000 for a V6-powered model, the 2009 Mercedes-Benz CLK is one of the most expensive cars in the class. In terms of driving dynamics, the CLK is outmatched by the responsive, well-balanced BMW 335i -- and the BMW offers more hp and torque for considerably less money than the CLK350. Audi's beautifully designed A5 isn't quite as powerful as the CLK, but it offers a lot of standard features, impeccable interior quality and sporty performance at near-335i pricing. Infiniti's G37 is another model to consider, especially in light of its lower price tag. If you're looking at the V8-powered CLK550, you might also consider the BMW M3 or Audi's S5. Overall, Mercedes' CLK still earns high marks, but we think many people will find these competing models more appealing.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Mercedes-Benz CLK comes in both coupe and convertible (cabriolet) body styles. The V6-powered CLK350 comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, 10-way-adjustable power front seats, heated front seats, leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, a power-adjustable tilt/telescoping steering wheel and a six-speaker audio system with a six-CD changer. The CLK550 comes standard with 18-inch alloy wheels and everything included on the CLK350, plus upgraded brakes, a sport suspension, an AMG-style body kit, paddle shifters for the automatic transmission and auto-dimming mirrors.
Options include a Premium 1 Package, which adds a sunroof on coupes, auto-dimming mirrors for CLK350s and an upgraded Harman Kardon sound system with satellite radio and an iPod integration kit. The Premium 2 Package includes everything in the Premium 1 package and adds bi-xenon adaptive headlights, a headlamp washing system and a heated windshield washing system. The Appearance Package, available only on CLK350 models, includes different 17-inch wheels, cross-drilled brake rotors, a lowered sport suspension and stainless steel pedals. An optional Sport Package for the CLK350 includes all the features of the Appearance Package, plus 17-inch AMG wheels and the CLK550's sport body styling.
Stand-alone options on all 2009 Mercedes-Benz CLK models include the COMAND system with navigation, Bluetooth phone connectivity, rear-seat side airbags, keyless ignition/entry, an electronic trunk closer, a contouring driver seat and active ventilated front seats.
Powertrains and Performance
All 2009 Mercedes-Benz CLK models are rear-wheel drive. The CLK350 comes with a 3.5-liter V6 that makes 268 hp and 258 pound-feet of torque. The 5.5-liter V8-powered CLK550 produces a healthy 382 hp and 391 lb-ft of torque. Acceleration is quick for both models -- the V6 coupe goes from zero to 60 mph in 6.4 seconds, while its more powerful sibling gets up to the same speed in 5.1 seconds. Both engines are paired to a seven-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control.
Fuel economy for the 2009 Mercedes-Benz CLK350 is 17 mpg city/25 mpg highway and 20 mpg combined. The CLK550 coupe rates 15/22/17 mpg.
Stability control, antilock disc brakes with brake assist, active front head restraints, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags (on coupes) are standard. Rear-seat side airbags on convertibles are optional, and pop-up roll bars (that automatically deploy in a rollover) located behind the rear seats are standard.
Interior Design and Special Features
A combination of luxurious leather, wood and chrome makes up the majority of the CLK's cabin. But although the fit and finish is generally excellent, some of the plastic trim on the upper door panels seems somewhat low-grade for this class. Most controls are easy to use, though the COMAND interface is of an older design, and many functions remain unintuitive even after reading the owner's manual.
One feature of note is the CLK's automatic seatbelt "presenters," which make buckling up easy to manage when the doors are shut. Also, powered front seats make it relatively easy for rear-seat passengers to enter and exit. In the coupe, the rear seats fold down completely, providing a flat load floor that allows long items to be carried inside the car. The convertible features large side windows and a relatively slim roof design for good top-up visibility, and the power top can be quickly lowered or raised simply by pressing a button on the key fob. Maximum cargo capacity in the coupe is 10 cubic feet, while cabriolet models offer only 9 cubes.
While the handling of the 2009 Mercedes-Benz CLK350 is confident and stable, its abilities pale in comparison to the sharper reflexes of the less expensive BMW 3 Series coupe. For those who want V8 power, the CLK550 does the job just fine, along with a sportier suspension and more capable brakes.