2008 Mercedes-Benz CL Class

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The Car Connection
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Martin Padgett Martin Padgett Editorial Director
July 6, 2008

Buying tip

If you plan to get the 40th Anniversary Edition of the 2008 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class, beware its beautiful Alu Beam "liquid metal" paint, which we've previously seen only on show cars. Don't be surprised if the cost of fixing minor body damage is very, very expensive.

features & specs

2-Door Coupe 5.5L V12
2-Door Coupe 5.5L V8
2-Door Coupe 6.0L V12 AMG
11 city / 17 hwy
14 city / 21 hwy
11 city / 17 hwy

If you want a coupe with it all—high performance, luxury, elegance, and some of the world’s top technology—the 2008 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class is it.

As they put together this comprehensive review covering the 2008 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class, the automotive experts at TheCarConnection.com searched to find some of the best reviews on the Web. Then the experienced editors at TheCarConnection.com included their own driving impressions of the CL-Class to produce this especially useful review.

The CL-Class is a large luxury coupe and the flagship model for technology features in the Mercedes-Benz line. The 2008 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class was completely redesigned for 2007 with fresh styling, mechanical enhancements, increasingly powerful engines, and more lavish (and geeky) equipment than ever before. The CL65 also comes in a 40th Anniversary Edition for 2008, painted in Liquid Metal.

There are four different versions of the new coupe, starting with the "base" CL550. It's powered by a 5.5-liter V-8 with a 388-horsepower engine that's teamed to a seven-speed automatic. There's a manual shift mode that can be operated without moving your hands off the wheel. The 2008 Mercedes-Benz CL600 is powered by a V-12 engine with 510 hp and 612 pound-feet of torque. Two AMG editions also are sold: a CL63 with a 518-hp V-8 and a CL65 with 604 hp and 738 pound-feet of torque.

The entire 2008 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class line, including the CL550, feels hefty and solid from behind the wheel. The big coupe can tip the scales near 5,000 pounds, and you'll feel the weight at times. However, the CL-Class's V-8 has plenty of torque to move quickly and handle with surprising agility--thanks to the sophisticated Active Body Control (ABC) system, which controls ride height and suspension firmness and can adjust almost instantaneously for quick maneuvers. The steering, however, is light and doesn't communicate much from the road. Also thanks to ABC, ride comfort is among the smoothest and most settled of any vehicle.

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The CL600 and CL63 AMG have similar power ratings, though they have very different personalities behind the wheel. The 2008 Mercedes-Benz CL600 has immense torque, with a quiet, refined experience somewhat like the Bentley Continental, while the CL63 AMG is edgier and more raucous-sounding in everything from its ride to its sharper handling response. The especially exclusive CL65 AMG competes with exotic sportscars while not sacrificing the comforts and tech features offered in the other CL-Class models.

The interior design of the 2008 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class takes a minimalist approach--with an emphasis instead on rich materials like a mix of attractive wood trim and shiny bits on the dash, as well as suedelike Alcantara elsewhere and supple seat leather--and it avoids the potential clutter of buttons and switches by integrating the controls of many of the nonessential accessories into Mercedes-Benz's "Intuitive Operating Concept" screen-driven interface. Contrary to the name, some of the features can be hard to intuitively find in this system, although it's easier to navigate than BMW's iDrive. Inside, with or without the optional multicontour feature, the front seats are comfortable for even the longest drives, and the backseats are very roomy for a coupe, though entry and exit are difficult.

Along with the opulent, classy interior, there are plenty of modern luxury and convenience features standard on the CL. Standard equipment on the base 2008 Mercedes-Benz CL550 includes heated seats, a SmartKey system, a hands-free calling system, the Parktronic parking aid, a power rear sunshade, and a 600-watt audio system with memory card slot. Top features on the CL line include active ventilated, multicontour front seats with massage.

The 2008 Mercedes-Benz CL is stuffed with technology for power, safety, and traction. A trio of techno systems is designed to reduce the risk of a collision using forward-looking microwave radar. Brake Assist Plus will increase the level of pressure you apply to the brake pedal if it determines you're closing 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. 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. For parking, there are ultrasonic sensors as well as a backup camera with a highlighted display that shows what's in your path as you turn; the system also includes a blind-spot assist feature.

Also available on the 2008 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class is a night vision system that bathes the area ahead in infrared light to help spot obstacles in the coming road under some of the darkest conditions.

