Home » The 2nd-Gen Mercedes-Benz CLK Is A Pillarless V8 Coupe You Can Genuinely Afford

The 2nd-Gen Mercedes-Benz CLK Is A Pillarless V8 Coupe You Can Genuinely Afford

Beige Sleeper Clk Ts1
ADVERTISEMENT

Thanks to a combination of the JD Power-ization of cars and a rabid collector market, the number of reasonably attainable modern-ish cars that genuinely feel like an occasion seems to be at an all-time low. However, there are still a few out there flying under the radar. For the 2003 model year, Mercedes-Benz corrected the biggest error of the original CLK by making the second-generation car a pillarless coupe, with a cabriolet model also being available. Now, pillarless coupes are expensive to make because a B-pillar is a key structural element in most cars. However, taking a big chunk of it away just makes a coupe more special, giving an open-concept feel to the interior and offering the closest experience to a convertible you’ll get in a tin-topped car. Add in shoulder check visibility that’s almost unparalleled in the realm of vehicles with fixed roofs, and you really have something special.

Best of all, these CLKs are mostly reasonably priced, were available with two of Mercedes’ most reliable V8s ever, and are refreshingly simple under the skin. Well, simple by Mercedes-Benz standards. There’s no hole in the front bumper for a Model T-like hand crank or anything like that. So, if you’ve ever been tempted to go pillarless but don’t want to press a classic into daily driver duty, read on. You might like what you see.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

Welcome back to Beige Cars You’re Sleeping On, a weekly series in which we raise the profile of some quiet greats. We’re talking vehicles that are secretly awesome, but go unsung because of either a boring image or the lack of an image altogether.

While you could get the CLK with V6 power, you really want a V8. Part of the initial lineup, the CLK 500 featured a five-liter M113 V8, the indisputable anvil of modern Mercedes-Benz engines. With the only common problem outside of general old car maintenance being worn cam position sensors, it’s a rock-solid tank of an engine that will crank out 302 horsepower and 339 lb.-ft. of torque essentially for eternity. Initially mated to a stout five-speed automatic transmission, this combination was good for zero to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds in Car And Driver instrumented testing, and the combo can last for hundreds of thousands of miles.

Mercedes Benz Clk 55 Amg 1

ADVERTISEMENT

But what if you want more? Well, in the early days of the second-generation CLK, there was the CLK 55 AMG. While it featured a 5.4-liter hand-built naturally-aspirated V8, it wasn’t supercharged like its E 55 AMG big brother, so it produced 369 horsepower and 376 lb.-ft. of torque. Add in a quicker-shifting five-speed automatic transmission, stiffer suspension, and bigger brakes, and you’ve got a properly rapid coupe. Mercedes-Benz quoted zero-to-60 mph in five seconds flat, but Car And Driver managed to do the dash in 4.7 seconds. For those keeping track at home, that’s quicker than an E46 BMW M3 could manage. Wilder still, the CLK 55 paid virtually no fuel economy penalty over the CLK 500, trading off a single highway mpg for substantially improved acceleration.

Mercedes Benz Clk Post Facelift

In 2007, Mercedes-Benz dropped its new 5.5-liter V8 into its smallest coupe to make the CLK 550, and it made the old CLK 55 a bit irrelevant unless your commute involves really caning it. Not only did the M273 make 20 more horsepower at a power peak 250 rpm higher and 15 more lb.-ft. of torque across an enormous 2,800 to 4,800 rpm plateau instead of just one peak, it also came hitched to a substantially more modern seven-speed automatic transmission. The result was a car with AMG-like pace — a manufacturer-claimed zero-to-60 mph time of 5.1 seconds — and comfy suspension, a warmer palette of available interior colors, less expensive brake pads and discs, and substantially less badge cachet.

Mercedes Benz Clk 63 Black Series

Oh, and then there’s the CLK 63 AMG including the vaunted Black Series. We’re talking 475 horsepower up to 500 in Black Series trim, incredible rarity, expensive pricing, and expensive maintenance. Keep in mind, the only way you could get a CLK 63 AMG coupe in America was in Black Series trim, and with current pricing in the six-figure range, it’s not quite right for this article. After all, this series is called Beige Cars You’re Sleeping On, not Greatest German V8 Sledgehammers Of All Time.

