Mercedes-Benz has always been a company with a coupe or two on its lineup. From dedicated roadsters like the SLK through to the S Class, Mercedes-Benz would lop a door and a pillar or two out of anything. The C-Class was no exception, which is why, in 1997, we got the first CLK.
As the C in the name would suggest, it was based on the C Class (W202) car. Oddly though, it had the face of the E Class of the time. It was an okay car, but it wasn’t what you’d call handsome. There was too much car trying to be in too small a space. it looked squat, and tall, and very busy. Thankfully, Mercedes-Benz reaslised it wasn’t the best looker in the world, and as such, gave us this in 2002 – The C209 CLK. Pretty, isn’t it?
The C209 came out at a time when Mercedes-Benz was trying its best to build cars properly again. In this case, those efforts were noticeable. The C209 is a solidly-built car, far more so than its predecessor. That said, they were only as good as their owners let them be. Earlier W209s can and do suffer from rust. Not only that, they can also suffer at the hands of folk who don’t have the budget to maintain such a car. A premium car may fall into the lower echelons of affordability, but that doesn’t make their upkeep any cheaper.
As such, you want to try and find something that’s all one colour. And has service history. And doesn’t melt the internet if you do a HPI check on it. Basically, don’t buy the first one you see, m’kay?
So what are you getting for your money? Well, much like the Peugeot 407 Coupe we recently covered, you’re not getting an out-and-out sports car here. It’s more of a comfortable mile muncher than an angry apex clipper. In fact, Parkers stated that “The CLK goes down the ‘looking good’ rather than ‘feeling sporty’ coupé route”. And we can’t really argue with that. Mercedes-Benz is good at making sports cars, but it’s also very good at making comfortable cruisers. The C209 is a case in point.
However, don’t read that and think it’s dull. It’s still a rewarding drive, thanks in part to the rear-wheel drive platform. The balance is pretty much spot on too, though if you end up with one that has a bigger engine, go easy in the wet. The rear can go full Tokyo Drift without much warning. ESP is standard across the range, which will keep it in check as best it can. But if you’re too heavy-footed you might end up through a bus stop. Backwards. Possibly on fire. You’ve been warned.
Engine wise, you’ll have a choice. One of the most common engines is the 1.8 lump with a supercharger, badged as a 200 Kompressor. It’s a tried and tested engine, but it won’t be melting the rear tyres. Check the history if you’re looking at one of these, as the superchargers can give out and leave the car down on power.
There’s a 2.6 petrol, too. That one is badged as the CLK240. It’s a bit more refined than the 1.8, and considerably more sluggish. not to mention the fact it drinks more. But, if you see one with solid service history, it could be a good buy.
Then you have the best all-rounder, the 2.7 diesel. With plenty of torque, respectable economy and decent running costs, it’s a good all-rounder. Though they do tend to wear high miles at this budget, so again, get your schnoz in the history book.
Oh, and most if not all of them are mated to an auto. You do not need a manual Mercedes-Benz. Nobody does, they’re made out of chocolate and sadness and they will explode. This is a fact.
Inside, the C209 is a lot better than its predecessor. For this one, the designers at Mercedes-Benz realised they could use curves, so it doesn’t look like it’s made out of Lego. Plus, there’s plenty of spec like leather, digital climate, cruise, electric everything and more. It is, to use the motoring journalism cliche, a nice place to be.
Also, it wear its years well. Even high milers still feel tight inside, and the seats don’t wear through to the stuffing unless a previous owner was a fan of chain mail pants.
If you’re looking for a comfy coupe that’s rewarding to drive, this is a good bet. Plus, there’s a childish thrill to knowing you own a Mercedes-Benz, despite the fact you work part time in Tesco Express. This is the kind of car you can be proud of. And when you’re trying to get the most for your money, that’s important.