Buyers Guide Mercedes-Benz CLK55 AMG C209
Doubling our virtual budget puts a lot more exciting machinery within our grasp and so the first thing we’re naturally going to jump on is a V8 – because why wouldn’t you? – and we’ve opted for the C209 CLK55. We’re not going to beat about the bush because the reason we’re here right now is the M113 under the bonnet, here in its pure NA form, and in the CLK55 it makes an impressive 367hp and a hefty 376lb ft of torque. Fed to the rear wheels via the familiar and sturdy five-speed Speedshift automatic gearbox, that results in a 0-62mph time of just 5.2 seconds, which makes this a seriously rapid machine, especially at this price point.
ULTIMATE PERFORMANCE MERCEDES BUYING GUIDE UP TO £10K
C209 CLK55 AMG
WHY YOU WANT ONE
The mighty M113 is a pure performance powerhouse and delivers massive mid-range torque, making for effortless progress, and continues to hit hard at the top end and when you combine that with its delicious (if slightly muted) V8 soundtrack, it’s hard not to be instantly smitten with the CLK55’s ample charms. As with all C AMGs of this period, discretion is the watchword but, as with the C32, that is in many ways a big part of the appeal and being able to enjoy big V8 performance without being noticed is a big selling point for many people. Once again you’ll find those subtle AMG enhancements on the outside, with a more aggressive front bumper and sculpted side skirts and we have to say that the C209 is a good-looking machine, especially in AMG form and offers up the perfect grown-up performance package. The uprated suspension means that the chassis is more than up to the task of handling everything that the M113 can throw at it and while the CLK55 may not be an out-and-out sports car, it’ll still ensure you’re smiling from behind the wheel when pressing on while also being able to slip into more relaxed cruising mode in an instant and it’s this dual character that makes it such a compelling buy.
WHAT TO PAY
The CLK55 is a relatively rare machine meaning that you’re never going to be spoilt for choice when shopping for one and that also means that if you’re picky about colour, spec or body style then you’ll have to be prepared to be a bit a patient but there are good cars out there and you’re bound to find something to suit you. The cheapest CLK55s appear at around the £6k-mark and these will be cars with over 100,000 miles on the clock, but by £8-9k mileages drop and you have more choice. We found an ‘03 coupé with 98,000 miles up for £8000 and two 2003 convertibles with 95,000 miles both up for £9000, though we’ve seen lower-mileage examples of both in this price bracket before so there are cars out there to suit this budget.
WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR
The good news is that the M113 is an exceptionally reliable engine; the only things to be aware of are the fact that it uses 16 spark plugs, so that’s a pretty expensive job, and early cars suffer from the leaking Valeo radiators that can cause coolant to contaminate the gearbox. If the radiator hasn’t been replaced, a later Behr unit will solve the problem. Engine mounts can fail and if the engine moves too much the ECU will reduce power; also check for rocker cover leaks and the condition of the front pulley. Suspension wise, front arms will need replacing at some point, but otherwise, there’s nothing of note to worry about. Rust, however, will be a concern, and the areas worst affected are the rear arches, the sills, behind the body kit itself and undertray and also around the boot lock, while the windscreen scuttle can get blocked, sending water into the cabin. On the inside expect pixel issues with the temperature display and clock LCDs, while the climate control buttons can break and also expect electrical niggles, and the CLK uses numerous ECUs that can be affected by water ingress so check for dampness by lifting the carpets.
At this price point, it’s incredibly hard to find any sort of argument against the C209 CLK55. First off, you’ve got the magnificent M113 V8 under the bonnet – it puts out more than enough power and torque to both keep a smile permanently plastered across your face and get you into trouble without really trying and it will always make driving this car feel like an event. Then you’ve got those still-elegant good looks, the subtly enhanced styling, the comfort and refinement combined with an entertaining chassis plus the practicality that makes it such a great all-round proposition. Add in the M113’s reliability with the renowned toughness of the gearbox plus the traditional, non-air suspension setup and you’re left with arguably the most reliable AMG you can buy. For this money, we can’t think why you wouldn’t.
C209 still looks sharp today M113 V8 is bulletproof and a strong performer. Convertible really lets you enjoy that V8 soundtrack.