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.