AFFALTERBACH, Germany — The AMG Mercedes CLK
-DTM, a German stock car built to be legal for the street, was never sold in the U.S. during the production run of 100 coupes and 80 convertibles, but that may change, officials say.
Mario Spitzner, AMG-Mercedes
director of marketing & sales/branding, said the company would be willing to federalize the car if there were enough customers.
"I get a lot of pressure from our best customers to bring it to the U.S.," Spitzner said.
And it's no wonder. With 582 horsepower and suspension, brakes and bodywork derived from the company's fire-breathing German Touring Car racers, the CLK-DTM rockets to 62 mph in 3.9 seconds and reaches an electronically limited top speed of 200 mph. The initial run of 100 coupes was supplemented by another 80 cabriolets for sun-worshipers with a need for speed.
For the U.S., the company would probably build even more of the cars. "We would maybe do a bigger series for the U.S.," Spitzner said. "Push us, and it may happen."
If it does, U.S. customers would probably enjoy even better performance, as the supercharged 5.5-liter V8 used in the previous cars has since been supplanted by AMG's brawny, homegrown 6.2-liter normally aspirated V8.
But the CLK and other AMG cars will not be equipped with all-wheel drive, Spitzner said, despite the increasing popularity of the technology. While admitting there are pros and cons to AWD, the system's cons literally outweigh the positives, he explained. "The first con is that you add 175 pounds to your front axle," he said.
And part of the reason many 4x4s ride high is the difficulty of packaging the driveline underneath. "Ride height would be a challenge, to be honest," Spitzner said. "If we had the Paris-Dakar version I don't think that would attract too many customers. So we have no immediate plans to go to all-wheel drive," he concluded.
Meanwhile, at parent company Mercedes, bean counters are busily trying to decide the business case for chopping the top off the beautiful, new CL-Class coupe. As a true coupe, it has no B-pillar, which greatly simplifies construction of a convertible. And the latest generation of the car sees its seatbelts mounted to the seats, a layout which also lends itself to conversion. The new car is also 15 percent stiffer than its predecessor, so it might require less reinforcement if the roof were removed.
All this suggests that CL engineers, having been denied a convertible version of the previous car, built the coupe in a way that would make the case for a convertible easier to prove. Hans Multhaupt, vice president of program management and development for S-Class, CL-Class and Maybach, hopes so. "I would like to do it," he said. But for now the decision-making wheels are turning within the company. "There has been no decision yet," he said.
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