Mercedes CLK 55 AMG

There are a few ways to get supercar-slaying performance from an everyday vehicle. Fitting turbos is one route, or you can create a race-honed engine such as the BMW M3's. But Mercedes tuner AMG has an altogether much simpler method - put a giant powerplant under the bonnet.

The sportiness of the latest CLK has been massively enhanced by AMG. More definition has been given to its shape, the interior looks stylish and the chassis handles superbly. Topping the lot is the super-smooth auto box which makes great use of the V8. Only the price disappoints.

There are a few ways to get supercar-slaying performance from an everyday vehicle. Fitting turbos is one route, or you can create a race-honed engine such as the BMW M3's. But Mercedes tuner AMG has an altogether much simpler method - put a giant powerplant under the bonnet.

That's exactly what it's done on the new CLK 55. Its heart is the 5.5-litre V8 which also also nestled in the previous model's bay, but the output has been upped by 25bhp to a mighty 367bhp. This helps the coup� to sprint from 0-60mph in five seconds, while the electronic limiter prevents the speedo flashing beyond 155mph to a potential 199mph. However, this muscle is delivered with subtlety and a V8 rumble up to the mid-6,000rpm red line.

To bring the best out of the engine, AMG has bypassed Mercedes' weak point and opted for auto transmission rather than manual. This is good news even for keen drivers, as the five-speed system also has the tuner's super-smooth Speedshift, which allows manual type changes either by F1-style paddle buttons on the steering wheel or sideways taps of the gearlever. But it's not only the drivetrain which impresses. With a stiffened AMG sports suspension and tauter, C-Class-derived chassis, handling is a revelation compared to its predecessor.

Although the steering isn't as pin sharp as that of the M3, there is plenty of feel and adjustment. The dynamics are flawless, but the low speed ride is a little jittery and only major road imperfections are felt as you pick up the pace. Adding to the already stylish profile are 18-inch alloys, twin tailpipes and a bootlid spoiler. The impressive cabin has chrome-ringed white dials and two-tone leather seats, while aluminium sill plates carry the AMG logo. However, all this doesn't come cheap - it will cost about £57,000, and that is more than a Porsche 911.

With only 208 of the older version sold here since its launch in 1999, Mercedes conservatively expects to shift around 150 new models - don't be surprised if this figure is surpassed.

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