MT Comparo - Pontiac GTO Vs. Mercedes-Benz CLK55 AMG

Discussion in 'OT Driven' started by TriShield, May 5, 2004.

  1. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    $70 grand will get you one of these slick, luxury musclecoupes--or two of the other

    [​IMG]

    By Matt Stone
    Photography by John Kiewicz
    Motor Trend, May 2004

    The Players

    Mercedes-Benz's fast and elegant CLK55 AMG bases for $71,920 and includes a ton of technology, creature features, and performance. Pontiac's reborn GTO offers a similar-size and similar-performing package that also comes well-equipped, but starts at just $33,495.

    The Game

    We compare these two seemingly incomparable cars to see how they're different and, just as important, how they're not. Can you get the same go for half the dough?

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    Let's say you need a black suit. A decent piece that looks sharp and fits well can be had at your local haberdashery for $400-$500. But check out that Hugo Boss in the window. The fabric is rich, it drapes like it was custom-made for you, and the detailing is superb. Look at all the extra buttons! Hugo's a great label to slip into, as long as you don't mind popping a grand at minimum--and that's on sale. Are the higher product quality and designer brand cachet worth the doubled or tripled cost of going upmarket? Or are you spending twice as much to get only a little more?

    Pontiac's new GTO and the Mercedes-Benz CLK55 AMG represent the automotive analogy to the black-suit dilemma. They come within a few inches and pounds of each other in every physical dimension.
    Both sides of this automotive Odd Couple seat four and have V-8 engines and rakish coupe profiles. Each aims to strike a balance with luxury, performance, and everyday useability. Like the Boss threads, the Mercedes has finer detailing and lots more buttons. But can we really head-to-head a handbuilt, nearly $80 grand (as equipped), limited-edition Mercedes AMG--against a Pontiac?

    Well, why not?

    A run through the spec chart reveals that both machines cast about the same shadow. The GTO is 7.2 inches longer and rides on a 2.9-inch-longer wheelbase. The Pontiac is exactly four inches wider and a half inch lower. The Mercedes makes a bit better use of the footprint, however, as its trunk is larger and rear-seat ingress and egress are easier.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Both players pack a solid punch. Mercedes's AMG subsidiary turns the standard CLK500 into the CLK55 by dispensing with the former's 302-horse, 5.0-liter V-8 in favor of a hand-assembled, 5.4-liter SOHC V-8 good for 362 horsepower. There is but one transmission choice: a high-tech, multimode five-speed manumatic (more trans talk later). Pontiac borrows its torque-rich 350-horsepower, 5.7-liter OHV V-8 from the standard Corvette and serves it backed either by a six-speed manual transmission or a conventional four-speed automatic. At 3725 pounds, the GTO has one pony per 10.6 of Pontiac. The Mercedes tips the scales at a barely lighter 3635 pounds, so its weight-to-power ratio is 10.0:1 even.

    Just as the off-the-rack and the Boss threads each have two legs, two sleeves, and a zipper, this pair offers a similar list of standard equipment: fully independent suspensions, 17-inch alloy wheels, ABS-equipped four-wheel disc brakes, varying amounts of leather trim, cruise control, power windows/doors/locks/mirrors/ seats, trip computer, and high-quality audio systems, although Mercedes-Benz has the chutzpah to charge $410 for its six-disc CD changer, while Pontiac gives it to you standard. Both make you pay a gas-guzzler tax; it's $1300 on the Mercedes and $1000 on the Pontiac (which rates only 1 mpg better on the EPA cycle) when equipped with the auto trans. The area of technology and creature features is where the CLK earns back some of its sticker price. Its climate-control system features a dust and charcoal filter.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]


    It doesn't just have seats; it has heated, 10-way-adjustable seats with a powered easy-entry/exit system, trimmed in the supplest Nappa Nubuck leather you've ever felt. The CLK's tilt/telescoping steering wheel is power adjustable, its power moonroof tilts and slides (no sunroof is offered on the GTO), and its wipers are rain-sensitive. The stuff that looks like real wood and aluminum is just that.

    More Benz tech toys include an optional navigation system with Tele Aid Emergency Calling functions ($2170), a Motorola V60 voice-activated cell-phone ($1995), and the Keyless Go "smart" keyfob system ($1040) that only has to be near the car to let you lock, unlock, and start it. Don't forget the optional Distronic cruise control, which does a masterful job of adjusting itself to traffic ahead and warning the driver if intervention is required. Other accoutrements are Xenon headlights, stability control, a more extensive airbag package (front and rear side bags plus head-protection curtains), and a host of details priced out of the GTO's league.

    All this hardware doesn't mean the Pontiac is wearing bargain-basement trim. On the contrary: With the exception of a $695 hit for the manual gearbox, there are no options. While the Mercedes's cabin is a luxuriously finished thing of beauty, the GTO's interior is no bad place to hang. The instrument-panel shapes are somewhat dated, but it's a straightforward, comfortable environment and could teach much of the rest of GM's lineup a lesson or two.

