Mercedes-Benz CL Class review

The Mercedes-Benz CL-Class is a sophisticated and luxurious sports car that’s essentially a racier two-door version of the flagship S-Class sedan. Not quite a posh cruiser, not quite a low-slung exotic coupe, it competes with the likes of the BMW 6 Series and the Bentley Continental GT to raise the pulses of affluent enthusiasts.

Mercedes-Benz CL Class

For model-year 2011 the CL sees a mid-cycle freshening that includes modestly revised exterior styling with a new hood, grille, fenders, headlamps and taillights, along with added engine power and assorted other updates. It receives no significant changes for 2012.

Overall, the look remains both sleek and refined, with touches that include wide louvered chrome grille, sharply tapered rear roofline and pillar less side windows that harkens back to classic Mercedes coupes. A rich leather and burl walnut wood-trimmed interior can be fitted with optional massaging Driving Dynamic front seats that incorporate nine self-inflating/adjusting air cushions for the ultimate in comfort. As if to flaunt its extreme nature, the CL is one of the only coupes to offer an optional DVD entertainment system for those willing to climb into the back seat.

The all-wheel-drive equipped CL550 4Matic version gets a new-for-2011 twin-turbocharged direct-injected 4.6-liter V8 that puts out a generous 429 horsepower and a neck-snapping 516 pound-feet of torque. With its seven-speed automatic transmission, Mercedes says this version can reach 60 mph in 4.8 seconds, which is more than respectable for a car of its size and weight. Not enough power? The CL600 packs a quicker and smoother 510-horsepower 5.5-liter V12 with 612 pound-feet of torque and a five-speed automatic gearbox, and can make the 0-60 mph run in 4.5 seconds.

Mind you, these are the “regular” versions of the Mercedes-Benz CL. The sportier AMG-tuned versions take the car way over the top with specific engines and assorted cosmetic and performance-minded tweaks. The CL63 AMG comes powered by a new 6.2-liter twin-turbocharged V8 that nets 536 horses and 590 pound-feet; it’s boosted to 563 horses and 664 pound-feet with the optional AMG Performance Package. This engine includes stop-start technology that shuts down the engine while at idle to help boost the car’s fuel economy. It comes mated to an AMG Speedshift Plus seven-speed automated manual transmission that includes three driving modes and a rev-matching function for quick and forceful shifting. It’s good for a 4.4-second 0-60 time.

Meanwhile, the top CL65 AMG leaps off the line with a mighty 621-horsepower twin-turbo 6.0-liter V12 and five-speed automatic, and can hit the 60 mph mark in a mere 4.3 ticks.

The CL takes the curves with authority thanks to a computer-controlled Active Body Roll suspension system that keeps the car virtually flat even around the sharpest curves. The system even lowers the car slightly at speed to reduce aerodynamic drag and further improve the car’s handling stability. For 2011, the CL550 4Matic and CL600 models get a new Direct Steering system that features a variable-ratio steering rack to imbue the coupe with even quicker and more direct steering response through the turns.

With the addition of Mercedes’ advanced all-wheel-drive system, the CL550 4Matic version boasts superior traction on both wet and dry pavement, which makes it a true four-season performance car. Under most conditions the system sends 55 percent of the engine’s power to the rear wheels to help maintain a sportier rear-drive feel. When wheel slippage is detected, 4Matic can vary the power between the front and rear axles as needed. The system also includes four-wheel traction-control technology that keeps the vehicle moving in the mud or snow, even if only one wheel has traction.

Myriad chassis-control systems are also at hand to further enhance both the car’s safety and its performance characteristics, including Mercedes’ Electronic Stability Program, which teams with Automatic Slip Control to help keep the car planted firmly on the pavement during even the most aggressive cornering and accident-avoidance maneuvers.

