2010 Mercedes-Benz CL Class Review

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Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
January 7, 2010

If you want a coupe with it all-high performance, luxury, elegance, and some of the world's top technology-the 2010 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class is it.

TheCarConnection.com's editors have driven several versions of the new Mercedes-Benz CL-Class in order to bring you their expert opinion here in this Bottom Line review. TheCarConnection.com has also researched road tests on the new Mercedes-Benz CL-Class to bring you some of the most useful information on how this luxury coupe measures up.

The 2010 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class offers subtle styling cues and bawdy performance to everyone-from the merely rich and famous to the extremely rich and famous. As in 2009, the CL-Class comes with a choice of one of four powertrains-two different V-8s or two different V-12s-harnessed to an automatic transmission and rear- or all-wheel drive. Carrying a base price of more than $110,000, the CL550 plays the poor country cousin to the truly exotic and rare $208,000 CL65 AMG.

It's a two-door with unparalleled road-covering capability, but the 2010 Benz CL-Class has a markedly anodyne style. The roofline's elegant but familiar; the CL's nose, a softly rounded collection of the usual Benz themes. And while the CL wore them first, the rear quarter lamps and panels resemble efforts far and wide, from Bentley to Acura. It's restrained exterior styling, for sure, but the CL's less arresting shape also means its suave good looks are apt to wear well in any season, for many seasons. The understated exterior may be a disappointment to some, but the interior of the 2010 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class is sure to impress. It takes a minimalist approach-with a monolithic center stack of controls paneled in behind a sheath of burled walnuts and thin lines of shiny dash switches. It's simple and uncluttered-something straight out of the German edition of Architectural Digest.

All 2010 CL-Class coupes perform with ferocious speed, but the elegant cruisers among them bare their knuckles a lot less than the fight-club-worthy AMG editions. The base CL coupe is the $110,400 CL550; it's powered by a jet-smooth 5.5-liter V-8 with 382 horsepower, teamed to an effortless seven-speed automatic and all-wheel drive. Above the CL550 is the $154,400 CL600, which rolls with a 5.5-liter V-12 tossing off 510 hp and 612 lb-ft of torque in near silence, and a five-speed automatic. Two AMG CL-Class coupes breathe far more life into the Coupe's chassis; there's a $145,200 CL63 with a 518-hp, 6.3-liter V-8 and a $207,170 CL65 with a 6.0-liter twin-turbo V-12, 604 hp, and 738 lb-ft of torque.

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The CL550 and CL600 have ample strength across the powerband, but they're tuned to handle more benignly than their AMG kin. The non-AMG CL550 and CL600 are extraordinary grand tourers, with refined engine responses, a smooth ride, and remarkably precise handling despite their undeniable heft. The steering's just a tad slow and detached to be truly sporty, but the CL's responses are pretty balletic for its 4,500-pound-plus mass. That's thanks to the sophisticated Active Body Control (ABC) system, which controls ride height and suspension firmness and can adjust almost instantaneously for quick maneuvers. All CL coupes get a mechanical Direct Steer system that improves feel. The AMG editions turn up every sensory and performance dial, from engine sound to available grip. The CL63 AMG is edgier and more raucous-sounding in everything from its ride to its sharper handling response; the especially exclusive CL65 AMG can hustle and keep a visual lock on some exotic sports cars without sacrificing the ride comfort and quietness built into its body.

Fuel economy, by the way, is lousy at 14/21 mpg for the CL550 and 11/17 mpg for the CL65 AMG.

Despite its long wheelbase, seatbelt attendants that pull the safety devices out of the way, and power-forward seats that slide toward the wheel for easier entry and exit, the 2010 CL-Class isn't much suited for carrying four adults. The front seats are marvelous with or without the optional multicontour feature, and comfortable for even the longest drives. The backseats are very roomy for a coupe, but it's a tussle to get into them-although a center console and lots of wood will leave the humidor set happy once they're nestled in back there. On the road, the CL-Class coupes are exceptionally quiet and vibration-free, and finishes are rich and substantial, not bright and gaudy.