ADVERTISEMENT

Mercedes Benz Clk 500 On The Move

Given the second-generation CLK’s position as a compact grand tourer, it’s easy to assume it isn’t particularly brilliant to drive, but it manages far better than you’d expect. In fact, Car And Driver gave a particularly positive review of the second-generation CLK’s chassis, writing:

With this C-class platform, Mercedes has at long last switched to rack-and-pinion steering. That was in part to improve the crash crushability of the front structure. The side benefit is much-improved steering sharpness. There’s a precise, straight-ahead feel now when cruising on the interstate, and twisty-road behavior is less woolly. Body-roll angles are minimal. The low, 45-series front tires (even lower-profile 40-series in back) give right-now heading adjustments. The suspension quickly forgets the bumps so there is none of that floaty, where’s-this-going-to-settle-out feeling after impact. This bus will boogie.

When you give the ESP the afternoon off, the CLK gets downright frisky in the twisties. You can trust it to understeer, but not too much. And you can go very quickly with no audible protest from the tires. On the skidpad, grip measures a healthy 0.82 g.

Considering tire technology of the mid-aughts, that’s not bad. Sure, an E46 BMW 330ci did slightly better at 0.85 g in Car And Driver testing, but the CLK 500 is a small grand tourer rather than the two-door variant of a sports sedan, and BMW was on its A-game in that period. Add in the V8 thrust and soundtrack, and you get a car that has broad appeal in its own right.

Mercedes Benz Clk 500 Pillarless

The early aughts weren’t Mercedes-Benz’s strongest time from a design and materials standpoint, and that shows in the CLK’s cabin. The bubbly motifs feel very of the time, and the general vibe isn’t as stately or as solid as you get from an old C124 from the ’80s or early ’90s. However, there are some nice mod-cons here that try making up for it. The dash-mounted cupholder is an amusing piece of engineering, while available cooled front seats are an unexpected luxury. Blue-backlit gauges add a bit of period cool, a special tunnel mode closes all the windows to prevent fumes from entering the cabin just by pressing the climate control recirculation button, and you could get an available navigation screen that doesn’t look like it’s from a handheld portable tube TV. Those of a certain age will know exactly what I’m talking about. Arguably the biggest draw is proper space for rear-seat passengers, making the CLK not just a weekend toy, but a proper daily driver.

ADVERTISEMENT

Mercedes Benz Clk 500 Cutaway

In addition to the carefree pillarless coupe lifestyle, the big appeal to the second-generation CLK is just how straightforward it generally is. There’s no complex air suspension, just coil springs and normal dampers. There’s no electrochromic moonroof, active anti-roll bars, failure-prone electrohydraulic braking system, or forced induction. As far as modern Mercedes-Benz models go, the second-generation CLK is downright simple, and that usually translates to far lower running costs than an equivalent big CL coupe, a similarly quick BMW 335i, or a fast Audi. Yes, little things will go wrong because we’re still looking at cars that are up to 20 years old, but if you’re handy with a screwdriver and a spanner, you can likely keep one of these cars on the road.

I say likely because the big red mark on the CLK’s record is the engine on early CLK 550 models. A batch of defective timing system idler gears led several of these engines to early failure, prompting a class action lawsuit. Generally, most of the engines that experienced early problems will have been fixed with updated parts, but there are a few cars out there that haven’t yet needed their idler gears replaced, so if a CLK 550’s engine serial number ends in …30 088611 or lower, maintenance records are key.

Then there’s the conductor plate inside the transmission, which is an easy repair on the five-speed automatic, but a bit of a bother on the seven-speed unit due to firmware pairing. If you’re shopping for a seven-speed car, a record of the repair having been done is a big selling point because it means someone else has already taken the financial hit. Oh, and the CLK 63 AMG can have issues with head bolts and valvetrain components, but most of those cars are so far outside of most people’s tax brackets that we can just brush on that without getting too deep into it. After all, we already covered it with the similarly-engined Mercedes-Benz ML 63 AMG.

Mercedes Benz Clk 500 Craigslist

ADVERTISEMENT

Otherwise, these cars are secretly great and often incredible deals. For instance, here’s a 2005 CLK 500 coupe with 72,850 miles on the clock up for sale on Los Angeles Craigslist for $7,500. Yep, $7,500 for a spacious pillarless V8 Mercedes-Benz coupe with a historically reliable engine. That’s a solid deal right there.

Mercedes Benz Clk 550 Craigslist

Want to step up to a CLK 550? They’re harder to find, but they probably won’t break the bank. This black-on-black 2008 CLK 550 coupe is up for sale on Craigslist at a dealership in Seattle for $9,650. Sure, it may have 139,889 miles on the clock, but it looks well-kept, and with a Carfax indicating it spent nearly all its life on the west coast, it’s likely clean underneath.