    The Mercedes's better weight-to-power ratio would have you believe it would be quicker than the Pontiac, and you'd be right. The CLK launches hard--although wheelspin can be difficult to control--and pulls strong to a 0-to-60-mph time of 4.8 seconds. The Pontiac comes in six-tenths behind. This gap widens by 100 mph, the Pontiac requiring 13.3 seconds, the Mercedes just 11.5. Each notches a quarter-mile time to be proud of: 13.14 seconds at 108.07 mph for the CLK against the GTO's 13.85 at 101.41. Both of these great V-8 engines deserve to be digitally recorded and played back on your home theater. With the bass cranked up. Pontiac's is a true dual-exhaust system, even though both pipes exit out one side. Close your eyes, and the CLK55's AMG-tuned rumble would pass for an old American musclecar's, if perhaps a bit smoother.

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    Besides the fact that our GTO test unit had less than 1000 miles on it when we ran our numbers, another element of the pair's performance differential comes down to transmissions. The Mercedes trans is a computer- controlled five-speed automatic. It offers Sport, Comfort (Winter), and Manual modes. Gear and rearend ratios are perfectly matched to the engine's power curve and keep it on boil all the time. It breathes the throttle just a hair on full-commando shifts to avoid shocking the driveline and shifts seamlessly on part-throttle gear changes. It's also equipped with Mercedes's excellent TouchShift function: Pop the shifter to the right for upshifts, tug it left for downshifts. Select the Manual mode, and manumatic shifting control is handed over to the steering-wheel-mounted paddle switches. All said, it's one of today's best and most versatile automatics.

    The Pontiac's transmission also boasts three modes: forward, backward, and stop. It's a strictly conventional four-speed unit that behaves well enough. It has none of the manumatic controls you'll find in the Benz, and the ratios are wider than on today's best five- and six-speed units. In spite of the GTO's abundant torque curve, the power fall-off at each shift is far greater than that of the Mercedes, especially on the 3-4 change.

    It isn't that this transmission is so awful; it just saps a lot of driver involvement out of the experience. The car's patron saint, GM vice chairman Bob Lutz, acknowledges: "We would've loved a more sophisticated trans, but we didn't have anything certified to go with this engine. To start from scratch with a five- or six-speed, for this relatively small sales volume, would've taken too long and cost too much." Fortunately, Pontiac offers a superb alternative that you can't get on the CLK55 at any price: a proper--and outstanding--six-speed manual.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    We've acknowledged the GTO's cornering prowess in previous tests. Even though the Mercedes lays down slightly better numbers, it takes nothing away from the Pontiac's solid, predictable, enjoyable chassis manners. Senior road-test editor Chris Walton comments: "I was busier trying to keep the rear end planted in this car than in the manual-transmission version, but it'll still drift its way through the slalom happily."

    The Mercedes is more neutral, says Walton, and "it feels like this car has been through a slalom or two before." Indeed, it threaded through our 600-foot conefield at an average speed of 66.4 mph versus the GTO's 62.5-mph run. Interesting is that both put down nearly identical skidpad performances, the Mercedes's 0.82g rating just nipping the Pontiac's 0.81. This indicates that, while their ultimate grip performance is the same, the Mercedes manages those left-right-left transitions better.

    The braking crown also goes to the CLK55 AMG, as it has larger rotors, electronic brake-force distribution, and (we believe) stickier tires. The Mercedes stops from 60 in an exceptional 113 feet, the Pontiac in a longer-than-expected 126. That said, both offer good feel and modulation, although the GTO pedal feels more natural and easier to control.

    Pontiac (and its mates at Australia's Holden, who build the GTO) has done a good job in the steering department. Initial turn-in is sharp; there's plenty of feedback from the road and zero bump steer. But the Benz is still a hair better, being even more precise.


    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    AMG-ified Mercedes are tuned to handle, so you'd expect a bit of a ride penalty. While the CLK55 is never harsh, it is direct, and the nastiest of surfaces and road shocks telegraph their way through. But that's okay; if you want a smoother ride, stick with the standard CLK500. The Pontiac offers a sweeter ride/handling balance for everyday use, although, as we've seen at the track, at the expense of that last smidgen of handling prowess. We love the way it eats up mid-corner bumps without complaint. Each car is quiet, considering that they're not pure luxo rides, with the wind-noise and road-rumble match ending in a tie. The Mercedes's high-speed stability is faultless; the GTO's, merely outstanding.

