I am not going to apologize. I am going to explain. It certainly isn't because I expect to persuade anyone into parting with $90,000 for an automobile that I take up the subject of Mercedes-Benz's CL500 touring coupe. It goes without saying that 99 percent of the folks reading (and writing) this are categorically unable to spend that much on a car. Of the remaining one percent who can afford to, half of them are too calculating to do such a thing while the other half will blithely fork out for this very conspicuously consuming showpiece in spite of anything I have to say.
I happen to believe, however, that there is a role for the elite in our world, and it is primarily to establish benchmarks or standards of achievement. I also happen to believe that "elite" is not automatically synonymous with "best" when, in fact, elite more accurately signifies rare sophistication. Among autos, the CL500 is undoubtedly rare and inarguably sophisticated. Regardless of pocketbook, any auto enthusiast will benefit from an experience of driving the CL, because ever after he or she will know how well every other vehicle measures up to the CL's lofty standard. Moreover, he or she will know how fleeting, even impossible, it is to be the very best at anything.
Not that Mercedes-Benz hasn't tried exceptionally hard to make its CL-Class coupe the best in the world. Actually, there are three of them: the CL500 deploys a 5.0-liter V-8; the CL55 uses the same V-8 with a bit longer piston-stroke to displace 5.5 liters; and the 2001 CL600 debuts a stunning new V-12 that displaces 5.8 liters. Horsepower figures range from 302 to 354 to 362, respectively. Base prices likewise jump from $87,500 to $99,500 to $117,200, giving the CL500 a dubious opportunity to claim "entry level" status in such august company.