While its traditional competitor BMW offered a coupe version for the 3-Series but didn't have a two-door model for the 5-Series, on the other hand, Mercedes-Benz had a Coupe for the E-Class but not for the C-Class. Then, the company's management had the idea to mix a platform from the C-Class (W202) with the shapes from the E-Class (W210). Thus, it resulted in the first generation of the CLK built as a coupe and a convertible as well.
With a good platform underneath, the customers didn't complain about the car's handling or comfort. They were more concerned about the vehicle's look. For that, Mercedes hired Michael Fink, who installed an E-Class-inspired front fascia with similar dual-headlamp headlights and a tilted, four-slats chromed grille between them. The bumper sported a smiling-shaped lower grille and a pair of fog lights. From its sides, the CLK featured an ascending beltline that resembled the one from the E-Class. In the back, the CLK even sported the same taillights as the Mercedes' mid-size sedan.
Since the CLK featured a shorter wheelbase than the E-Class, there was less interior room. Still, it was more than in a regular C-Class and enough to host two passengers on the rear seats, despite its sloped rear windscreen. Its dashboard was different though than its four-door sibling, sporting a rounded instrument cluster, vents, and center stack. It was clearly more sports-oriented than the E-Class but still elegant enough to be considered a personal luxury vehicle.
Under the hood, Mercedes-Benz installed a choice of four gasoline engines and paired them with either a five-speed manual or a newly developed five-speed automatic, which was introduced in 1996.