Is this the King of Stuttgart? CLK DTM AMG tested

Discussion in 'European Cars' started by Tafster, Oct 15, 2004.

  1. #1 Tafster, Oct 15, 2004
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 25, 2016

    There is one profoundly funny thing about the new Mercedes-Benz CLK DTM AMG and we'll have to get it out of the way now before we can move onto the more serious stuff. I'll leave aside the merely chucklesome fact that its name suggests some highly decorated combat career and bring you straight to its top speed. This Mercedes will do 199mph. You may now be wondering why you're not even giggling: as such figures go it's pretty impressive but funny it ain't. Not, at least, until you discover that this is the speed to which it is electronically restricted.

    I suspect Mercedes may struggle to win any awards with its latest example of good corporate citizenship. I don't know what this insane CLK's top speed would otherwise be, but even if it's 220mph - which is entirely plausible - it's hard to imagine the thought process that brought Mercedes to conclude that 199mph is an acceptable speed for a car to be allowed to travel on the public road but that, say, 201mph, was not. In fact I am strongly suspicious that there's an ulterior motive at work here, more of which in a moment.

    For now, though, let's just bask in a few more glorious figures before going for a drive. Just 100 of these CLKs will be built, and every last one of them has already been sold for €203,500 before local taxes. It exists to celebrate Mercedes' triumph in the 2003 DTM championship, a sort of deranged German BTCC and, for my money, the best thing that's been on the telly this summer.

    0-125MPH IN 10.9SECS

    It's based loosely on Merc's hardly slow CLK 55 AMG, but instead of its 5.5-litre V8 engine being normally aspirated and developing 362bhp, this one's supercharged and puts out a rather more attention grabbing 582bhp. Mercedes says it will reach 62mph from rest in 3.9sec, a simply extraordinary figure for a car lacking the traction advantages of either four-wheel drive or an engine sitting on its rear wheels. But the stat to end them all is the fact that it will take you from rest to 125mph in an apocalyptic 10.9sec.

    Its suspension is race stiff, all the rubber has been removed from its steering and its brakes are so big it needs 19- and 20-inch rims front and rear to accommodate them. There are no rear seats, just two racing buckets with six-point harnesses attached. The dashboard is carbon fibre as are the insides of the doors. The steering wheel is covered not in leather but rather more grippy suede and behind its rim sprout two rather convincing-looking paddles. Down on the centre console, where you'd find soft, smooth buttons in a normal Merc, you'll see just short, sharp toggles similar to those you might find in a 1960s fighter jet. In fact, were it not for the fact that there's air-conditioning, central locking and electric windows in here too, it would be easy to conclude that this was racing car with no business at all on the public road.

    But, in fact, it's a road car, albeit it the most track-focussed Merc since Rudi Ulhenhaut, Merc's legendary 1950s test driver and engineer, decided to make a coupe version of the all-conquering 300SLR racer - itself an F1 car with a sports car body - and use it as his daily driver.


    You may have been wondering when those three little letters, S, L and R were going to surface in this story. Surely this little upstart cannot approach the performance level and pure visceral thrill of Merc's McLaren engineered, carbon-fibre uber-car? I wouldn't bet on it. The 626bhp SLR may be a tad more powerful but, with 590lb ft of torque, the CLK has 15lb ft more grunt. Merc's own figures say they're separated by just 0.1sec at 62mph and that even at 125mph, the SLR's advantage is a frankly negligible 0.3sec. Top speed? Well the SLR's downforce-enhancing aerodynamics restrict it to 208mph without the need for electronic intervention and here, I suspect, lies the reason for the CLK's 199mph limiter. Given than an unrestricted SL55, with over 100bhp less than the CLK, is known to do 202mph, it's a fair bet that, left to its own devices, it would be this little known CLK, and not the headline-grabbing and twice as expensive SLR that would be Mercedes' fastest road car. And that would never do.

    And, of course, that's only the straight-line story. Here I must confess that while I have been in an SLR on the track, I have only driven it on the road; conversely all my experience of the CLK was at race pace around Paul Ricard, trying to keep up with a three-times Le Mans winner driving another highly modified CLK, this time Bernie's F1 safety car. The man in question is former DTM champion and all-round good guy Klaus Ludwig. Having been the chief development driver for this CLK, no-one is in a better position to say how fast it really is.

    He starts well and answers the inevitable question about how fast it will lap the original Nurburgring with seasoned aplomb. It was, he said, a real struggle to circulate the 14-mile northern loop in 8min 30sec. I was slightly puzzled and a mite disappointed: that's front-line supercar performance but, by those standards, not that far out of the ordinary. Then Klaus explains - it was a long distance run and the problem was driving it sufficiently slowly to repeat this preset time. So how fast would it go if he really tried: 'Oh, 7min 45sec, no problem.' And that is something else.


