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The 2003 Mercedes-Benz CLK

by Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes-Benz

Take the big Mercedes-Benz CL coupe, add a K-for kurz, German for short-and bingo, a smaller, sportier version.

Well, not exactly. The CLK, with a standard 3.2-liter V6, is built on an all-new platform, necessitated by the car's primary visual feature: no B-pillars. With all four frameless windows down, the CLK offers an unbroken expanse from windshield to C-pillar. This feat requires stout "B-pillar stumps," vertical structures behind the doors and below the beltline, to serve as side-impact barriers, as well as some serious frame-stiffening (Mercedes claims a 40 percent improvement).

The new CLK also benefits from typical Mercedes trickle-down. The optional engine is the S-Class's 5.0-liter 306-hp V8, and it also gets Distronic (microwave-guided) cruise control. The midsize coupe had been scheduled to go on sale in August. At press time, pricing hadn't been set, but we expect it to start at around $43,000.

-Stephan Wilkinson