    There is one additional anomaly in the price/value issues at play here. For just $10 grand more, you can buy an E55 AMG. Besides larger, four-door packaging, the cost delta nabs a supercharged version of the AMG V-8, good for 469 horsepower. That's 107 more than the CLK55. Any speed-shop owner will tell you that the last increment of horsepower costs the most, not the least. Yet comparing these cars, the reverse is true. We understand why Mercedes doesn't put the killer motor in the midsize package; it saves those goods for upper-end models like the E55, S55, and CL55 AMGs. But it seems to us that the CLK55's cost advantage ought to be greater, considering the difference in powertrain specs.

    What have we learned? Like that svelte Hugo Boss, the Mercedes-Benz CLK55 AMG is a great-looking, beautifully engineered, top-quality piece that performs at a high level. And, like that other well-made, if mass-produced, suit, the Pontiac GTO provides perhaps 85 to 90 percent of the goodness--for less than 50 percent of the cost.

    It isn't that this odd-duck matchup says anything disparaging about the CLK55. It just shows the praiseworthiness of the GTO. Proof positive that, depending on your taste and budget, less can sometimes be more.

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    Our Take: Pontiac GTO

    What's Hot
    • Stiff, shake-and-rattle-free structure
    • Rumbling Gen-III V-8 still gets it done
    • Superb ride/handling balance

    What's Not
    • Yestertech trans dilutes driving experience
    • Smallish trunk
    • Difficult rear-seat ingress/egress

    Don't Miss Gauges have colored faces during the day and turn black when the lights are on

    Bottom Line A successful modernization of a 1960s musclecar favorite--and an exceptional value

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    Our Take: Mercedes-Benz CLK55 AMG

    What's Hot
    • Lionhearted powertrain
    • Lots of high-tech features and goodies
    • Sports-car levels of handling and braking

    What's Not
    • No manual transmission offered
    • Limited back-seat headroom
    • Mucho dinero

    Don't Miss Faultless, autobahn-honed high-speed stability

    Bottom Line Stylish coupe costs a bunch, but delivers the goods

    [​IMG]

    2004 Mercedes-Benz CLK55 AMG
    2004 Pontiac GTO


    POWERTRAIN/CHASSIS

    Drivetrain layout
    Front engine, rwd
    Front engine, rwd

    Engine type
    90* V-8, alum block and heads, LEV Bin 9
    90* V-8, alum block and heads, LEV Bin 8

    Valve gear
    SOHC, 3 valves/cyl
    OHV, 2 valves/cyl

    Bore x stroke, in/mm
    3.82x3.62 / 97.0x92.0
    3.90x3.62 / 99.0x92.0

    Displacement, ci/cc
    331.9 / 5439
    345.7 / 5665

    Compression ratio
    11.0:1
    10.1:1

    Max horsepower @ rpm
    362 @ 5750
    350 @ 5200

    Max torque @ rpm
    376 @ 4000
    365 @ 4000


    Max engine speed
    6000
    6200

    Specific output, hp/liter
    66.6
    61.8

    Power to weight, lb/hp
    10.0
    10.6

    Transmission
    5-speed automatic
    4-speed automatic

    Axle/final-drive ratio :)1)
    3.06 / 2.54
    3.46 / 2.42


    Suspension, front; rear
    MacPherson struts, anti-roll bar;multilink, coil springs, anti-roll bar MacPherson struts, anti-roll bar; multilink, coil springs, anti-roll bar

    Brakes, f;r
    13.6-in vented disc;11.8-in vented disc, ABS, EBD, BA
    11.7-in vented disc;11.3-in disc, ABS

    Wheels, f;r
    17x7.5; 17x8.5, cast alum
    17x8.0; 17x8.0, cast alum

    Tires, f;r
    225/45ZR17 91Y; 245/40ZR17 Michelin Pilot Sport
    245/45ZR17 95W M+S; 245/45ZR17 95W M+S BFGoodrich G-Force TA