    But Klaus, who is a great talker, suddenly goes rather coy when I ask him whether it's as quick as an SLR round the track. He shuffles his feet a little, smiles, hesitates and then says, 'I don't know. Perhaps about the same.' And he leaves it at that and me to figure out whether this is an accurate reflection of the facts or a Mercedes employee faithfully toeing the party line. You should bear in mind now that Mercedes reckons an SLR to be about as quick in that environment as a Ferrari Enzo.

    To be honest, the SLR should be quicker than the CLK - it's got more power and less weight - but then again it has also to be a comfortable Grand Tourer, something I suspect never got that high up the agenda of those charged with creating the DTM CLK. Now, I don't know how CLK rides on the road, but I do know is that if you'd said to me before I drove it that a 1748kg, front-engined road car could handle a race track like this, I'd have laughed in your face.

    Indeed, for all its performance, and the way it bellows up to 160mph is not something I'm going to be forgetting any time soon, it was its approach to Paul Ricard's many tortuous turns that really slackened the jaw. Despite 5.5 litres of supercharged V8 in its snout, it turns in with the alacrity of a mid-engine car, but without the nervousness. Through the devastatingly quick Signes corner, I could watch Ludwig, slithering and sliding his now rather ironically titled Safety Car, while my DTM version sat welded to its intended line


    Also, you can play games with this car in a way no other Merc allows. Like its less exalted brethren, the DTM Merc has a switchable stability control system. The only difference is that it will let you slide the tail of the car before it cuts in, and that's before you switch to its fun setting. Flick the switch and it will allow 30 degrees of yaw or, to put it another way, just about as far as you can go without crashing, before it leaps in to save you from yourself.

    I'm lucky enough to have driven quite a few very fast cars but this one left me closer to dumbstruck than most. As a track tool, it's about as devastating as they come so I can only imagine what it would be like on the road. If I had one, I'd spend my life hoping for some poor soul in a 911 Turbo to come along, mistake it for a bodykitted CLK55 and reckon it was fair game. He'd probably need medical treatment afterwards.

    But the real issue is this: in all ways that matter, this CLK is just as fast as an SLR, half the price and incomparably more exclusive. I also think it looks better. Believing myself to be an absurdly lucky individual, jealously is not something from which I normally suffer. But in the case of the 100 people who will take delivery of their CLK DTM AMGs in the course of the next year, I'm prepared to make an exception.

    Article by Andrew Frankel for

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  2. This car is really impressive, I really want to see it in black though.
  3. hat is one mean, sexy looking car, i like it a LOT!!
  4. how heavy is the CLK-DTM?
  5. 1742kg. and king of stuttgart? ever heard of the CGT. and who puts an auto in a race replica?
  6. welcome to the site tafster. thanks for the article. I have to agree its too bad its so heavy, I mean if its supposed a DTM racer for the road they should have stripped the interior, made all the weight savings possible a la Porsche GT3RS.
  7. thats my bad - i say stuttgart for Mercedes-Benz and zuffenhausen for Porsche.

    and seeing as mercedes are not exactly world experts on manuals but are on autos - which would you rather have?

    And will you notice on a paddle shifter?

    finally, can someone explain how a car that is somewhat stripped down compared to a stock CLK (no rear seats), has a supercharger, and i think partially GRP body manages to weigh in at approx 50kg more than a loaded, steel bodied CLK 55?
  8. Isn't the CGT assembled in Leipzig?
  9. I don't's performance is awesome, but I would have trouble passing up an SLR for what essentially looks like a r1ced-out CLK.
  10. riced out more like raced out ...

    it looks incredible
  11. Poser if it weights 600 kilos more than a DTM car.....whats the point then....
  12. The GT3RS isn't much lighter than the regular GT3 at all. Anyway, people don't buy Mercedes for their race car like feel. I realy like this car, despite it being silver and not having a manual, but I would still rather spend my money on a Porsche GT3.
  13. I like it...The Carrera GT is the King of Germany though <A BORDER="0" HREF=""><IMG BORDER="0" SRC=""></A>
  14. we need hi-res pics!
  15. Just replace the sh!tty auto gearbox by sequential one and cut the weight will become the legend.

    This one is even heavier than CLK-GTR
  16. effectivly erasing any reason to get a slr ..(the main point of the article)
  17. No manual? What do they use in DTM? Sequentials? Why can't they at least put in a street-car sequential. Screw Mercedes.
  18. 7min 45 (admittedly unofficial)around the 'Ring is not exactly shabby
  19. i would rather get a new GT2 for less money and go faster.

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