Mercedes Benz Clk 55 Amg Autotrader

As ever, once you add the AMG tax, prices jump a bit. This 2005 CLK 55 AMG is listed for sale on Autotrader for $15,991 with 109,701 miles on the clock. It does have a hit on the Carfax, but considering how few CLK 55 AMG coupes Mercedes-Benz brought into America, this car’s definitely worth it to the right buyer.

ADVERTISEMENT

Mercedes Benz Clk 500 Rear

The second-generation Mercedes-Benz CLK 500, CLK 55 AMG, and CLK 550 aren’t the most iconic V8 cars to wear the three-pointed star, but they are slices of the high life on the cheap that probably won’t ruin you. Champagne taste and beer budget incongruency be damned, if you’re even somewhat handy with a wrench, you could likely own and run one of these pillarless coupes for years to come. For the best reliability, it’s probably a good idea to stick with pre-2005 CLK 500s as those had the durable M113 V8 and five-speed automatic, but definitely don’t say no to a later car with the conductor plate already addressed, or better yet, budget for the conductor plate at the time of purchase. How could going pillarless lift your daily mood? I guess there’s only one way to find out.

(Photo credits: Mercedes-Benz, Craigslist sellers, Autotrader seller)

Support our mission of championing car culture by becoming an Official Autopian Member.

Relatedbar

ADVERTISEMENT

Got a hot tip? Send it to us here. Or check out the stories on our homepage.

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on whatsapp
WhatsApp
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on reddit
Reddit
Subscribe
Notify of
65 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
N54don't
N54don't
1 month ago

Man…. My grandfather bought a cream puff CLK 500 convertible not long before he passed away. Barely ever got to drive it, but every time he did he loved it.

My grandmother kept it for a little while after, but wasn’t generally in good enough health to get in and out of it, so it sat around. At some point I took it upon myself to go grab the keys since I was driving a NMS Passat at the time and hated it. I figured someone needed to keep the fluids moving.

Was an amazing car. I drove it around college for 4 or 5 months. Had the top down every chance I could. Took it on a lovely road trip to Eastern and Northern Arizona. Had to give it back when grandma bought a brand new Allroad in 2016. Probably only had 20,000 miles. I really wanted to keep it but didn’t have enough money to pay for it, the insurance, or the maintenance. Of course after she passed I casually mentioned to my dad that I wish I had been able to buy the CLK off her, and his response was, “she would have just given it to you!”. Go figure…. At least she financed my used 335i that I bought at graduation at 0% so there’s that.

Been casually on the lookout for a similar car ever since. Recently sold my 944, and also getting bored of my 330ci so I’ve been looking at 996s, but this might be a reminder to seriously look for a CLK55(0). Unlike the 996 it is very much a car that I would drive cross country this summer.

Myk El
Myk El
1 month ago

Mercedes has made some wonderful pillarless coupes. I was thinking about this when I was looking for a weekend car last year. Decided against because I wanted a RWD V8 with a manual transmission.

Michael Fortenbery
Michael Fortenbery
1 month ago

These are really great cars! No ABC or air suspension to fail. Love our CLK550 convertible, which has been trouble-free. Of course, check the engine #, as mentioned, to make sure you get one that has improved balance shaft sprockets. Most people think it is much more expensive than it is. I was wanting a Mustang 5.0 convertible, but I have no regrets “settling” for the Merc.

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
1 month ago

As a CLK owner – You don’t need the V8 to get great performance.
What you need is a 2008-2009 268hp 3.5l V6 – after that little gear inside the engine thing was resolved.
And you need a car that’s been maintained properly – which is what you need from any used car.
Included in that maintenance is the rear differential which must have had it’s fluid changed according to the AMG schedule – Otherwise it will self-immolate around 100K miles (Thanks Mercedes…)

While the follow-up W207 E Class Coupe and Convertible do have more comfort features and greater power – Among them being a far better COMAND Navigation system after June 2012, and 302hp DI 3.5L V6’s for 2012-2014 – they’re still fairly analog as they too don’t have air suspensions, etc. – and turbo V6’s didn’t come until 2015’s E400 – after all, they were designed to be CLK’s and were renamed to E shortly before introduction. However their handling and braking feel isn’t quite as sparking as the W209 CLK.

Some will ask why you want a pillarless coupe: Just change lanes or back into a parking space. Take a drive along the coast and drop all the windows & open the roof. Plus every time you get in and buckle up – the Mercedes will hand you your seatbelt for you. Just like every Mercedes-Benz hardtop and 4 seat convertible since the 1981 W126 S Class coupe.

The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
1 month ago

Nice engine but that body design is foul. Especially the lights.

Last edited 1 month ago by The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
1 month ago

The body design is smooth, sleek and easy to wash. And while my least favorite feature are the headlamps – the bulbs are super easy to change out.

