Oversized luxury coupes have nearly died out since their heyday in the 60's and 70's, making Mercedes' CL-Class something of a rarity. Based on the opulent full-size S-Class sedan, the CL combines a sumptuous interior with a choice of supremely powerful engines. Although there are sportier two-doors on the market, none has the regal presence and generously sized rear seats of this grand tourer.
Those looking for even more performance from their CL should check out the absurdly potent CL63 AMG and CL65 AMG models.
The CL recently received a modest facelift that added a new grille and front bumper assembly that includes LED running lamps. Besides these minor changes, the car's stately-yet-athletic look remains unchanged, as does the sybaritic and spacious interior that is shared with the S-Class.
The big news for the latest model lies underneath the sheetmetal in the form of a new twin-turbocharged 4.7-liter V8 for the CL550 4MATIC model. The motor replaces a larger 5.5-liter unit, yet puts out 429 horsepower, a 12 percent improvement. More importantly, it adds 32 percent more torque for a total of 516 lb-ft (up from 391 lb-ft). Sprints from zero-to-60 mph are a half second quicker at 4.9 seconds.
The V8 is teamed with a seven-speed automatic transmission that sends power to all four wheels via Mercedes' 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system. Fuel economy is quite respectable given the car's power and mass: 15 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway.
The most powerful non-AMG CL is the CL600, which utilizes 5.5-liter biturbo V12 that reports for duty with 510 horsepower and an amazing 612 lb-ft of torque. This powerhouse teams with an aging but sturdy five-speed automatic transmission, and the duo is good for a zero-to-60 mph time of under 4.5 seconds along with gas mileage of 12/18 mpg.
Buyers in northern climates take note: unlike the CL550 4MATIC, the CL600 comes exclusively in rear-wheel-drive form.
Like the rest of the CL lineup, standard features are extensive and include: COMAND system with 40GB hard-drive GPS navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, an 11-speaker Harmon-Kardon LOGIC7 5.1-channel surround-sound system, power sunroof, bi-xenon headlamps with active curve illumination, electronic closing trunk and a slew of AMG-specific interior upgrades like premium leather, performance steering wheel with aluminum shift paddles, new instrument cluster and 14-way power heated seats.
New for the latest model year is a Grand Edition Package that offers a choice of three special paint and interior configurations plus an AMG body kit and 20-inch alloy wheels.
In terms of safety and security features, the CL comes with roadside assistance, adaptive dual stage front airbags, driver knee airbag, side and full-length curtain airbags and active head restraints. Electronic safety comes in the form of an electronic stability program, a predictive occupant protection system, a roll-over sensor, anti-theft alarm with engine shut-down and night security illumination.
The CL-Class also debuted Active Lane Keeping Assist and Active Blind Spot Assist, both designed to help the driver avoid danger through corrective braking.
Active Lane Assist works by utilizing a multi-purpose camera, mounted in the windshield, which analyzes images and then simulates rumble strips when drivers begin to drift into another lane unintentionally. Should the driver fail to notice the faux-rumble strip effect being relayed through an electric motor in the steering wheel the car will gently apply brakes on the opposite side of the vehicle, creating a yaw movement which aims to keep the car in the intended lane.
The second active safety feature debuting on the CL-Class, Active Blind Spot Assist, monitors both blind spots alongside the vehicle using close-range radar sensors. When a vehicle is detected in a blindspot, a yellow warning triangle is illuminated in the corresponding side-view mirror. Should the driver disregard this warning and activate the turn indicator, the warning triangle changes to red and an audible warning also sounds.
If a driver continues to ignore these warnings and moves dangerously close to a neighboring vehicle, the system activates corrective braking intervention to the wheels of the opposite side of the vehicle, acting like Active Lane Assist, and using the yaw movement to keep the vehicle from colliding with the vehicle found in the blind spot.
The standard CL-Class - available in CL550 and CL600 flavor - is up against the BMW 6-Series, Porsche 911 Carrera S Coupe, Jaguar XKR, Audi R8 and Maserati GranTurismo.