Underneath its tight-fitting body, the 55, in coupé and convertible forms, sits on a stiffened and strengthened C-Class chassis. It’s especially evident in the cabrio, which should be rock-solid over bumps. The suspension has stronger springs, larger-diameter roll bars and stiffer bushes, but it’s a heavy car and front control arms take a hammering, as do front tyres. In fact, they can wear as fast as the driven rears.
Despite its supercar-baiting performance, the 55 is a discreet-looking motor, an impression borne of its modest 18in wheels, subtle bootlid spoiler and undersized twin tailpipes. The equivalent BMW M3 is shoutier (and more of a hooligan to drive) but it’s the CLK’s discretion that draws out buyers today. Owner Mark Anthony (below) bought a 55 over the M3 for what he regarded as its classier image.
That impression continues inside, where two-tone leather, chrome-ringed white dials and AMG-embossed aluminium sill plates remind you you’re in something rather special. Being a Mercedes, and one costing more than a Porsche 911 when new, expect the one you’re interested in to have at least a few options fitted. One worth looking for is the carbon and alloy fascia pack.
A full Merc history is nice to see but there are excellent specialists well versed in the ways of older AMGs. In any case, often it’s the electronics that can let a 55 down, and for those you only need the right diagnostics kit plus a good head for fault tracing.
The 55 is a terrific car but doesn’t quite have the cachet of the equivalent M3. Fortunately, most prices reflect this. Find a good one, pay sensible money for it and you and Rosario could be friends for life.
An owner’s view
Mark Anthony, Mercedes CLK 55 owner: “I’ve got a 2006/06 cabrio with 49,000 miles. It’s rock-solid with no scuttle shake. I wanted a supercar with more class than an M3, and it needed to be fun. The CLK ticked all the boxes. Don’t ask about economy – you buy a car like this to have fun. Mechanically, I can’t fault it but the electrics have let me down. First an ECU (£400), then a sensor that prevented it starting. When buying, check the gearbox and adaptive suspension are okay – I’ve had a few arms and bushes go. You won’t know about electronic faults until they happen.”
Engines: Have someone rev the engine while you check how much it moves on its mountings (too much and the ECU will reduce power). Check for rocker cover oil leaks and the condition of the front pulley. Check service receipts to see when the spark plugs were changed – there are 16 and they’re not cheap.