Everyone knows Mercedes-Benz occupies one of the high rungs on the prestige ladder. It takes a long list of words to describe the characteristics that make the broad range of cars and SUVs from Stuttgart so desirable: they're luxurious and expensive, to be sure. But they're also known for handsome, modern design; superlative engineering; bank-vault solidity; precise build quality; an abundance of safety and security features; sportiness and European flair. Most of these traits come together in the all-new 2007 Mercedes CL coupe.
The CL is the seventh generation of a line of range-topping coupes dating back to the 1952 300S that have appeared sporadically through the years. Like those cars, the CL is a smaller, sportier version of Mercedes' big sedan line, in this case, today's S-Class. This time it follows the previous CL without interruption and its mission remains the same: high-performance and maximum luxury in high-style package. This is a car in which style purposely trumps practicality.
Pounding the point home is its hardtop design; there is no central B-pillar holding up the roof aft of the doors to break up the sleek lines of the body. With the windows down, the look is sexy and the view out is panoramic, recalling cars of the Fifties and Sixties when hardtops were in vogue.
Securing the right exterior proportions meant making the CL significantly shorter than the S-Class. This results in a close-coupled, intimate interior, the kind historically associated with coupes from time immemorial. We'd call the rear passenger area cramped, though similar models from BMW and Bentley actually have even less rear legroom. The CL is for being seen in. If you want practicality in a Mercedes, buy a different model.
The CL is also a car that's wonderful to be in, at least in the front seats. Its interior is sumptuous and inviting, dressed in the finest materials and tailored to perfection. Burled walnut, supple leather, brushed aluminum and designer-quality knobs and switches are everywhere you look and touch. The standard equipment list bulges with luxury items no one actually needs but almost anyone would love, from a Harman/Kardon 600-watt, 11-speaker audio system to soft ambient mood lighting. Through the Mercedes COMAND central computer interface offers many dozens of settings for seats, climate and sound system, lighting, GPS and much more can be customized to your personal preferences.
Like its predecessors, the CL manages to be sporty without being a true sports car. It comes in two versions: powerful or insanely powerful, with a choice of either a 382-hp V8 or a 510-hp V12. Its road manners are sophisticated, hushed and luxurious rather than aggressively aimed at carving up twisty roads.
It offers a breathtaking array of safety technology as standard: nine airbags; dynamic stability control; traction control ABS anti-lock brakes; automatic brake drying; seatbelt pre-tensioners, and automatic window closers, to name a few items.
The CL is ultra-luxurious, sexy, technologically advanced and very stylish with excellent all-around driving capabilities. With its occasional rear seating for two, it's roomier than a sports car but smaller than a sedan. We think the CL will be extremely appealing to a relative few drivers who fall in love with it and can afford the luxury of stylish lines over day-to-day practicality.
The Mercedes-Benz CL550 ($99,900) comes with a 382-horsepower 5.5-liter V8. The CL600 is powered by a 510-hp twin turbocharged V12.
Standard CL equipment is comprehensive. The seats, doors and instrument panel are all leather covered; burled walnut wood trim is used liberally. The front seats are 14-way adjustable and heated, and have a three-setting memory capability that also sets the electrically telescoping-and-tilting steering wheel and side mirrors. The standard audio system is a Harman/Kardon Logic7 5.1 Digital unit with 11 speakers and a 6CD in-dash changer (with memory card slot). Sirius satellite radio is standard. There's a power sunroof overhead and a power rear-window sunblind in the rear parcel shelf. Doors have power assist closing mechanisms, and the trunk is electrically powered.
The Mercedes COMAND system, a centralized computer interface with a dash-mounted flat panel screen, is standard. It enables access to many of the car's accessories including GPS navigation, phone, climate controls and other customizable features (exterior courtesy lights, seat settings and voice command setup). Bi-Xenon headlights are standard, as is Parktronic, a distance sensing parking aid. All CLs are equipped with ABC active suspension; it utilizes electro hydraulic cylinders to control body roll and some damping functions.
The Premium I package ($1950) includes heated and ventilated front seats and a keyless entry system. Premium II ($5650) adds multi-adjustable front seats fitted with pneumatic chambers that adjust cushion firmness and lumbar support. Also part of the package are a night vision system with an in-dash screen, and a rear backup camera. An AMG body kit ($5650) adds special aerodynamic pieces and larger 19-inch wheels (18-inch wheels are standard).
Other options include Distronic Plus distance monitoring cruise control ($2850); a heated steering wheel ($450); 19-inch multi-spoke wheels ($1200); special chrome 18-inch wheels ($1000); and an iPod integration kit ($425).
All options packages are already standard on the CL600 ($144,200). It's only available extras are the iPod kit ($425) and 19-inch multi-spoke wheels ($1200).
Safety features on all CLs include a pair of two-stage front air bags, a driver's side knee air bag; two front side airbags; two rear side airbags; and side head-curtain airbags for front and rear passengers. There are seatbelt pre-tensioners for the front passengers' belts. Windows close automatically in a crash, and a sunroof closing feature activates in rollovers. Also standard: ABS with electronic brake-force distribution and automatic wet-weather drying, dynamic stability control, traction control, and Distronic cruise control. Optional safety equipment includes Distronic Plus distance sensing cruise control.