The 2008 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class has not been crash-tested by either of the U.S. programs. There are, of course, all the "normal" safety features, including side and head-protecting airbags, a knee bag, and conventional safety systems such as anti-lock brakes and the Electronic Stability Program.


2008 Mercedes-Benz CL Class


An understated exterior may be a disappointment to some, but the interior of the 2008 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class is sure to impress.

The sheetmetal that adorns the 2008 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class flows gracefully from hood to trunk, but not everyone who sees it appreciates the styling.

Edmunds writes that "the 2008 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class" comes in "four trim levels: CL550, CL600, CL63 AMG and CL65 AMG," though little varies externally between them. Among the differences on these large Mercedes-Benz 2008 coupes, the AMG versions come with "unique exterior enhancements" and "20-inch wheels," according to Edmunds.

Otherwise, they share a "sporty" appearance that is 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" and goes on to say that "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.'" Reviewers at ForbesAutos write that this 2008 Mercedes-Benz "looks shapely from some angles," but it also "appears a bit fussed-over from other angles," and overall, it simply "didn't provoke public swooning in the manner of the BMW M6 or Jaguar XKR." Kelley Blue Book calls it “neither showy nor obviously exotic.”

Inside the Mercedes-Benz 2008 CL-Class is a cabin that waits to welcome occupants into an environment of supreme luxury. 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." Kelley Blue Book also praises the interior of this 2008 Mercedes-Benz, as did most reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, for the luxury that "abounds door-to-door, floor-to-roof," and is enhanced by a "leather-trimmed aviation-style cockpit." ForbesAutos goes on to say that "nearly everything about the design" of the Mercedes-Benz 2008 CL-Class interior "announces that this is a genuine luxury article." ConsumerGuide mentions "most major controls are logically placed and easy to reach."

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2008 Mercedes-Benz CL Class


As long as you aren't racing through the Alps, the 2008 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class boasts all the performance you could desire.

The laws of physics tell us that large, heavy cars should suffer a performance penalty due to their heft, but the 2008 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class sets out to battle Newton with overwhelming power and a superb suspension.

The 2008 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class comes in four models, and each one offers a unique engine choice. Edmunds testers say "the 2008 Mercedes-Benz CL550 is powered by a 5.5-liter V8 (382 hp and 391 pound-feet of torque)," while the "CL600 features a twin-turbo V12 engine (510 hp and 612 lb-ft)." The high-end AMG siblings of these regular Mercedes-Benz 2008 CL-Class coupes boast either an "AMG-developed 6.3-liter normally aspirated V8 (518 hp and 465 lb-ft)" on the CL63 AMG or a "604-hp twin-turbo V12" on the CL65 AMG, according to Edmunds.

No matter which engine is fitted in the CL-Class, these 2008 Mercedes-Benz coupes are blazingly fast. In the CL550, Cars.com reviewers write 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." On the higher-output engines, 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. In the words of Car and Driver, the Mercedes-Benz 2008 CL-Class offers "mind-boggling acceleration."

The transmission options on the 2008 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class aren't actually all that optional. Each model comes with only one available transmission, which ConsumerGuide says in the CL63 AMG and CL550 is a "7-speed automatic transmission w/manual-shift," while the CL65 AMG and CL600 both get a "5-speed automatic transmission w/manual-shift." Both transmissions receive positive comments in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, with Kelley Blue Book describing the seven-speed automatic as "traveling seamlessly." Cars.com also approves, noting that "the shifts are almost imperceptible and the transmission willingly kicks down under hard acceleration." The five-speed automatic is equally good at handling what Car and Driver calls the "gargantuan forces" that "are at work in the transmission tunnel."

All the power to motivate the Mercedes-Benz 2008 CL-Class comes at a price, and not just the one you pay before you drive your 2008 Mercedes-Benz off the dealer lot. Fuel economy on the 2008 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class is marginal, though the CL550 does manage to crack the 20-mpg mark in highway driving. The full EPA fuel economy estimates are 14 mpg city, 21 mpg highway for the CL550, while the CL600 returns 11/17 mpg. On the AMG versions, the EPA rates the CL63 AMG at 11/18 mpg and the CL65 AMG at 11/17 mpg.