The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
1 month ago
Reply to  Urban Runabout

The headlights and taillights make me sad.

Day One Dave
Day One Dave
1 month ago

The 273 engine with the seven speed transmission (ZF?) is a joy. Just a great engine with the only issues really are the oil plugs and cyclone that need to be changed out occasionally. Zero other problems from real-world use. Conductor plate in the transmission is a thing, but you just get it done when it goes bad. We serviced the transmission at 80k IIRC, and plate went bad around 130k. Our engine was in the problematic range, so I had Blackstone analysis with every oil change to try to catch any excessive wear, and not a problem at all. Love those motors!

4004
4004
1 month ago

Not a fan of the design, and that interior has aged worse than E46’s in my opinion. But pilarless hardtop coupe is fancy – although I wonder what that did to body rigidity

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
1 month ago
Reply to  4004

I have the convertible – it’s pretty darned rigid in comparison to some other’s I’ve driven.
MB has been doing pillarless hardtops since the early 60’s – they know a thing or two about body rigidity and crashworthiness.

Waremon0
Waremon0
1 month ago

This is my favorite/most financially ruinous column on this site. For the past few weeks I was pretty dead set on a manual 2.0 Accord. And now…

Also considering a Volt. There’s a dealer near my office that specializes in them.

I want something more road-trippable than my manual Fit. The Accord would have replaced it but if I can find one of these under 10k, I can keep the Fit as a zippy around town fun car and have a highway cruiser that I can travel with.

Anyone know what I should budget for the CLK550 idler gears and conductor plate just to self-insure/factor into the price?

Micah Cameron
Micah Cameron
1 month ago
Reply to  Waremon0

Conductor plate issues on the early 722.9s are overblown and generally occur due to neglect. The transmission fluid and filter should be changed every 40,000 miles max. If it is shifting fine now, change the fluid and filter, making sure you drain the torque converter too. Also, a really good upgrade is to use the filter and pan from the later 722.9s, which have a deeper pan that allows better fluid flow through the filter. FCP Euro has a conversion kit. Including the pump and adapters you’ll need, figure $300. It’s an easy DIY – much easier than a fluid and filter change on the 722.6. Pumping the fluid in from the drain plug makes filling the transmission much faster and less messy than trying to go through a tiny dipstick.

Not all M273s had idler pulley issues. You can use the vehicle’s VIN to find the engine number and compare that number with the range of affected engines. However, even if it falls within the affected range, it may have been replaced already. If not, FCP sells a kit for about $500. It is a bit of a job as you have to take off the front timing cover, including the crankshaft bolt, and lift the engine several inches. That crankshaft bolt has to be re-torqued to one million ft/lbs, so that’s fun. If you can get one outside of the affected range, that would be better, but imho an engine with a bad idler gear is not a reason to avoid the whole car assuming everything else is good and the price is reasonable.

Waremon0
Waremon0
1 month ago
Reply to  Micah Cameron

Thank you. You have just become an enemy to my discretionary savings account. I appreciate the thorough response!

Zeppelopod
Zeppelopod
1 month ago
Reply to  Waremon0

You can absolutely road-trip a Volt. I can’t speak for the second generation cars, but the first-generation Volts have plenty of sound deadening and the weight of the battery (500ish lbs down the belly) keeps it planted well on the highway. Get a 2013+ as those have slightly improved EV range and also Hold mode, which maintains the current state of charge instead of defaulting to battery first.

The one gripe is that gasoline-only range is a bit short because of the small fuel tank (about 9gal if I recall). I stop to refuel every 300ish miles on mine.

I think the only issue I had on mine was a bad cabin heater that was replaced under warranty. Otherwise it’s been rock solid. Brakes didn’t begin to show wear until close to 100k. It’s a “beige” car insofar as it isn’t a performance vehicle but it has a lot of silly pseudo-futuristic charm to it and 280lb-ft of torque from 0rpm isn’t a slouch!

Waremon0
Waremon0
1 month ago
Reply to  Zeppelopod

What is maintenance on the engine like? Easy to change fluids and such? How long does the oil typically last?

Defenestrator
Defenestrator
1 month ago
Reply to  Waremon0

For the 2nd gen at least, I think the oil interval is 7500 miles or 2 years. If you’re mostly road-tripping in it you might actually have to change it based on miles.

Honestly, if it’s mostly longer trips the Volt’s probably a bit of a waste. It’s very plugin-focused and works great in electric mode. Once it’s on gas the mileage is mediocore (35ish at 75mph, 40 around town) and so’s the NVH. Above 40mph or so the acceleration also drops from “genuinely quite quick” to “very responsive, but only adequate power”.

