The CLK is a juicy source of profits for Mercedes-Benz. It’s marginally cheaper to produce than an identically equipped C-class sedan-with which the CLK shares its underpinnings-and yet it sells for about $10,000 more. That math finally has caught on with the competition. For example, the upcoming coupe/convertible is based on the A4, the two-door BMW 3-series cars will be priced more like a theoretical 4-series, and the second-generation Lexus SC will be GS-based but positioned between the GS and the LS. There is no doubt that the increased competition will cut into the CLK’s market share pie. In response, Mercedes plans to fortify the next CLK with several advanced technologies currently found in the S-class, including Presafe II, night vision, Comand II, and the Distronic Plus adaptive cruise control system. Mercedes also will treat the CLK to all-new styling when the third-generation model is introduced in the summer of 2008.
The new CLK goes up half a notch in size but will continue to be twinned with the C-class, the next version of which is due next year. To save costs, both the C-class and the CLK also will share components with the next E-class, using a modular approach that’s a first for Mercedes. All three models will share a similar design language.
The lineup should include the CLK350, which gets a 272-hp V-6; the 388-hp, V-8-powered CLK500; and, later, the 503-hp CLK63 AMG. All will send power to the rear wheels, but 4Matic also may be offered. A hybrid version is likely, but Mercedes plans to roll out its hybrids from the top down, starting with the S-, M-, R-, and GL-classes in 2009, so don’t expect a CLK version any time soon.