Review and road test of the Mercedes-Benz CL-Class (2007-2010)
By Andy Enright
Ever since it was first introduced way back in 1992, the Mercedes CL has been a nearly car. It's never been lauded as the finest of the big coupes, boasting neither the effortless suavity of an SL convertible, nor the practicality of the S-Class saloon on which it's based. Examine the motives for this and you'll realise this is largely due to the fact that the S-Class and SL are so good and fit for purpose rather than through any inherent deficiency of the CL. If you want the elegance of a big coupe but prefer a slightly lower key approach than the showier lines of some of its rivals, the Mercedes CL is a very smart pick. What's more, it makes a world more sense as a used buy than a new one.
2dr coupe (4.6, 4.7, 5.0, 5.5 petrol [CL 500, CL6 00, CL 63 AMG, CL 65 AMG])
We're now on the third generation Mercedes CL. The first (the W140) was built between 1992 and 1999 as a vast and rather overengineered behemoth that's best known for being the vehicle that petrolheads tend to trot out when it comes to catastrophic depreciation. The second generation CL (the W215) was a wholly more appealing thing and was on sale between 2000 and 2006. This was the first to get the awesome 612bhp twin-turbo V12 and the 493bhp supercharged V8 engines in AMG trim, both of which now look like used bargains. The car we concern ourselves with here is that model's successor. Dubbed the W216 by Mercedes insiders, it debuted at the 2006 Paris Show to widespread approval.
With pumped-up wheelarches and a more curvaceous flow to its flanks, Mercedes had succeeded in giving the CL a more purposeful presence. Two models were initially available, the 4.7-litre V8 CL 500 which was expected to account for the lion's share of CL sales, and the 5.5-litre twin-turbo V12 CL 600. A CL 63 AMG model was soon added, followed by the CL 65 AMG flagship.
The CL got a facelift in 2010, with the new car being first shown at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. The lighting system was thoroughly revised and a raft of control systems such as Active Lane Keep Assist and Blind Spot Assist were fitted. The biggest change came in the CL 500's engine which was now a more efficient 4.7-litre unit that wore the Mercedes' BlueEFFICIENCY tag. The CL 600 was reserved for special orders only, but the CL 63 AMG model had already rendered that car obsolete. The 6.2-litre V8 screamer in the CL 63 AMG was replaced by a more efficient 5.5-litre twin turbo unit. The revised 630bhp CL 65 AMG was quietly slotted into the CL range in October 2010 to satisfy those who absolutely needed a torquey V12.
What You Get
The W216 generation Mercedes CL might be less visually exuberant than its rivals but it's a far more purposeful proposition than CL models of the past. The distinctive V-shaped radiator grille, more pronounced bonnet profiling and sculpted headlights distinguish the latest facelifted cars but dramatically curving roofline and prominently creased flanks that characterise this CL remain.
It's always been a big car but the latest CL models also provide the kind of useful space in the rear seats and boot that hasn't always been offered in previous generation models. At 5,095mm from stem to stern and 1871mm wide, this is a serious piece of automotive real estate. The CL 500 tips the scales at a formidable 2,070kg with the V12-engined CL600 adding over 100kg to that.
The CL has been designed as a proper four seater and the additional length built into this car's wheelbase gives it decent rear seat provision for adults. It's the front seats that are the real showstoppers though. Opt for the CL 600 and instead of just the usual heated sports seats, customers get what can only be described as the last word in car seats. Pneumatic lumbar supports and four-way electric adjustment allow for a perfect driving position while active ventilation helps cool your back and posterior on hot days. The best part is the dynamic multicontour facility with massage function that gently mobilises your lumbar vertebrae to prevent lumbago setting in on long journeys.
