Dating back to the early 1950s, the Mercedes-Benz CL is and always has been an expensive and exclusive coupe. The CL-Class has evolved significantly with the times, but the fundamental mission of these coupes remains the same: High-performance and maximum luxury in a gloriously stylish package. These are cars in which aesthetics purposely trump practicality.
Pounding the point home is the CL's hardtop design: As with all of its predecessors since 1958, there is no central B-pillar aft of the doors to break 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.
Where the current CL breaks most from tradition is in its sheer excess. Pricey and pretty as they were, the big Mercedes coupes of the Fifties, Sixties, and even Seventies were compact compared to contemporary U.S. cars, and were powered by relatively small-displacement engines. The current CL-Class qualifies as truly massive, in size, weight, and horsepower.
The 2010 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class carries over largely unchanged. The most significant change for 2010 is the option of Splitview, wherein the central dashboard screen can convey one full-size image to the driver and another, different image to the passenger simultaneously. Also new for 2010 CL-Class are integrated Bluetooth, HD radio, USB and SD card slots, 4GB music storage, voice-recognition of complete words, Zagat guide in the navigation, larger outside mirrors and upgraded ambient lighting.
The Mercedes-Benz CL550 4MATIC features a powerful 382-horsepower 5.5-liter V8. The Mercedes CL600 packs an insanely powerful 510-hp twin turbocharged 5.5-liter V12 with 612 pound-feet of torque (220 more than the CL550). There are also two AMG versions: The ridiculously powerful CL63 with its 518-hp 6.2-liter V8, and the preposterously powerful CL65 with its 604-hp (738 lb-ft) 6.0-liter twin-turbo V12. We're running out of superlatives to describe the performance of these engines.
Like its predecessors, the current Mercedes CL manages to be sporty without being a true sports car. Securing the right exterior proportions meant making the CL shorter than the S-Class, upon which it is based. 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 for adults, though similar luxury 2+2 coupes (Aston Martin DB9, BMW M6, Bentley Continental, Ferrari 612) actually have less room. The CL is for being seen in or bringing petite friends. If you want practicality in a big Mercedes, buy an S-Class sedan.
In the front seats, the CL is a car that is as wonderful to be in as to be seen in. 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 to have, from a harman/kardon 600-watt, 11-speaker audio system to soft ambient mood lighting. Through the Mercedes COMAND central computer interface, many dozens of settings for seats, climate, sound, lighting, navigation and much more can be customized to your personal preferences.
The CL offers a breathtaking array of safety technology as standard equipment: Nine airbags, dynamic stability control, traction control, anti-lock brakes, automatic brake drying, seatbelt pre-tensioners, and automatic window closers, to name a few items.
In short, 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 tighter 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 choosing stylish lines over day-to-day practicality.
The 2010 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class consists of four models: The CL550 4MATIC ($110,400) has a 382-horsepower 5.5-liter V8. The CL600 ($154,400) packs a 510-horsepower twin-turbocharged 5.5-liter V12. The CL63 AMG ($145,200) has a 6.2-liter V8 that develops 518 horsepower. And the CL65 AMG ($207,970) has 604 horsepower and a stupendous 738 pound-feet of torque from a 6.0-liter twin-turbo V12. All are subject to the federally imposed Gas Guzzler Tax, ranging $1,300 to $3,000.
Standard CL equipment is comprehensive. The seats, doors and instrument panel are all leather covered, and 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 audio system is a harman/kardon Logic7 surround sound with 11 speakers and a six-disc in-dash changer, memory card slot and auxiliary inputs. 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-lid is electrically powered. The Mercedes COMAND system, a centralized computer interface with a dash-mounted flat panel screen, is also standard. It enables access to many of the car's accessories including navigation, phone, climate controls, and other customizable features (exterior courtesy lights, seat settings and voice command setup). Bi-Xenon headlights are standard, too, as is Parktronic, a distance sensing parking aid hidden behind the bumpers.
The CL550 4MATIC Premium 2 Package ($3,430) includes heated and ventilated front seats, a keyless entry system, multi-adjustable front seats fitted with pneumatic chambers that adjust cushion firmness and lumbar support, a night vision system with an in-dash screen, and a rear backup camera. Options include a heated steering wheel ($480), Splitview ($700), Diamond White metallic paint ($795), illuminated door sills ($700). A Sport Package adds special aerodynamic pieces and larger, and 19-inch wheels ($5,800) or 20-inch wheels ($6,550). Or choose 19-inch ($1,250) or 20-inch ($2,000) wheels by themselves. The Distronic Plus dual-radar system ($2,850) provides active cruise control, blind spot assist, and parking guidance.
The CL600 includes virtually everything as standard equipment, including Active Body Control suspension and Distronic Plus. Only the 19 or 20-inch wheels, Diamond White paint, illuminated door sills, Splitview and some dealer accessories are optional.
The CL63 AMG adds distinct bodywork and higher-performance brakes, suspension, wheels and tires along with its hand-made V8. Options include the Distronic Plus package, Premium 2 package ($2,160), Diamond White paint, Splitview, and an AMG Performance package ($7,180) that raises the top speed limiter from 155 to 186 mph and adds forged twin-spoke wheels.
CL65 AMG models are fully equipped, with only Splitview and Diamond White paint as extra.
Designo features, lavish finishes and colors are available to personalize the cars to taste.
Safety features on all CL models include a pair of two-stage front airbags, a driver's-side knee airbag, 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 and sunroof close automatically if the car detects an impending collision. 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 with Parking Guidance and Blind Spot Assist.