Neither NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) nor the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) has crash-tested the 2010 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class. Its high safety ratings from TheCarConnection.com are based on its structural similarity to the Mercedes S-Class sedan. Standard features include dual front, side, and curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; traction and stability control; and a trio of systems that use radar to detect imminent collisions. Brake Assist Plus will increase the level of pressure you apply to the brake pedal if it determines you're closing in on the car ahead too quickly. Pre-Safe will take other steps, such as tightening seatbelts and preparing the airbags, if it senses a collision is unavoidable. And like other active cruise control systems, Distronic Plus will maintain the speed of traffic ahead-and hold a safe distance from the car immediately in front. But it can also bring the CL to a complete stop in traffic, then start up again when the car ahead begins to move. This system also includes Blind Spot Assist, which monitors both blind spots and warns the driver whenever a turn signal is activated. The 2010 CL-Class also has standard ultrasonic parking sensors and a backup camera. New safety features include Attention Assist, which senses when drivers may be drowsy and signals them to take a break; night vision; adaptive headlamps; and a feature that helps the CL-Class stay in its intended lane by using gentle braking.

Standard equipment on the base 2010 Mercedes-Benz CL550 includes a hands-free calling system, a power rear sunshade, and a 600-watt audio system with memory card slot. Top features on the CL line include multicontour front seats with massage. All 2010 CL-Class coupes have an astounding list of standard features, including leather upholstery; power front seats; an AM/FM/CD changer with Sirius Satellite Radio; a DVD navigation system; and walnut trim. New for 2010 are ambient lighting; Bluetooth; a USB port, HD Radio, and a 4GB music hard drive for the audio system; streaming Zagat data for the navigation system; and on the CL600, new 18-inch wheels. A rear-seat entertainment system is a new option for 2010.

All CL coupes use a screen-driven operating system and a hand-operated controller for a variety of functions-from adjusting seat bolstering to setting radio stations. The technology alone would keep Steve Wozniak debugging away for weeks; the interface could use some love from Steve Jobs. By avoiding the potential clutter of buttons and switches, and instead integrating the controls into one system, Mercedes has buried some features and controls under layers of "logic." It can be easier to navigate than BMW's iDrive, and the technology's a marvel, but the learning curve is steep, and accessing all those features through buttons and wheel controls can grow tiring, quickly.

7

2010 Mercedes-Benz CL Class

Styling

The 2010 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class speaks elegance fluently, but quietly.

It's a two-door with unparalleled road-covering capability, but the 2010 Benz CL-Class has a markedly anodyne style. Kelley Blue Book calls it "neither showy nor obviously exotic." The roofline's elegant but familiar; the CL's nose, a softly rounded collection of the usual Benz themes. Edmunds admires the CL's "sporty" appearance, highlighted by a roofline that "sweeps smoothly from windshield to rear window without the interruption of a B-pillar." Cars.com calls that roofline "one of the CL550's best attributes." Though the CL wore them first, the rear quarter lamps and panels resemble efforts far and wide, from Bentley to Acura. Cars.com says "in the world of high-dollar coupes, the CL550's styling is rather restrained," though "its long profile, low-slung stance and big three-pointed star on the grille say 'I'm expensive.'" It's sedate exterior styling, for sure, but the CL's less arresting shape also means its suave good looks are apt to wear well in any season, for many seasons. According to Edmunds, few details separate various CL coupes, other than the "unique exterior enhancements" and "20-inch wheels" on AMG models.

The understated exterior may be a disappointment to some, but the interior of the 2010 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class is sure to impress. It's simple and uncluttered-something straight out of the German edition of Architectural Digest. It takes a minimalist approach, with a monolithic center stack of controls paneled in behind a sheath of burled walnuts and thin lines of shiny dash switches. Kelley Blue Book says luxury "abounds door-to-door, floor-to-roof" in the CL-Class' "leather-trimmed aviation-style cockpit." Cars.com is impressed by the way that the "CL550's cabin manages to elegantly fuse modern technology with old-world sophistication," thanks to its "orange ambient lighting with classic burled walnut trim and a full-leather interior." ConsumerGuide mentions pragmatically, "most major controls are logically placed and easy to reach."

9

2010 Mercedes-Benz CL Class

Performance

Despite its heft and length, the 2010 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class coupes are superbly responsive-with a discernible edge dialed into AMG versions.

All 2010 CL-Class coupes perform with ferocious speed, but the elegant cruisers among them bare their knuckles a lot less than the fight-club-worthy AMG editions. The base CL coupe is the $110,400 CL550; it's powered by a jet-smooth 5.5-liter V-8 with 382 horsepower, teamed to an effortless seven-speed automatic and all-wheel drive. Above the CL550 is the $154,400 CL600, which rolls with a 5.5-liter V-12 tossing off 510 hp and 612 lb-ft of torque in near silence, and a five-speed automatic. Two AMG CL-Class coupes breathe far more life into the Coupe's chassis; there's a $145,200 CL63 with a 518-hp, 6.3-liter V-8 and a $207,170 CL65 with a 6.0-liter twin-turbo V-12, 604 hp, and 738 lb-ft of torque.