It's not hard to see why the CL weighs as much as it does. It's absolutely stuffed with technology. The bi-xenon headlights not only swivel with the driver's steering inputs to better illuminate the road ahead but they have five lighting modes which are activated according to the driving and weather conditions. Adaptive High Beam Assist detects on-coming traffic at night and dips the full beam, while the optional Night View Assist function shows an infrared image of the road ahead on the dashboard screen, highlighting pedestrians. Active Lane Keeping Assist uses a camera to identify lane markings and warns if the CL leaves its lane unintentionally and Active Blind Sport assist warns of vehicles in the CL's blind spots.
The in-car entertainment provision on the CL is also quite something, with all of the functions marshalled by the COMAND control system. There's a Bluetooth phone system as standard and buyers can upgrade to a Harmon Kardon surround sound stereo with DAB digital radio and a 7.2Gb hard disc music server. As part of the package, the Splitview screen allows different content to be viewed on the centre screen by driver and front passenger.
What to Look For
Although this may not be the work of five minutes, check that the electronic gizmos work. If any have waved the white flag, this could make an unwarranted repair extremely costly. Likewise, check the upholstery is in perfect condition. Many of the cars will have been specified in pale leather trims which have not worn quite so well as the black leather. Mushrooms and greys can soon become grimy.
Don't let the seller ramp up the asking price by quoting how many optional extras have been included. Unless the extras really are something special, such as AMG wheels, take it for granted that your CL should be fully specified. A complete service history is absolutely essential. Cosmetic damage can be expensive to correct too. Watch out for signs of wheel kerbing and accident damage. The engines are relatively bulletproof, but do inspect the condition of tyres and exhaust. Finally, don't buy a car that has been extensively modified. This generation CL hasn't yet fallen into the clutches of aftermarket modifiers quite as badly as its predecessors but speak to the previous owner and ascertain whether the vehicle has been remapped. This is a favourite modification for turbocharged versions.
(approx based on a 2007 CL 500) Consumables for the CL are reasonably priced with an air filter costing £24, a fuel filter the best part of £60 and an oil filter a mere £6. Spark plugs are around £5 each, although tyres are expensive at around £175 per corner.
On the Road
The two 'mainstream' engines that power the CL 500 and CL6 00 both run on petrol, both are big and both deliver the straight-line performance more akin to a Lear jet than a car. The term 'entry-level' hardly seems appropriate for the CL 500 which uses a 435bhp twin turbo V8 to get from A to B. The 4.7-litre engine features BlueDIRECT direct fuel injection technology and will launch past 62mph in 4.9s. The next step up is the CL 600 which relies on a 517bhp V12 twin turbo powerplant and has a 4.6s 0-62mph sprint. Believe it or not, some customers will want to go faster than this and Mercedes is happy to oblige with CL AMG derivatives.
The CL has never counted tight twisty B-roads as its preferred habitat. Show the massive Merc the outside lane of an autobahn, however, and it's the weapon of choice. Ensuring the CL maintains its composure in the face of all that power coursing through the wheels is a plethora of electronic systems. Active Body Control is an active suspension system that adapts to the prevailing driving conditions and works to counteract the effects of crosswinds, while Torque Vectoring Brake can selectively brake individual rear wheels to improve stability. There's also Direct Steer, a variable power steering system, and Direct Select, a reference to the CL 500's 7-speed automatic transmission (the CL 600 gets a five-speed automatic).
The CL 63 AMG model has been well received and with good reason. The later 5.5-litre turbo V8 might boast the better efficiency figures, but petrolheads will probably prefer the old 518bhp 6.2-litre normally aspirated V8. In truth, it's an engine that doesn't particularly suit the discreet feel of the CL, but it's just too much fun to overlook, getting to 60mph in just 4.4 seconds. Try before you commit to buy.
The much-improved residual values of the current Mercedes-Benz CL class reflect the fact that this is now a model that has hit its stride. Despite that, £45,000 for a 2007 CL 63 AMG which retailed new at comfortably more than £100,000 represents a rare bargain. Paying Audi TT money for a 518bhp rocket ship with one of the greatest engines money can buy seems almost irresistible.
Mercedes-Benz CL-Class (2007-2010) review by Andy Enright