What is the Difference Between a 430 CLK Mercedes and a 430 CLK AMG Mercedes?

Written by richard rowe
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Mercedes' AMG division wasn't originally part of Mercedes; it originally started as a racing engine manufacturer. Hans Aufrecht and Erhard Melcher formed AMG -- an acronym derived from its co-founders' surnames and Aufrecht's hometown of Grobaspach -- in 1976. Mercedes became AMG's majority shareholder in 1999. AMG is now officially Mercedes' top gun tuning division, and the CLK 430 stands as one of its more refined offerings.

First Generation CLK Basics

The CLK was essentially a coupe version of Mercedes' ever-popular C-Class sedan. The CLK hit showrooms in 1996 as an entry level sports coupe and convertible, priced above the standard C-Class but below the SL-Class sports car. The first generation (1996 to 2002) base model CLK200 came with an anaemic 134-horsepower 2.0-litre four cylinder, but Kompressor models, using forced induction, saw 190 horsepower in 2.0-litre form. The 3.2-litre V6-powered CLK320 produced 215 horsepower, the V8-powered CLK430 made 279 horsepower. Mercedes dropped the 4.3-litre option for the second generation.

AMG CLK Models

AMG built two different first-generation CLKs, the AMG55 and the AMG430. The first-generation AMG55 was the big dog of its day, producing an impressive 372 horsepower with a 5.5-litre V-8, which is quite a bit of power for a 3,200-pound coupe. While this engine could indeed produce low 13-second quarter mile time slips, it was a bit much for a sedan chassis originally designed to work with a four-cylinder. For those more interested in driving than powersliding, AMG applied a few of their performance tweaks to the CLK430, which used the engine from a larger E-Class sedan.

AMG CLK430 Chassis and Performance

The AMG430 wasn't a muscle car in the same sense as the AMG55; it was more of a sporty grand-tourer. The CLK430 was already a fairly stout performer by late-1990s standards, consistently turning in low 14-second times at the drag strip and a respectable 6.5-second run to 60mph. The AMG version mostly consists of a set of AMG aluminium wheels, a set of very aggressive tires and a bespoke AMG body kit. AMG's refinements were good for a solid 0.83-G skid pad rating, 66.5mph through the 200-foot slalom and a 118-foot stopping distance from 60mph.


The AMG CLK430 came standard with every option Mercedes offered except for an integrated cell phone, six-disc CD changer, power moon roof and Xenon headlights. True to Mercedes' reputation as a technological innovator, standard equipment for the AMG CLK430 included rain-sensing wipers, stability control, an advanced anti-lock "brake assist" braking system and a "Baby Smart" safety program that automatically deactivated the passenger-side airbag when it detected a child seat in that location.

What it Boils Down To

You could say that the AMG CLK430 wasn't a "real" AMG in the same sense that the AMG55 was; the fact is that AMG430 was primarily a fully-loaded CLK430 with AMG wheels, tires and badging. However, while Mercedes installed the engine, transmission and suspension, AMG still had a hand in the car's development. While AMG wasn't a wholly-owned subsidiary until 1999, the company had been helping Mercedes to engineer performance cars as far back as 1990. The 430 was no exception; with or without the badges, all 430s utilised AMG's engineering right from the drawing board. So, the difference between a standard 430 and an AMG 430: technically, aside from the badging, there isn't one.

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