The CL550 and CL600 have ample strength across the powerband, but they're tuned to handle more benignly than their AMG kin. The non-AMG CL550 and CL600 are extraordinary grand tourers, with refined engine responses, a smooth ride, and remarkably precise handling despite their undeniable heft. Cars.com reviewers state that the "V-8 effortlessly builds speed, and before long you're doing 70 mph." ConsumerGuide calls the power delivery in the CL550 "ample" and notes that the estimated 0-60 time on the car is "5.3 seconds." In the words of Car and Driver, the CL600 offers "mind-boggling acceleration."

The CL coupes are geared for cruising pleasure. Kelley Blue Book describes the CL550 and CL63's seven-speed automatic as "traveling seamlessly." Cars.com finds "the shifts are almost imperceptible and the transmission willingly kicks down under hard acceleration." The five-speed automatic in the CL600 and CL65 is equally good at handling what Car and Driver calls the "gargantuan forces" that "are at work in the transmission tunnel."

Fuel economy, by the way, is lousy at 14/21 mpg for the CL550 and 11/17 mpg for the CL65 AMG.

This year, all CL coupes get a mechanical Direct Steer system that improves feel.
The steering's still just a tad slow and detached to be truly sporty, but the non-AMG CL's responses are pretty balletic for its 4,500-pound-plus mass. That's thanks to the sophisticated Active Body Control (ABC) system; it controls ride height and suspension firmness and can adjust almost instantaneously for quick maneuvers. Cars.com reports ABC "reduces body roll, acceleration squat and braking dive," which keeps the CL "fairly flat during cornering." ConsumerGuide contends the CL-Class is "reassuringly stable when cornering." Physics is still the enemy on occasion in the hefty CL. "When pressing hard on long, sweeping turns, the grip from the standard 18-inch tires runs out more quickly than you might expect," Edmunds observes. "When you transition from one tight corner to the next, even its sophisticated suspension can't always make the CL feel graceful."

The AMG editions turn up every sensory and performance dial, from engine sound to available grip. The CL63 AMG is edgier and more raucous-sounding in everything from its ride to its sharper handling response. Automobile testers find that you can "launch yourself across the entire city of Ann Arbor in no time, or at least to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds" in the CL63 AMG they drove. The especially exclusive CL65 AMG can hustle and keep a visual lock on some exotic sports cars without sacrificing the ride comfort and quietness built into its body.

Winning huge praise from reviewers are the brakes on the 2010 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class, which ConsumerGuide says "provide short, drama-free emergency stops" and Edmunds adds "are faultless, as they provide plenty of bite with little fade."

9

2010 Mercedes-Benz CL Class

Comfort & Quality

The 2010 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class has flawless front seats, fit, and finish-but it's a tight squeeze to get in the fairly roomy back buckets.

Despite its long wheelbase, seatbelt attendants that pull the safety devices out of the way, and power-forward seats that slide toward the wheel for easier entry and exit, the 2010 CL-Class isn't much suited for carrying four adults.

The front seats are marvelous with or without the optional multicontour feature, and comfortable for even the longest drives. Cars.com reports the CL-Class' "cabin is roomy, but there's not a lot of extra headroom," thanks in large part to the "low roofline." Laterally, however, "space is generous on CL's broad, supportive seats," and "multiple standard power adjustments make it easy to find a comfortable driving position," reports ConsumerGuide. Edmunds adds "the front seats are fantastically comfortable, with numerous adjustments as well as heating and, on upper trims, cooling and massage functions."

The backseats are very roomy for a coupe, but it's a tussle to get into them-although a center console and lots of wood will leave the humidor set happy once they're nestled in. Cars.com finds "the CL550 is more accommodating to rear-seat passengers than many coupes," and it offers "acceptable" seat comfort, though "legroom is tight for tall adults." However, ConsumerGuide says it is "cramped for even average-size adults" and warns "entry and exit is tight despite power-forward front seats."