I suspect the CLK will be a better highway cruiser. Around town, the 2nd-gen Volt is a much better car than it has any right to be.

Waremon0
Waremon0
1 month ago
Reply to  Defenestrator

Very helpful, thank you!

Zeppelopod
Zeppelopod
1 month ago
Reply to  Waremon0

Defenestrator’s points about the Gen 2 Volt largely hold true for the Gen 1. It’s very quick around town (up to about 40mph) and then it falls off pretty quickly afterwards. The Gen 2 is about a second and a half quicker to 60 thanks to a host of mechanical (and weight saving) improvements.

Also agreed that it is very much engineered as an around-town car with optional road trip capability, in terms of fuel efficiency.

GM tried to make fetch happen for years by calling it an “extended range electric vehicle” rather than the dreaded “plug-in hybrid,” and honestly, I still think EREV fits the mission statement of the Volt much better than PHEV does. The Gen 1 doesn’t touch the ICE unless (a) you tell it to by putting it in Mountain or Hold mode, or (b) the available traction battery charge is depleted. Even the Gen 1, engineered in like 2009-2010ish, still has more available and reliable battery power than many modern PHEVs.

Maintenance wise, I haven’t done any fluid changes myself but a good friend who bought a Volt after he liked driving mine (he’s a mechanical engineer with about ten shirts saying some variation of “I void warranties”) performs his own work and has little issue with it. Not sure if that’s helpful or not 😉

Waremon0
Waremon0
1 month ago
Reply to  Zeppelopod

Very helpful. I think I’m going to take the Volt off the list as my Fit will remain my around town grocery getter but I will continue to preach the benefits to other folks! I am still very much a proponent of the concept of an EREV.

Danny Zabolotny
Danny Zabolotny
1 month ago

Really the biggest shame with all of these M113 cars is that Mercedes never paired it with a proper manual transmission, whereas most BMW V8 cars could be had with a manual until the mid-2010’s. As good as the 5G-Tronic is, it still doesn’t compare to a proper 5-speed/6-speed manual in terms of driver engagement.

Micah Cameron
Micah Cameron
1 month ago

I always thought my C209 would have been more fin with a manual. However, later ones had the 722.9. I would rather have the 7-speed auto than a manual. It’s a really, really good transmission, and with the proper software, it’s easy to enable a true manual mode and agility mode, the latter of which was my favorite. It would coast like a manual – take your foot off the gas, and the car slows down. So awesome!

Boosted
Boosted
1 month ago

Manual swaps are getting more common

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
1 month ago

You could get a manual in Europe with the 4 cylinder engines.

FlyingMonstera
FlyingMonstera
1 month ago

Many years and many houses ago a neighbour had a CLK 500 which he replaced with a Lexus CT200h. I never got the backstory – our wives were on cat feeding terms but we never got beyond that.

Ryan L
Ryan L
1 month ago

Is this conductor plate issue the same ones that plague the NAG1 in the Jeep WK? If so that’s a bit of a pain but not really too bad- definitely messy cause you have to drop the pan and change the fluid but its about a 3-4 hr job after you’ve done it once or twice. Getting the plug out is the trickiest part if the O-ring has given up the ghost (that’s probably your real problem anyways)

Micah Cameron
Micah Cameron
1 month ago
Reply to  Ryan L

The NAG1 is the 722.6 5-speed. Both the 722.6 and 722.9 can have conductor plate issues. Note that this usually occurs due to neglect, and those plates can last hundreds of thousands of miles if the transmission fluid and filter are changed every 40,000 miles.

The conductor plate in the 722.9 needs to be coded to the car after replacement. It’s very easy with DAS.

Ryan L
Ryan L
1 month ago
Reply to  Micah Cameron

Sure except on many of the Daimler Chrysler products it was billed as a lifetime product and they didn’t even include a dipstick.

I’ve replaced the conductor plate/speed sensor twice in rougly 180k miles. I think it lasted about 4 years after the first one failed. It’s not ideal but it’s better than a full on transmission rebuild.

At first I kind of hated the transmission but after being able to “fix” it with roughly a hundred dollar part twice and have it return to normal function I’m starting to feel like it’s actually pretty darn solid mechanically.

(probably just jinxed myself)

Micah Cameron
Micah Cameron
1 month ago
Reply to  Ryan L

Well, although I agree that billing the transmission as never needing a fluid change is stupid af, every manufacturer started doing it around that time. Also, the dipstick is like $15 from Amazon.

