BMW teams up with Italian styling gurus at Pininfarina for slick new coupe
Mercedes-Benz CL500 4.6 review (2010 onwards)
Model: Mercedes-Benz CL500 4.6
Bodystyle: Two-door coupé
Engine: 4.6-litre turbo V8, petrol
Transmission: Seven-speed auto, rear-wheel drive
What is it?
The grandest car you can buy with a Mercedes badge on it, simply enough. Sure, it's not quite the most expensive. But the market for £90K coupés is a small and select one, meaning the CL plays to a very exclusive crowd.
And it has done for many years, there being a CL, or its equivalent, at the very top of the Mercedes range for the last 60 years. Longer, if you count the big, grand supercharged SSKs and 540Ks of the 1930s.
These grand coupés have always been among the first with the new technology, be it fuel-injection, disc brakes, ESP or Active Body Control suspension - all made early appearances on the CL or its predecessors.
A facelift for the CL last summer brought with it yet more gadgetry, not to mention a new twin-turbo 4.6-litre V8 CL500. All CLs are now powered by turbocharged engines, this just the tip of the technological iceberg in this formidably sophisticated car.
Where does it fit?
Sophisticated doesn't just describe the technology in this car - it also sums up the CL's demeanour and positioning. Although vast, effortlessly rapid and unashamedly opulent it's somehow classier than the rather more brash Bentley Continental GT.
You don't see footballers or filmstars driving CLs. So who does? Difficult to say but this is a traditional Mercedes designed for the brand's traditional customers and manages that uniquely Mercedes trick of being both hugely ostentatious and relatively anonymous.
It's monstrously expensive though, this 'entry-level' model (all things are relative) costing a mighty £92,280 or, as tested, £106,830. CLs and their equivalents have always been in this league though, the CL63 AMG and special order V12 CL600 both north of £115K.
They're more natural rivals for the recently refreshed, £135K, 575hp Bentley Continental GT, though a cheaper, greener V8 version of this is due later in the year and is likely to be an obvious rival to this eight-cylinder CL.
Is it for you?
If you appreciate the long tradition of Mercedes' grand coupés and their elegant design flourishes such as the pillarless side windows then you're probably already a CL customer and buying the newest and latest version will be a reflex action.
Why should anyone else consider it then? Well, this new 4.6-litre V8 engine brings with it not only greater go - torque is boosted by nearly a third over the previous, non-turbo V8 - but also much improved fuel consumption. It even carries eco BlueEfficiency branding.
Buyers of £100K luxury coupés probably aren't too concerned by such matters, at least in terms of the cost of fuel and suchlike, so the CL's expanded luxury features and safety technology are probably of more interest.
The standard Comand infotainment system can be augmented with Splitview to enable the passenger to watch a DVD while the driver uses the nav on the same screen and the safety innovations are boggling - this car really won't let you crash.
What does it do well?
Feel-good factors are plentiful at the wheel of the CL. It's a fantastically comfortable and refined place to be of course, and the already fabulous seats on our test car were further equipped with the optional massage function that really does sooth aches and pains.
The pillarless design, light-coloured leathers and (optional) ambient lighting create an airy cabin, the sheer size meaning there's plenty of room to stretch out and the rear seats are perfectly viable for full-sized passengers.
The engine is a powerhouse too, the 435hp a generous gain from the 388hp of the previous non-turbo engine. But it's the 32% gain in torque and the way it comes in at a diesel-like 1,800rpm that makes a mockery of the CL's two-tonne kerb weight.
It's very refined too. A murmur from under the bonnet and a sense of the scenery steadily blurring are the only real hints of the Merc's power, its seven-speed auto remaining as effortless as ever.
What doesn't it do well?
At over five metres in length it's a big old car. If you mix in CL circles parking is likely to be delegated to a valet ,but on the odd occasion you need to park in a regular bay,the size becomes an issue.
The sudden rush of turbocharged torque can result in unseemly chirps from the rear wheels if you pull away in a hurry too, this and an occasional tremor of kickback through the cheesily wood-trimmed wheel at odds with the otherwise excellent refinement.
What's it like to live with?
In hotels, restaurants and shops CL owners will be accustomed to first class service wherever they go. And the car is very much an extension of that lifestyle, discreetly taking care of you and, like a well-trained butler, knowing when to fade into the background.
Everything feels reassuringly well-engineered too, the weighty metal Command Control wheel your main point of contact with the car's systems and more intuitive and easy to understand than BMW's iDrive or Audi's MMI.
The safety systems are reassuring too, Mercedes' self-dipping Intelligent Light System and Pre-Safe anticipatory crash protection among the standard features. Our test car had the additional £2,135 Driver Assistance Package too.
This includes the radar-controlled Distronic Plus cruise control and Active Lane-Keeping and Blind Spot Assist systems, both of which can pull you straight with subtle applications of the brakes on one side of the car should you wander off course.
How green is it?
It's crazy to think a 4.6-litre twin-turbo V8 with 435hp can be billed as green tech but Mercedes is proud of the efficiency-boosting measures included in its latest engine. Stop-start is one of the more obvious features but there's far more going on behind the scenes.
Officially fuel consumption is improved over the previous CL500 by nearly a quarter, the new model recording 29.7mpg officially. The reality isn't quite as impressive but the 232g/km of CO2 isn't bad for a car this heavy and powerful and nearly a third better.
Would we buy it?
The CL in one word? Classy. And this airy self-assurance and sense that it doesn't need to shout too hard about its status is very appealing. People will know what a Bentley or Maserati says about you. A CL is less obvious.
It's every bit the flagship coupé and you know Mercedes is capitalising on those decades of experience. Given how good this is the one question raised is why would you spend more on a CL63 or 600? Just because you can?
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