The 2010 Mercedes-Benz 2010 CL-Class has ample storage space, but not much rear-seat flexibility. ConsumerGuide finds "deep door pockets, multi-chambered center console, and a large glovebox." However, they feel "the trunk is not cavernous, but it has a useful shape and is luxuriously finished." Cars.com cites stats of "12.9 cubic feet" of trunk space-but observes "typical of large cars, the backseat doesn't fold forward to extend the cargo area into the cabin."

On the road, the CL-Class coupes are exceptionally quiet and vibration-free, and finishes are rich and substantial, not bright and gaudy. Car and Driver observes "leather-lots of it-embraces the seats and the headliner" and is "set off with high-quality moldings and chestnut or burled-walnut trim used sparingly in a stylish flourish." ConsumerGuide declares "assembly quality is flawless," while Edmunds raves about "high-quality materials and superb fit and finish" that "quietly bespeak the fact that this is an expensive car." Car and Driver says "there's little noise from the drivetrain, tires, or wind," while ConsumerGuide finds the engines "are nearly silent while cruising."

9

2010 Mercedes-Benz CL Class

Safety

The 2010 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class hasn't been crash-tested, but it's crammed with safety devices that alert nearly all a driver's senses.

Neither NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) nor the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) has crash-tested the 2010 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class-because it's "an ultra-low volume car," says Cars.com. Its high safety ratings from TheCarConnection.com are based on its structural similarity to the Mercedes S-Class sedan.

Cars.com notes the CL's standard safety features include "antilock brakes with brake assist, side-impact airbags for the front and rear seats, a driver's knee airbag, side curtain airbags," and "an electronic stability system."

A trio of systems in the 2010 CL-Class use radar to detect imminent collisions. Brake Assist Plus will increase the level of pressure you apply to the brake pedal if it determines you're closing in on the car ahead too quickly. Pre-Safe will take other steps, such as tightening seatbelts and preparing the airbags, if it senses a collision is unavoidable. Kelley Blue Book describes the CL's active cruise control as "a programmable cruise control system with two onboard radar sensors" that automatically maintains the proper distance from cars ahead." But it can also bring the CL to a complete stop in traffic, starting again when the car ahead begins to move. This system also includes Blind Spot Assist, which monitors both blind spots and warns the driver whenever a turn signal is activated.

The 2010 CL-Class also has standard ultrasonic parking sensors and a backup camera. Cars.com notes that the Mercedes-Benz 2010 CL600 also has "adaptive brake lights that flash when the brake assist or stability systems are activated, in order to gain the attention of following drivers."

New safety features for the 2010 CL include Attention Assist, which senses when drivers may be drowsy and signals them to take a break; night vision; adaptive headlamps; and a feature that helps the CL-Class stay in its intended lane by using gentle braking.

10

2010 Mercedes-Benz CL Class

Features

The 2010 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class doles out a rich dose of ultra-luxury in all its forms.

The 2010 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class has an astounding list of standard features, though some options will require lots of patience.

Standard features include leather upholstery; power front seats; an AM/FM/CD changer with Sirius Satellite Radio; a DVD navigation system; and walnut trim. New for 2010 are ambient lighting; Bluetooth; a USB port, HD Radio, and a 4GB music hard drive for the audio system; streaming Zagat data for the navigation system; and on the CL600, new 18-inch wheels. Edmunds adds on "heated front seats, power sunroof, power door and trunk closers."

ConsumerGuide lists a "heated steering wheel" as an option on the CL550. A rear-seat entertainment system is a new option on the CL-Class for 2010, and Mercedes' multicontour seats are offered as standard or optional equipment on all versions. Those "Drive-Dynamic Multicontour front seats," Cars.com says, "have enhanced features like upper and lower side bolster adjustment and a massage setting."

All CL coupes use a screen-driven COMAND operating system and a hand-operated controller for a variety of functions-from adjusting seat bolstering to setting radio stations. Car and Driver says the COMAND interface is "more-or-less intuitive to the computer-savvy driver," though "there were a few functions that would have most people diving for the owner's manual." TheCarConnection.com's editors disagree; the technology alone would keep Steve Wozniak debugging away for weeks, and the interface could surely use some love from Steve Jobs. By avoiding the potential clutter of buttons and switches, and instead integrating the controls into one system, Mercedes has buried some features and controls under layers of "logic." It can be easier to navigate than BMW's iDrive, and the technology's a marvel, but the learning curve is steep and accessing all those features through buttons and wheel controls can grow tiring, quickly. ConsumerGuide says, however, "with patience, COMAND becomes second nature for audio functions," although it "greatly complicates others."

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