Already fitted with front, side and head-curtain airbags, Mercedes-Benz’ PRE-SAFE system is on hand for added crash protection. It automatically tightens the seatbelts, closes the side windows and inflates the seat cushions (when equipped with the Driving Dynamic front seats) if sensors determine that a collision is imminent and unavoidable. If it senses the vehicle is about to rollover, the system also closes the sunroof. Also on hand is Mercedes-Benz’s Attention Assist system that scrutinizes steering-wheel input to determine if the driver is becoming fatigued (or is otherwise impaired), and will sound an alert and illuminate a coffee cup icon on the dashboard to advise him or her to take a break.

As befits a car of its stature, the CL550 showcases some of the latest in auto-motive gadgetry (in addition to including a full array of standard features too long to list here). For 2011 the CL gets Mercedes-Benz’s “mbrace” telematics system, which links the car to an owner’s smartphone. Among its 18 features, the system will notify an owner by phone if the alarm is activated and locate it if the vehicle is stolen, remotely open the car if the keys are inadvertently locked in and send Google Maps from the phone to the navigation system for a future road trip.

An available Night View Assist function essentially extends the driver’s range of vision without having to turn on the high beams. Here, two infrared headlamps illuminate the road, while an infrared camera records the reflected image of the road ahead and displays it on a small screen mounted on the instrument panel.

Also optional is the automaker’s Distronic Plus proximity control system, which takes so-called adaptive cruise control to a higher level of sophistication and functionality. Using radar as a guide, the system not only keeps the car at a desired speed and distance from the vehicle ahead, but does so even in stop-and-go high-way traffic. As an added safety measure, Distronic Plus includes Brake Assist Plus technology that measures the distance between the vehicle and the traffic ahead and immediately dials in added braking assistance if it calculates that the driver isn’t braking hard enough when coming to a stop.

Also included with Distronic Plus is a new Parking Guidance system that automatically measures the length of a parking space and indicates whether there is sufficient space to park; it further provides a graphic representation that indicates the required steering angle and the proper path into the parking space when re-verse gear is engaged. A rear-view camera is additionally available to help make parallel parking even easier.

Further packed into the Distronic Plus package is a Blind Spot Alert system that not only signals when another vehicle is in close proximity that the driver might not otherwise spot, it intervenes via the car’s stability control system to help prevent the driver from getting into a crash. An Adaptive Highbeam Assist system uses a front-mounted camera to recognize cars approaching in the opposite lane at night and adjust the high/low beans accordingly so as not to blind the oncoming driver.

All told, the Mercedes-Benz CL-Class affords a singular driving experience, combining brains, brawn and beauty in one stylish package. The AMG models are the most entertaining to drive from an enthusiast’s standpoint, but come with sticker prices that place them up in the range of Bentley’s and, at the top end, Ferraris.

Mercedes-Benz CL-Class Quick Facts

Engine: 4.6-liter Turbo V8, 5.5-liter V12 6.2-liter Turbo V8, 6.0-liter Turbo V12
Horsepower: 429 @ 5,250 rpm, 510 @ 5,000 rpm 536@ 5,500 rpm, 621 @ 4,800 rpm Torque 516 @ 1,800 rpm, 612 @ 1,800 rpm 590 @ 2,000 rpm, 738 @ 2,300 rpm
City/Highway: MPG 12/18-15/23
Transmission: 7-spd Automatic, 5-spd Automatic
Drive: Rear/AWD
Wheelbase: 116.3 in
Overall Length: 200.6 in
Width: 73.7 in
Height: 55.8 in
Curb Weight: 4,619 lbs
MSRP: $113,150 – $209,300

Did You Know?

The CL-Class debuted for the 1998 model year as a line of sportier coupes based on the posh Mercedes-Benz S-Class sedan. The car was subsequently redesigned for 2000 with more aerodynamically rounded bodylines, updated powertrains, improved performance, and added features. Its last full revision for model-year 2007 followed the mechanical improvements of its sedan counterpart and introduced myriad high-tech features. This represents the seventh generation of large Mercedes coupes, which reaches back to 1952 and the still-sought-after 300 S.