Looks like an E Class, handles like a C Class and has become the official car of citizens who have less money than graduated classes but want to show the world they have value. Ladies, gentlemen and everything in between, the Mercedes CLK I enters the Almost Cars ring.
Launched in 1997 to replace the fabulous E Coupe, the Mercedes CLK I was intended to be a cruise car that would transport four people and their luggage from Portugal to Slovenia because that’s where civilization kind of ends and the balkans begin.
Except that the Mercedes CLK I failed exactly when it shouldn’t have and that was when Mercedes decided that the cars would be designed by accountants, not engineers. Mercedes was in financial trouble because the engineers were designing the cars so they wouldn’t break down. If the car doesn’t break down, they don’t sell parts. If the car doesn’t break down, the customer isn’t motivated to buy a newer model. And so they shot themselves in the foot.
And so they put a bag over the reliability’s head and burried it in the woods, sent the engineers on vacation and launched one of the worst generations of Mercedes, almost as bad as the current generation of Mercedes. So in the case of the Mercedes CLK I they dropped the E Class platform and moved to the C Class platform, and the interior remained from the E Class. Moreover, around this time Mercedes experimented with water-based paint and the results are showing, not in the good way.
Mix all these factors together and you have a coupe grand tourer whose value has dropped like a sack of potatoes.
Mercedes CLK I Engines
- 2.0 MPI of 134 horsepower – The base engine in the W210 and Mercedes CLK I. Too small, too thirsty, too weak. But at least it’s comically reliable. Sadly no one buys it anymore, even though it’s the only civilized engine maintainance cost-wise.
- 2.0 Turbo 163 and 193 horsepower – The 2.0 Kompressor on the Mercedes CLK I has ruined the reputation of this engine, thanks to its worrying petrol consumption. Reliability doesn’t even matter when you’re getting 10 mpg.
- 3.2 V6 of 224 horsepower – The glorious M112 only needs quality oil changed every 8000 km and it will rotate forever. It will last much longer than the rest of the car.
- 4.3 V8 of 275 horsepower – I highly doubt you’ll find this behemoth under the bonnet of the Mercedes CLK I but rather somewhere in the S Class, but if you do I recommend you keep it because it can easily do over 700,000 km as long as you keep up with its maintenance.
- 5.4 V8 of 342 horsepower – Reserved for the CLK55 AMG, this engine was hand built and if you can afford it, you don’t need advice from this site.
Mercedes CLK I General Issues
- The Mercedes CLK I has one issue, but a big one. The first CLK is famous for the industrial amounts of rust it can accumulate and that’s because the bodywork is not galvanized (like the first Logan) and experimental water-based paint was used.
- But rust is not just an issue with the bodywork, it’s also a nuisance with the suspension. Be careful with springs, shocks, bushings and anything that looks like metal and even plastic. Yes, the rust is that bad.
Mercedes CLK I Verdict
If you somehow manage to find a model that isn’t half dust half rust half expired paperwork, definitely worth buying one. It’s a relaxing holiday car, and many of them have automatic gearboxes and cozy interiors. Pity. Big shame about the rust. Otherwise, it was a good car.Nowadays however, it’s mostly an almost car.
What engines do you recommend? For petrol power, I think I’ll recommend the 2.0 naturally aspirated unit if you’re not in a hurry, and the 193 horsepower 2.0 Kompressor if you are.