- The Washington Times - Friday, April 18, 2003

Back in 1998, when Mercedes-Benz rolled out its CLK Cabriolet, it seemed impossible to improve upon it. Wrong! The all-new 2004 model is remarkably better.
This car was introduced Wednesday at the New York Auto Show and becomes available at dealerships in September. I had an opportunity to drive the CLK320 and CLK500 on the island of Mallorca in the Mediterranean. This location, with its winding mountainous roads and warm climate, was ideal for enjoying this four-seat Cabrio with the top either up or down.
Both models are exceptionally quiet with the new multilayer top material that not only insulates but buffers the noise. The new material also is exceptionally easy to use in raising or lowering the top at the press of a button. With the top down, an air-buffering screen diminishes annoying air rush noise so conversation can be held at a normal speaking level.
The new models have more interior comfort for all four passengers. The seats, both front and back, are very comfortable, and even the luggage compartment is slightly larger. The trunk won't hold four golf bags, but with the top up, it could accommodate two small golf bags plus luggage. For those who enjoy winter sports, I'm told a ski bag is an option.
The CLK320 has a 3.2-liter V-6 engine that produces 215 horsepower and rides on 16-inch, seven-spoke wheels that give it an eye-catching appearance. What's even more attractive is the CLK500 model with a 5.0-liter V-8 engine that produces 302 horsepower. This model also accommodates the AMG sport package to fulfill the desires of just about any buyer with money to spend. These cars will range between $50,000 and $76,000.
Mercedes-Benz has always been a leader in the area of safety and the new CLK Cabriolets have improved sensor-controlled rollover bars, which deploy automatically within a fraction of a second in an accident situation so I'm told. I also learned the new aerodynamics have lowered the coefficient of drag to a very low 0.30.
Getting into the rear seats is very easy when the backrest of the front seat moves forward. The rear seats offer plenty of room plus automatic seat belts and height-adjustable head rests that can be lowered by pressing a button on the dashboard.
I lost count of the number of automatic controls in the CLK, but when a car has a rain sensor for the windscreen wipers and can automatically adjust the climate for both front and rear passengers you know it has all the amenities anyone could desire in an automobile.
The CLK includes distronics, which is a cruise-control system that uses an intelligence system to allow for safe driving distance.
It also features keyless access, a voice-activated telephone, radio and navigational system and powerful bi-xenon headlamps.
I was not at all disappointed with the smaller engine.
Climbing winding mountain roads that seemed to go straight up, the CLK had plenty of power. But for those who really enjoy performance, the 5.0-liter V-8 engine is much more exciting.
Climbing the mountain, my arms got a good workout from the constant need to turn on the zigzagging roads. The steering is one of the best of any car I've driven. So, if open-air fun for four is what you're looking for, the 2004 CLK is the way to go.

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