Every automatic will fail if it’s never serviced. It sounds like you got kind of unlucky. Maybe the replacement conductor plate was defective. But you hit the nail on the head with serviceability – the 722.6 is easy to repair for a DIY-er and parts are not expensive either. It has two main flaws – leaks from the electrical connector that can be fixed for $40 in less than an hour, and the conductor plate issues, which are rarer but more time consuming and expensive to fix.

Ryan L
Ryan L
1 month ago
Reply to  Micah Cameron

The second time I replaced the conductor plate it might have just been the plug oring failing and leaking tbh. The problem is the oring was stuck like a mf’er and the little captured brass bolt would just spin and spin so I ended up dropping the pan and unbolting the valve body and just yanking down until the plastic on the conductor plate broke so I could pull out the plug receptical deal.

The Dude
The Dude
1 month ago

As someone on the west coast it’s easy to take for granted the kind environment (maybe aside from paint) that we have for used cars. I’ve never bought a used car and had to think about underbelly rust gremlins.

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
1 month ago

I have always loved the CLK 63 Black, and for the longest time had hopes of owning one. Until just the last few years, they were still depreciating enough that I had dreams of buying one, but now that they have spiked in value it doesn’t seem likely I’ll ever have one.

I did look at a black CLK 55 AMG that was listed on Craigslist a few weeks ago. I wasn’t really interested in it, as it was obvious that it was owner #7 or #8, had awful aftermarket wheels, and had been subjected to the “black out all the lights to the point of them being useless at night” treatment, but it also only had 86,000 miles and was $7500. Sadly, it had so many broken bits, electrical issues (from previous owners installing aftermarket stereo systems), and very apparent deep scratches and scrapes that it became apparent it was worth waiting for a nicer example for just a bit more.

Glutton for Piëch
Glutton for Piëch
1 month ago

Can confirm this era Mercedes are awesome if you play your cards right.

Can also confirm the M156 headbolt/cam buckets thing is majorly blown out of proportion. From what I recall when I had one, it was something like 1% had actual issues with headbolts, and the valvetrain was fine if you did oil changes regularly and with decent oil. Mine had over 100k and you could eat off the valvetrain. Never had a single issue.

One other really nice thing about this era of Mercedes is the carphone can be pulled out, and a Mercedes OEM Bluetooth adapter put in its place (and it looks like an SLR!). Then, you put a bovee (I think?) on the iPod connector and you’ve got calls and audio covered with the factory head unit.

Last edited 1 month ago by Glutton for Piëch
Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
1 month ago

Yes to the Bovee unit -but for streaming music and navigation only.
Because for 2009 Mercedes-Benz in it’s ultimate wisdom decided to eliminate the previously- standard Bluetooth. Retrofitting the Bluetooth hardware costs somewhere over $1000.
I just don’t talk on the phone while driving.

Glutton for Piëch
Glutton for Piëch
1 month ago
Reply to  Urban Runabout

That’s insanely stupid. I had an ’08. I knew the ’09 got a newer version of COMAND but had no idea they cheaped out on Bluetooth. That’s shitty lmao

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
1 month ago

If this is the updated version of COMAND – I’d hate to see the DOS-based horror show that came before….

Glutton for Piëch
Glutton for Piëch
1 month ago
Reply to  Urban Runabout

I never had an issue with it, but I just left it on the music screen on iPod, or occasionally in screen off or clock mode cause the other looked so dated. It’s no MBUX but I don’t think it was as bad as early COMAND, aside from how crap it looked. I think the screen had as many pixels as the fuel level indicator.

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
1 month ago

Agreed – When the NAV stopped functioning when the sunlight hit it for more than a few minutes or when I had the heat on, I just stopped using it. Now it’s perpetually on Aux so I can stream music and Nav via the Bovee Bluetooth connector – execpt for twice a year when it’s time to change the clock. (like today)
It’s just a very large auto-headlamp indicator anymore.

Alexander Moore
Alexander Moore
1 month ago

These have aged surprisingly well, but I honestly can’t take any Mercedes with the ‘merged circles’ headlights seriously. They look so goofy and dated—keeping the circles separate like they did on the W211 was way better.

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
1 month ago

I agree – but they’re also the same headlamp units as the R230 SL.
And the bulbs are easy to change.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
1 month ago

3rd gen ram

Vic Vinegar
Vic Vinegar
1 month ago

I always thought getting one of these would be cool. I still think they are good looking cars.

My neighbor had one though, a CLK500 convertible, and the thing was being towed out of his driveway all the time. It’d show back up, he’d drive it a few times, and then it would sit again until it disappeared once more for weeks. I’m guessing it was not very reliable.

