In mid-2009, I went car shopping for a Toyota Camry to replace my Mitsubishi Magna. After a day of viewing many examples at a variety of dealerships, I had a brain explosion and paid a deposit on this 2001 Mercedes CLK 230 Kompressor. With a wife and three young children, why wouldn’t I buy such an impractical two-door, four-seater car?
Truth is, I’d admired this particular model for many years, and my wife had a car that acted as the ‘family car’, so it was time to indulge.
For a 2001-model car, I was quite happy with some of the features and technology. Apart from the basics like power windows and mirrors, it also had powered seats, a six-stack CD player, rain-sensing wipers, heated exterior mirrors, remote window opening and closing (hold down the ‘lock’ button on the key fob), and a few other features that made owning the car quite pleasurable, and certainly a step up from my Magna.
With a 2.3-litre supercharged engine, power output was about 145kW by memory with zero to 100km/h in around 8.5 seconds. It was by no means an overly powerful engine, but it got along fast enough for me. I’m not a racer, nor do I pretend to be. Fuel economy was very poor, though, and averaged around 13L/100km in the city. This didn’t bother me too much, as I only drove around 6000km a year during my time with it.
The handling was fine. However, the ride could be quite choppy on roads that weren’t smooth. I believe the Avantgarde had quite stiff springs compared to the Elegance version. I must admit, the choppiness got a bit tiring after a while. However, where the car really shone was on the freeway. It hunkered down and just felt so at home driving at speed on a smooth, wide road where it was ultimately designed to be driven.
Servicing costs, at my local independent mechanic, were reasonable and comparable to any other mainstream car of a similar age.
Reliability, or lack thereof, and the associated repair costs were top of my mind when I bought this car, as there are a lot of horror stories about buying second-hand European cars. However, I think bad news travels faster and farther than good news. During the seven years that I owned the car, there were four issues that I had to deal with. Luckily, they were quite minor in nature and I was able to fix them all apart from one, which I learned to live with.
For those I did fix, it was a fairly simple case of consulting a few forums and buying some parts from both an overseas supplier and a single genuine part from my local ’Benz dealer. All up, the cost of parts was not much more than a few hundred dollars. So, if you are thinking of buying a car like this, don’t despair as my mechanical skills are fairly non-existent. Taking it to a dealer, though, would have been a completely different financial proposition.
The issue that I didn’t bother fixing, or getting fixed, was related to the parking sensors. For some reason, on quite warm days, they’d malfunction and loudly and continuously beep, so I had to turn them off (there is a button for this). I have no idea what the actual problem was, and as it occurred relatively infrequently, I just lived with it.
Last year, I decided to sell the car and move on to something new. At 16 years old and with 150,000km on the clock, I had a gut feeling that it was time to move on before any major work was required. I’d had a great run with the car, and was happy to have sold it to an enthusiast.