Has there ever been a car with more breadth to its range than the Mercedes CLK? Whether you’re loitering around the bargain basement section of Gumtree or acting as the Sultan of Brunei’s personal shopper, there’s a Coupe Leicht Kompakt for you.
CLK ownership starts at £500, assuming you’re prepared to put up with a less than perfect body and more miles than a New York taxi. At the opposite end of the spectrum is the mighty CLK GTR, one of which sold at auction three years ago for £1.5 million.
Not that you require the Sultan’s wallet to put a performance CLK in your garage. The best part of £350,000 should be enough to secure two of the most coveted fast Mercs of the 21st century.
Choosing between the CLK63 AMG Black and the CLK DTM AMG is a little like deciding whether to take Peter Kay or Dawn French to Alton Towers. Either way, you’re going to spend the day grinning from ear to ear. We take a look at two stars of the Silverstone Auctions’ May sale.
Mercedes-Benz CLK DTM AMG: £180,000 – £220,000
Taking the GTR out of the equation – not least because it’s as far removed from the standard car as you are from a place on Harry and Meghan’s guest list – the DTM AMG is the daddy of the CLK range.
Not that the CLK DTM would be welcome at a royal wedding: it’s too uncouth, too much of a brute, far too laddish to cope with such formalities. It would leave the bride standing at the altar, dropping a number 11 on the tarmac as it weaves away from the chapel, emitting more smoke than the row of e-cigarette vapers waiting at the bus stop.
Launched in 2004, the Mercedes-Benz CLK DTM AMG, to use its full name, was inspired by the racing version of the CLK. A year earlier, Bernd Schneider clinched the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM) title at Hockenheim – the final race of the season – finishing ahead of Dutchman Christijan Albers to secure his fourth drivers’ title.
But while DTM regulations meant that the race car was forced to ‘make do’ with a 4.0-litre V8 engine, AMG was free to use a supercharged 5.4-litre V8 in the road-going version. With 582hp on tap, it’s the most potent CLK this side of the GTR, with an ability to hit 62mph from rest in 3.9 seconds, before reaching a top speed nudging 200mph.
Those are staggering figures from a vehicle built with the primary aims of cruising tree-lined boulevards or looking good parked outside the tanning salon. To the majority of the orange folk sat inside the shop waiting to be Tangoed, the DTM AMG might seem like a regular CLK with a body kit. But as Tinder users will testify, looks can be deceptive.
AMG went to great lengths to build a clichéd ‘race car for the road’. Many of the body panels and interior parts were constructed from carbon fibre, while the engineers modified the engine and supercharger, redesigned the suspension, and fitted height-adjustable springs and shock absorbers.
The clues lie in the pumped-up bodywork. From the deeper front apron to the large intake ducts, and the flared wheelarches to the boot-mounted rear wing, everything screams ‘DTM’. The perfect look if you’re hoping to frustrate a flying Dutchman on the commute to the office.
Mercedes demanded a not-insubstantial £180,000 for the CLK DTM, but such was its supercar-taming tendencies, all 100 cars sold out immediately. A further 80 cabriolets were built, but a total of just 40 DTM models were right-hand drive, making this an incredibly rare opportunity.
According to Silverstone Auctions, the 7,580-mile example “must rank as one of the best” and is “by far one of the most exclusive and sought-after limited-edition Mercedes-Benz models of recent years, and one we feel has an excellent future in the classic car market.”
The pre-auction estimate would suggest that the market is pretty flat, as an 8,490-mile example fetched £225,500 at a Bonhams sale in 2015. That said, this is one AMG product that has done pretty well at holding its value. You can thank its motorsport provenance, race-bred engineering and thunderous pace for that.
Mercedes-Benz CLK63 AMG Black Series: £110,000 – £125,000
If, unlike Jenson Button and Takuma Sato, you missed out on a new DTM, you didn’t have long to wait before Mercedes unleashed a second wave of CLK madness. The CLK63 AMG Black Series was AMG’s way of saying “Happy 40th Birthday” to itself.
It had a high-profile gestation period. By the time it was unveiled at the 2007 New York Auto Show, the CLK63 AMG Black had been on parade as the F1 safety car, which is a more impressive teaser campaign than a series of social media tweets and ‘spy’ shots.
Under the bonnet, you’ll find one of the most powerful naturally aspirated V8 engines in the world: the 6.2-litre M156. It was the first unit to be designed entirely by AMG and remains one of the best engines in the world. This alone would make the CLK63 AMG Black a special car.
But there’s more, because the Black was treated to larger vented and composite disc brakes, a sports exhaust, adjustable suspension, a carbon fibre rear spoiler, and a limited-slip rear differential with its own cooling system.
Its seven-speed automatic transmission was tweaked for greater response times, while aluminium shift paddles were mounted on the irregular-shaped 14.1-inch DMT-style steering wheel. Almost everything was designed to deliver the most hardcore driving experience.
The result is a car that will react to steering inputs quicker than a bluebottle being chased by a fly-swatter, and a ride so stiff you’ll need to carry your chiropractor’s business card in the Black’s glovebox. Note the array of blank switches on the centre console: Mercedes went to great lengths to offset the additional weight added by the differential and wider rear axle.
There are no rear seats, while a strengthing bar in the boot is another feature you won’t find in the regular CLK63. On the outside, AMG opted for a subtle approach to the styling, with the bulging wheel arches, rear spoiler and 19-inch forged alloy wheels the most obvious clues to this car’s potency.
It was certainly potent. With 507hp and 465lb ft of torque on tap, the Black could accelerate to 62mph in 4.3 seconds, before hitting a top speed of 186mph, delivered with one of the most evocative soundtracks in the business.
Just 700 examples were produced, of which around 25 are thought to have been sold in the UK. New, a CLK63 AMG Black would have set you back circa £100,000, but Silverstone Auctions is offering this 4,000-mile example with a pre-auction estimate of £110,000 to £125,000.
The final reckoning: DTM or Black?
We’re left with one fundamental question. No, not who to take to Alton Towers, but which bonkers CLK should you buy? We suspect Jeremy Clarkson might opt for the Black.
In 2008, he said: “For sheer excitement, the CLK Black is a match for absolutely anything. Since it went back to Mercedes, I have been thinking about it a lot. Because I’m not sure that anyone’s life is quite complete unless they have one.”
Mercedes actually included a letter with its test cars, which described the Black as “savage”, “aggressive”, “extremely lively” and “quite tail-happy”. There was even a warning to keep the traction control switched on. Needless to say, Jeremy Clarkson bought one. His time with the Black wasn’t without issues, but the fact that he kept it until 2015 tells you a great deal about the car.
Sad day. I just sold my AMG black.
— Jeremy Clarkson (@JeremyClarkson) June 1, 2015
As for us, the question is rhetorical, as we’re without the funds to buy the auction stars. Instead, we’re eyeing up a CLK320 for sale on Auto Trader for £495. The rusty arches and parcel tape on the bumpers are strong features, right? What could possibly go wrong?
Don’t answer that.