    DIMENSIONS

    Seating capacity
    4
    4

    Wheelbase, in
    106.9
    109.8

    Track, f/r, in
    58.9 / 58.0
    61.8 / 61.8

    Length, in
    182.6
    189.8

    Width, in
    68.5
    72.5

    Overall height, in
    55.4
    54.9

    Cargo volume, cu ft
    10.4
    9.0

    Curb weight, lb
    3635
    3725


    Turning circle, ft
    35.3
    36.1

    Fuel capacity, gal
    16.4
    18.5

    TEST DATA

    Acceleration, sec to mph

    0-30
    1.8
    2.1

    0-40
    2.6
    3.0

    0-50
    3.7
    4.1

    0-60
    4.8
    5.4


    0-70
    6.1
    6.9

    0-80
    7.8
    8.8

    0-90
    9.5
    11.2

    0-100
    11.5
    13.3

    0-100-0
    15.9
    18.2

    1/4 mile, sec @ mph
    13.14 @ 108.07
    13.85 @ 101.41

    Braking, 60-0 mph, ft
    113
    126


    Braking, 100-0 mph, ft
    322
    347

    200-ft skidpad, lateral g
    0.82
    0.81

    600-ft slalom, mph
    66.4
    62.5


    MT Figure-8, sec @ ave g
    26.5 @ 0.66
    27.0 @ 0.63

    Top-gear rpm @ 60 mph
    2100
    1900

    CONSUMER INFO

    On sale in U.S.
    Currently
    Currently

    Base price, incl delivery
    $71,920
    $32,495

    Price as tested
    $79,400
    $33,495


    Stability/traction control
    Yes/yes
    No/yes

    Airbags
    Dual front, front-side,f/r side curtain
    Dual front, front-side

    Basic warranty
    4 yrs/50,000 miles
    3 yrs/36,000 miles

    Powertrain warranty
    4 yrs/50,000 miles
    3 yrs/36,000 miles

    Roadside assistance
    4 yrs/50,000 miles
    3 yrs/36,000 miles

    EPA mpg, city/hwy
    15/22
    16/21


    Range, miles, city/hwy
    246/361
    296/389

    Recommended fuel
    Unleaded premium
    Unleaded premium
     
  2. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    :bowdown: :bowdown: :bowdown:
     
  3. Taylor

    Taylor Guest

    For AMG cars: No forced induction, no care.

    The GTO is hot, as always.
     
  4. MB300E87

    MB300E87 Active Member

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    what a retarded comparison. i read that earlier and was wondering the whole time if they just got bored and had nothing to write about.
     
  5. Gundam

    Gundam Tell Drama he's on my to do list, right after inse

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    Why does the GTO get that fairly good looking auto shift knob, but the C6 gets some janky cheap looking shit :ugh:
     
  6. Dr. Zoidberg

    Dr. Zoidberg the lovable tramp

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    looks like the GTO got owned in everything but price :o
     
  7. Dr. Zoidberg

    Dr. Zoidberg the lovable tramp

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    displacement, yes...but the AMG's p/w is better :hsugh:
     
  8. bioyuki

    bioyuki Ich habe Angst

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    Sucks for you cause AMG is moving towards NA again :fawk:
     
  9. midnite

    midnite OT Supporter

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    heads/cam + suspension + brakes = MB killer for still less money :cool:
     
  10. bioyuki

    bioyuki Ich habe Angst

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    Oh god this thread is gonna get stupid soon.

    Stupid MT and their pointless articles. :uh:
     
  11. midnite

    midnite OT Supporter

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    its not a horrible article, the cars are pretty damn similar besides price :dunno:
     
  12. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    As illustrated, the point of the write up eluded you.

    But fear not, the MB AMG is indeed the slightly better car for only $45,905 more. A mere drop in the bucket!
     
  13. midnite

    midnite OT Supporter

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    why?
     
  14. bioyuki

    bioyuki Ich habe Angst

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    Merc is ditching the supercharged 3.2L V6 (its going in the Crossfire :mamoru: ) and going back to a larger displacement V8 ala the C43 AMG from back in the day.
     
  15. midnite

    midnite OT Supporter

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    :rolleyes: i meant in performance, dimensions etc...
     
  16. bioyuki

    bioyuki Ich habe Angst

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    You are so biased TriShield :hs:
     
  17. Madness

    Madness Do not let Dr. Mario touch your genitals. He is no

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    What are you retarded? Ugly, plastic interiors are a Corvette trademark. Otherwise the people inside the car might mistake it for a non-General Motors product. (this is coming from a Vette fan). :o

    Side Note: Pop-up headlights were also a Corvette trademark, lets hope they come to their sences and one day design & produce a good looking, practical, and semi-luxurious interior. :)
     
  18. midnite

    midnite OT Supporter

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    or you just wont admit that such a car can compete with a mercedes....
     
  19. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    [​IMG]
     
  20. Madness

    Madness Do not let Dr. Mario touch your genitals. He is no

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    Nail + head = winnar!!!11one!!
     
  21. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    As opposed to wannabe Eurotrash in their overpriced cars getting defensive when an American car delivers the same driving experience and quality for substantially less?

    :mamoru:
     
  22. bioyuki

    bioyuki Ich habe Angst

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    Holy factpinions Batman!
     
  23. midnite

    midnite OT Supporter

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    because people buy on brand name alone :dunno:

    most people just lease BMW's and Mercedes out here anyways and think they are badass :greddy:
     
  24. bioyuki

    bioyuki Ich habe Angst

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    Who cares how they pay for it, they're still driving it :dunno:
     
  25. midnite

    midnite OT Supporter

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    I get it. yes Mercedes makes good shit, and i know they wont lose anyone to a GTO that can afford a 73k clk. but to sit here and denounce the GTO that puts up a damn good fight for 50k less just because it isnt a Mercedes is ridiculous.
     

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