A friend of mine has a 2005 Mercedes CLK320 and I thought I’d discuss my reactions. For reference, Mercedes uses internal codes to refer to the series and type of model. Ws refer to sedans, Cs refer to coupes, Rs refer to roadsters and Ws refer to SUVs. The 3 digits following the letter refer to the iteration. So W126 means the S-class sedan from 1981 to 1991. The W140 was the S-class after that, followed by the W220 and W221. Wikipedia has a great chart showing all this on its Mercedes-Benz page.
So the car…first reaction is, not bad. The leather is real (no MB-Tex synthetic stuff), so it smells good and feels nice. Not supple or soft, but not rough either. The door shuts hard, but because the window lacks a frame, it feels somewhat less solid than it would with one. Still, the doors are heavy so that’s a plus.
The view out is low-slung, but visibility is good. The grab handles above the window are solid, but snap back quickly (not well damped), and are molded geometrically rather that to fit the hand. In other cars the handles tend to reflect the overall interior design theme, which for this car is swoopy and curvaceous, not geometric.
In my friend’s car, the glovebox lid was tricky to close and secure and required multiple tries, which is unacceptable for a car that expensive. Otherwise though, most moving parts were in order. The CLK comes with motorized seatbelt ‘presenters,’ which are nifty, look nice, work well and are a feature reflective of Mercedes’ former insistence on engineering to a higher standard. I’m not sure whether the new 2010 E-class coupe (successor to the CLK) has this feature.
Back to the car: the radio display is dim and likely a cheaper alternative to what used to be the standard. It’s grayish-white digital display seems buried under a window of translucent hard plastic, but it’s not functionally problematic. The black plastic button bank at the top of the console controls the door locking mechanism, the rear headrests and the rear sunshade, all of which work fine. My only gripe was that the 8-button bank was one continuous piece of black plastic, rather than 8 individual pieces, and it could be rattled/moved in place, a clear reflection of shoddy/lazy build standard.
On the driving experience: the suspension (for which Mercedes is famous) and engine pickup are impressive. The steering isn’t as tight as it would be in a BMW, but it’s smooth and low-effort without losing complete feeling like in a Lexus.
And my last comment: the key, steering wheel and ignition. I LOVE power-adjust steering columns. I think it’s a truly luxurious and unnecessary feature that differentiates premium cars from normal ones. And Mercedes practically pioneered the feature…it was available only for the telescoping adjustment on the W126 S-class in the 1980s. Anyway, this CLK has it and it is lovely. The key slides gently into the ignition, where you turn it with extreme ease and hold it at the start position, after which it springs back with a satisfying thunk to the ‘on’ position. All while the steering wheel glides down and toward the driver. Very nice.
Oh, and the winshield wipers are super lubricated, so they skim soundlessly over the glass, even while dry.
Overall, it seems to be a solid and worthwhile car, save for the annoying cost-cutting bits in the cabin and the loud, squealing trunklid springs.
Thanks for reading!