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Mercedes-Benz CL 500 review (2007-2010)
Model: Mercedes CL 500
Engine: 5.5-litre V8, petrol
Transmission: 7–speed automatic
What is it?
This is Mercedes’ flagship coupe, the car you buy if you have the pockets for a Bentley Continental GT or Aston Martin DB9, but the need for something more discrete. Park a CL and it will barely rate a second glance. For some is a very good thing indeed, though at a starting price of £80,000 before the desirable options, some will want to make more of a statement. Oh, and while Mercedes doesn’t really like to talk of the CL as such, it’s simply a re-bodied version of the S-Class saloon.
Where does it fit?
The CL 500, with Mercedes’ new 5.5-litre V8, is the cheapest in the three-model line up. £107,000 buys you the CL600 with its amazing bi-turbo 517bhp V12, while the CL 63 AMG, with a naturally aspirated, 525bhp, hand-built V8, is £103,450. The Bentley and Aston mentioned earlier are both significantly more expensive than the CL 500, and if the sub £100k market is your target, only the BMW M6 really fits the bill as a rival. That’s a pretty hard-core machine, and sits with the CL like chalk and cheese. We reckon that the Maserati Quattroporte is a more appropriate rival. Even though it comes only with four doors, the Quattroporte is a fast, graceful, charismatic rival.
Is it for you?
This is an argument at we will never settle in the office. In one corner there’s the conviction that the CL is nothing more than a car aimed at people who have money to burn. Their interest the CL is more about the need to buy the most expensive Mercedes they can, rather than any inherent enthusiasm for driving or even the car itself. In the other corner are those who accept there are buyers who don’t want an S-Class saloon and the CL provides a very agreeable alternative, with a low-key approach absent from its few rivals. You choose.
What does it do well?
No matter what you think on the above question, you’ll find it hard to argue that the CL is anything but a very agreeable car to drive and live with. Comfort levels are outstandingly good, both from the delicious leather seats and from the suspension. Second generation Active Body Control is standard and that combines a supple ride with very little body pitch or roll in corners or when braking. The new V8 is quiet yet you can usually sense the raw power. Floor the throttle and the 388bhp will power the CL500 forward with a supercar punch in the kidneys.
What doesn’t it do well?
It’s a hard car to fault, this CL, though it does have its issues. It’s mightily impressive in a straight line and we guess that most owners will be happy with that: the chance to impress their friends from time to time with a sudden burst of acceleration. Head for the twisty bits and there is enough technology to keep an Airbus pointing in the right direction, so no fears for your security either. It’s just that, despite this sporting pretensions of the coupe styling, this isn’t really a sporting car, something that every rival mentioned above has a decent claim to.
What’s it like to live with?
This is the easy bit. The CL can’t self-park like a Lexus but it has pretty well every other possibility covered. We are totally sold on the dynamic front seats that not only adjust in every possible dimension but also bolster up the backrest sides in corners while giving you a full back massage. There’s ‘keyless go’ and Mercedes’ astonishing Night View Assist. Just like in the movies, additional infrared headlights, invisible to oncoming traffic, light up the road and you can see the result on the TV monitor through the steering wheel. Clever, though as you can’t look at the road and this screen at the same time, the benefits are rather questionable. All the above are optional extras, but you do get a whole raft of features as standard too. There are even back seats that are pretty reasonable for a coupe, and a large boot.
How green is it?
You can’t buy a car like this if you have an ounce of environmental conscience in your body. The new engine is actually more economical and cleaner than the V8 in the previous CL, but it’s all relative. We saw 30mpg by driving carefully on a long motorway journey, and 20mpg is possible on short trips – both comparatively good figures. The C02 emissions are 288g/km. Unlike virtually every other car in the Mercedes range, the CL is not offered with a diesel engine.
Would we buy it?
No, probably not. Why? Well it’s our job, unlike many CL buyers, to put some financial perspective on the whole argument. While we applaud cars like the Aston Martin Vantage and Porsche 911 GT3, both similarly priced cars, we do so because they have a real USP, something so special about their character that makes them immensely desirable despite their cost. The CL doesn’t stack up so convincingly. It’s a big luxury saloon masquerading as a coupe. If that’s what we wanted, Mercedes’ own CLS does the job very nicely for £25k less.
Read more Mercedes Benz car reviews
Driven: Mercedes CL 65 AMG
Twin-test: Mercedes E63 AMG v BMW M5
Driven: Maserati Quattroporte
Video roadtest of the new Mercedes CL500
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