In my opinion, Mercedes is going through a personality crisis. Look at the CLK Black. For starters, it’s not even black, it’s silver. And considering the Mercedes brand still means ‘exquisitely-engineer-saloon-that-last a million miles’ to most people, this CLK is absurd, incongruous. I know its related to the F1 Safety Car, but away from the track this Mercedes feels like its related to TVR. The misfit character starts as soon as you get in-you will find hardcore bucket seat, an empty expanse of black carpet in the back, and the fattest, flat-bottomed steering wheel you will find in nay road car- my hands look like a three year olds when I grip it. All of this, in an otherwise ordinary-looking Mercedes interior. That’s not to say that Mercedes went off half-cocked with this project- no, if there’s one thing you can say about the Black, its absolutely fully cocked. Under the flared bodywork there is a wider track, adjustable suspension, a heavyweight rear axle with a limited slip diff, massive AMG brakes. Oh, and did I mention the engine? It’s a trifling 6.2 liters of AMG –turned 500bhp V8. And the noise! When I start it up, everyone stops what they are doing. I mean everyone in Anglesey- teacups vibrate their way across kitchen tables. It is stupidly loud, popping and grumbling like awaiting NASCAR. God, I love it.
Time to put the seven-speed semi-auto into ‘manual’, use the aluminium paddle to click first gear, and rumble out along a twisting North Wales back-road. Immediately, the ride is jumpy, and the steering feels incredibly stiff around the straight-ahead, like a racing car maneuvering on slicks. Unfortunately it feels synthetic, like a factory-fabricated stiffness, rather than road directness like the Porsche’s.