Micah Cameron
Micah Cameron
1 month ago
Reply to  Vic Vinegar

That is bizarre and I would love to know what issues your neighbor had. His would have had the M113 mated to a 722.6. The CPS could fail and if they do, the engine won’t start, which is why it’s recommended to immediately replace them preventatively on the M113.

The C209 is a reliable chassis, full-stop. Not “for a German car,” not “for a luxury car that was expensive when new.” They are dead reliable. Of course, I’m sure there are a few lemons out there, and incompetent mechanics can also greatly exacerbate simple issues.

Everardus Bogardus
Everardus Bogardus
1 month ago
Reply to  Micah Cameron

My neighbor in San Diego circa 2007 had a CLK430 which he ended up getting rid of because he couldn’t afford the repair bills it was racking up. Plural of anecdote isn’t data, but unreliability in this model doesn’t seem that rare. He ended up replacing it with a droptop E46 M3 which apparently was a great improvement in this department.

Micah Cameron
Micah Cameron
1 month ago

Okay, I have an E46, and I absolutely love it, but it is exponentially more needy than my C209. There is no comparison. My E46 has the M52TU, which has a bulletproof top and bottom end. The S54 in your neighbor’s M3 requires valve adjustments every 20,000 miles and the rod bearings are considered wear items. An E46 M3 is much, much more expensive and needy to keep on the road than a C209.

If your neighbor had a CLK 430, then he had a C208, not C209. However, the C208 is also great. I just don’t like the steering or design as much.

Last edited 1 month ago by Micah Cameron
Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
1 month ago
Reply to  Micah Cameron

…and the W208 is not pillarless.
That first CLK was a cost-cutting car – not worthy of being a Mercedes-Benz Coupe.
(Not unlike the recently introduced CLE)

Vic Vinegar
Vic Vinegar
1 month ago
Reply to  Micah Cameron

I don’t know. Guy is barely ever seen outside the house. Replaced it with a Model S, which then also disappeared for months, and then reappeared as a different Model S. Parks the car outside, so I notice when it is missing for extended periods of time.

Last edited 1 month ago by Vic Vinegar
Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
1 month ago
Reply to  Vic Vinegar

Probably because he left it parked out in the weather and didn’t maintain it properly.
They need to be garaged and brought in for service every year or 10K miles like clockwork.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
1 month ago
Reply to  Urban Runabout

Its always good ask yourself: Will I own this car or will this car own ME?

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
1 month ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

Or “Do I want to own nice things that are reliable, won’t leave me stranded and will last me for over a decade – or am I okay with a basic beater that I have zero pride in, will do the barest minimum to maintain, and will replace the moment it refuses to proceed due to my negligence”?

Last edited 1 month ago by Urban Runabout
Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
1 month ago
Reply to  Urban Runabout

One can have “nice things that are reliable, won’t leave me stranded and will last me for over a decade” and yet still take the barest minimum to maintain.

See Lexus, Toyota, Honda, etc.

Mercedes, once the benchmark of that standard has long since lost its way.

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
1 month ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

See Lexus, Toyota, Honda, etc.”

Sludgy engines, premature engine failures, stop sales, etc.
Buying a Toyota/Lexus/Honda/Acura is no longer a guarantee of engineering perfection either.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
1 month ago
Reply to  Urban Runabout

Still way better than a modern Mercedes though.

Micah Cameron
Micah Cameron
1 month ago
Reply to  Urban Runabout

The thing is, I think a lot of these turn-of-the-millennium Mercedes could handle neglect just as well as a Honda or Toyota. The M113 is a really simple engine – SOHC, 3 valves per cylinder, no variable valve timing. The 722.6 was used in a ton of Chrysler and Porsche products and has developed a well-earned reputation for being extremely reliable.

If we were talking about a BMW, I’d agree with you 100%, and of course any car (especially a nice Mercedes coupe) should be maintained well, but I think these cars could take a lot of abuse and still keep moving.

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
1 month ago
Reply to  Micah Cameron

My 15 year old CLK350 Cabriolet will turn 116,000 miles this week – it was acquired CPO 11 years ago at 31,000 miles. It’s always been parked under cover while under my stewardship (carport, garage or car cover), washed at least every three weeks, and maintained by MB or independent MB specialists with no quibbles about maintenance – just get it done and done right.
Some would say “Oh, it’s not worth what it’s costing you to garage & maintain it” – to which I say “Go find me another Mercedes-Benz convertible that’s in equal or better condition that I can purchase for so little money”

Micah Cameron
Micah Cameron
1 month ago

This is a great article. I owned a 2003 CLK 320 for five years, the second longest I’ve ever kept a car. I specifically bought a C209 with the M112 instead of the M113 because I wanted better fuel economy. That was a mistake – the M113s actually get better highway fuel economy than the M112 because they have a taller rear end.

