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Charismatic Coupes

If you're searching for a sleek 2-door, four seater coupé, consider these. They're two of the best.... by Dick Suter

Coupés have long had a special place in the motoring scene. Typically good looking fast and comfortable tourers with decent luggage accommodation and generally 4-seaters, the rear seat legroom in many of them is more suited for carrying children. Or adults on the briefest of journeys.

These two - the Mercedez-Benz CLK and the Peugeot 406 Coupé - are an exception. Both have decent legroom for four adult passengers, unless all of them are more than 1m90 tall, while having the swoopy lines that makes coupés so aesthetically pleasing. Each one is available with a choice of engine. Both Mercedes and Peugeot offer a 2-litre unit but those I tried recently are more powerful.

Although of similar performance, they achieve it from totally different configurations. The Mercedes CLK 230 is rear-wheel drive and has a supercharged 4-cylinder 2295cc powerplant, as fitted to the SLK Roadster featured in last month's issue. The front-wheel drive Peugot has a V6 engine of 2946cc.

The CLK has unmistakable Mercedes build quality both inside and out. That 'clunk' you get when shutting the doors, the way the car rides uneven surfaces, the relaxed feeling you have during and after a long journey. All combine to make it a real grand tourer.

The engine, although delivering its power effectively and without fuss, is not as smooth as a good 6-cylinder, however. But Mercedes has recently launched a third CLK version, powered by a 3.0 litre version of its excellent V^ motor. And that should guarantee even greater demand for the CLK.

If I were buying this car, I would chahnge the over-large steering wheel to one as fitted to the SLK but apart from this personal preference and the problem of a blind spot when looking through the offside rear window when parking, there is little to ctiticise. It's a fine car.

If I expected much of the Merc - and it certainly doesn't disappoint - I hadn't reckoned on the Peugeot 406 Coupé being quite so sensational. Designed by famed Italian coachbuiler Pininfarina, it is in profile not unlike the fabulous Ferrari 456 - itself a Pininfarina classic - yet instantly recognisable as a Peugeot. It's a masterpiece of harmonious design.

The build quality is of a very high order. Hardly surprising since it's also assembled by Pininfarina near Turin. Although the floorplan is from the 406 saloon and the mechanicals are Peugeot, everthing else was designed specifically by the Italian carrozzeria.

Features like the special movement of the windows which automatically descend millimetres when the doors are opened, ensuring that the fit when they are closed is as though the car is hermetically sealed: the retro style chrome trimmed instruments; and the leather covered gearknob with its aluminium insert.

Take the small leather-covered steering wheel in your hands, adjust wheel and Recaro built seat to the desired positions and start the engine. Now here is the acid test. One negative of many front-wheel drive cars of this power is 'torque steer' under fierce acceleration which many suffer from - as if the machine wants to go in the opposite direction from the way you're trying to point it.

How about the 406 coupé? No problem here. It's as dynamically efficient as it's good looking. Wonderful to drive over all road surfaces, with delectable chassis balance. Negatives? Some wind noise around the door mirrors at high speed. But that apart, none.

Each one has its own special charisma. Each is enormously capable. A credit to its maker. Try each one and you'll understand how good each is. Prices (including VAT) for CLK 230 Kompressor from BEF 1,430,000; Peugeot 406 Coupé from BEF 1,259,000.

BMW Belgium has launched a 'limited edition' of its 3-series cabriolet to celebrate Magritte's birth 100 years ago. In addition to the dove and Magritte's signature on the car's nearside rear wing and engraved into the fascia, the seats are covered in a special leather. Just 99 examples have been produced so, if you like exclusivity, call your BMW garage today.

See also:

Mercedes-Benz SLK Roadster

©Dick Suter - May 1998 - (images source - Internationals in Belgium)

Original article appearing in "Internationals in Belgium" Dick Suter was an editor of the magazine and contributor and Ginny Suter was a regular contributor in the late 1990's and 2000's - The magazine had a circulation of 10,000 Please note that this article was first published many years ago and telephone and fax numbers are likely to be out of date and email addresses have been removed.

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Source of images, unless otherwise stated - Suter family archives


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