So yeah, skip the V6, especially the M272. The early M272s suffered from the same issue that the M273s did, but that timing idler gear was attached to a balance shaft that requires the engine to be removed and completely disassembled to replace. On the M273, it’s about a 3-hour job to replace a defective idler gear (assuming it is replaced preventatively).

Having driven cars with the M113 extensively and owned a C219 with the M273, I’d say go for the M273. It’s even more reliable and easier to work on compared to the earlier M113 and it makes a lot more power. However, the M113 is great too.

The C209 is a combines a fairly luxurious interior with extremely reliable engines and transmissions, regular suspension, and they are super easy to work on to boot. It’s a real sweet spot. I also think the interior build quality is pretty darn good – some people say they lack the “solidity” of earlier Mercedes models, but the tradeoff is plastics that don’t turn to dust and break if you look at them wrong.

My biggest gripe was with the suspension. The C209 is based on the W203 C-class, and it shows. Even with brand new OE shocks/struts, bushings, ball joints, etc., I was always disappointed in the ride quality and handling. It managed to have a rather harsh ride while rolling a lot in the corners. Handling did not inspire confidence, and the poor ride quality did not compensate for that. I effectively replaced my C209 with a (now sold) C219, and the air suspension in that car was night and day – comfort was properly comfortable, and sport II turned that big, heavy GT into a proper canyon carver.

If I owned a C209 again, I think I would invest in Bilstein B6s. However, C219s can be found for similar prices now, especially pre-facelift ones with the M113, and imho the C219 is a better car. It’s more practical, rides better, handles better, and the air suspension system is a huge upgrade while being reliable and easy to work on.

However, if you don’t need four doors and don’t want air suspension, the C209 is absolutely up there in my list of greatest Mercedes to own on a budget. My C209 was the most reliable car I’ve ever owned, hands down.

Glutton for Piëch
Glutton for Piëch
1 month ago
Reply to  Micah Cameron

Used to work at a shop and one of our customers bought an A209 CLK63. He bought Bilstein B16s for it against our pleading him not to (he daily drove it). I installed them and we sent him on his way. He came back literally the next morning BEGGING me to put the OE suspension back in because it was way too stiff and uncomfortable (imagine). This was not the first time, or car, he thought would make a comfy daily with track parts installed. Whenever I feel stupid, I think of him.

Even stock tho, I agree with you. I have loved all my E-Classes, but have never gotten down with a C solely because I don’t like the chassis or suspension as much.

Micah Cameron
Micah Cameron
1 month ago

Bilstein B6s are road-oriented and designed for stock springs. They are pretty awesome. There is a huge difference between B6 and B16, the latter of which, as you correctly pointed out, are really for tracked cars and would not be appropriate for a daily driver.

Glutton for Piëch
Glutton for Piëch
1 month ago
Reply to  Micah Cameron

Oh, I know. I had B6s on one of my Passats. They’re great shocks. I just loved the lunacy of putting B16s on a GT convertible.

Mechjaz
Mechjaz
1 month ago
Reply to  Micah Cameron

Thanks for this. As a 25% serious/75% lookie loo, this is great information

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
1 month ago
Reply to  Micah Cameron

I have the optional sports package – the car does not roll in corners.
The handling on twisty roads is responsive and smooth – I rarely ever get in over my head.
WIth the Vredestein Hypertraks, I can take cloverleafs in the rain at approaching double the posted speed limits.

Micah Cameron
Micah Cameron
1 month ago
Reply to  Urban Runabout

This is really good information, thank you! I didn’t even know the non-AMG C209s could be optioned with a sports package.

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
1 month ago
Reply to  Micah Cameron

Yep – That got you drilled front brake rotors (supplied by Brembo – like all MB brakes), 17″ wheels, a tightened suspension and aluminum brake and accelerator pedals.

Renescent
Renescent
1 month ago

+1 I drove the 4-door partner in AMG form (C55) for 184k miles… outside of regular maintenance (16 spark plugs!), I had to replace the rear main seal. An excellent choice!

Mechjaz
Mechjaz
1 month ago

Jokes on you, I didn’t forget these at all. I saw one in traffic the other day and felt simple, sensible approval. I’d happily daily one, at least until the other commentors point out all the hideous things waiting in the dark, like the block being fashioned from a live naval mine in or the fact that the spark plugs are just .22 ammo you have to refill every tank of gas.

Until then, CLK, plain and tall.

Car Guy - RHM
Car Guy - RHM
1 month ago

Now they’re called pillarless coupes, in the past it would be considered a Hardtop.

65
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x