Aside from stunning engine performance, the 2008 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class also boasts impressive handling and ride quality. Cars.com reviewers find that "Mercedes' Active Body Control active suspension reduces body roll, acceleration squat and braking dive," all of which contribute greatly to performance and help "keep the CL550 fairly flat during cornering." ConsumerGuide adds that the 2008 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class is "reassuringly stable when cornering." However, the Mercedes-Benz CL-Class is not meant to be a sportscar, as Edmunds reviewers find that "When pressing hard on long, sweeping turns, the grip from the standard 18-inch tires runs out more quickly than you might expect," while "when you transition from one tight corner to the next, even its sophisticated suspension can't always make the CL feel graceful." Winning huge praise from reviewers are the brakes on the 2008 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."

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2008 Mercedes-Benz CL Class

Comfort & Quality

A luxurious and comfortable, though snug, interior and superlative materials and build quality put the 2008 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class among the world's best.

The 2008 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class is close to flawless in terms of quality and comfort, especially for those up front.

The 2008 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class coupe has space for four inside its luxurious cabin, but the interior isn't quite as vast as it appears from the outside. Up front, the "cabin is roomy, but there's not a lot of extra headroom" thanks in large part to the "low roofline," say the Cars.com reviewers. Laterally, however, ConsumerGuide writes that "space is generous on CL's broad, supportive seats," and "multiple standard power adjustments make it easy to find a comfortable driving position." Edmunds adds "the front seats are fantastically comfortable, with numerous adjustments as well as heating and, on upper trims, cooling and massage functions."

For rear occupants, reviews read by TheCarConnection.com indicate that space in this Mercedes-Benz 2008 coupe is at a bit more of a premium. ConsumerGuide says that it is "cramped for even average-size adults" and warns "entry and exit is tight despite power-forward front seats." On a positive note, Cars.com says that "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." One of the nice features about the front seats is that they "are smart enough not to crush the legs of tall rear passengers; if the front seats meet resistance when motoring back into place, they stop and move forward slightly," according to Cars.com.

Storage space inside the 2008 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class is adequate for most functions, though it certainly isn't built to haul cargo. ConsumerGuide testers find that "the trunk is not cavernous, but it has a useful shape and is luxuriously finished." Cars.com adds that "the coupe's trunk measures 12.9 cubic feet," but as is "typical of large cars, the backseat doesn't fold forward to extend the cargo area into the cabin." The true storage on the Mercedes-Benz 2008 CL-Class is inside the cabin, where ConsumerGuide says "interior storage includes deep door pockets, multi-chambered center console, and a large glovebox."

Materials and assembly quality on this 2008 Mercedes-Benz is top-notch and unanimously appreciated in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com. Edmunds reviewers rave about the "high-quality materials and superb fit and finish" that "quietly bespeak the fact that this is an expensive car." Car and Driver adds, "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." Even the typically conservative reviewers at ConsumerGuide write that the "assembly quality is flawless." The one negative is pointed out by ForbesAutos, which notes that "the only luxury letdown is the rear cup holders that spring from a center folding armrest; made of flimsy-looking plastic, they wouldn't seem out of place in an economy car."

Aside from looking great, one of the additional benefits of the high-quality construction on the Mercedes-Benz 2008 CL-Class is that it does an exceptional job of reducing outside noise during driving. ConsumerGuide writes that "V8 or V12, the engines produce classy, mechanical sounds during acceleration and are nearly silent while cruising." Car and Driver adds, "there's little noise from the drivetrain, tires, or wind passing by to alert you" to the speed at which you are driving, which they note can have the unfortunate consequence of "numerous traffic citations."

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2008 Mercedes-Benz CL Class


It may not have been crash-tested, but the results are in: The 2008 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class overflows with class-leading safety features.

The 2008 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class has not undergone any government or IIHS crash testing, thanks to the fact that it's "an ultra-low volume car," according to Cars.com; they add that it's "unlikely to be tested anytime soon." However, crash tests are only one part of the safety story, and in every other aspect, the 2008 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class is exceptional.

The 2008 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class doesn't want for features in any category, but in particular, its standard safety offerings are world-class. Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com are unanimously impressed with the safety elements that Mercedes-Benz designers have built into this 2008 Mercedes-Benz, such as PreSafe, which Edmunds says "will automatically position the front-passenger seat for optimum airbag use and close the windows and sunroof if rollover is imminent."

Cars.com adds, "the standard safety features list is long and includes 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." Among the optional safety features on the Mercedes-Benz 2008 CL-Class, the most noteworthy are probably Night View Assist, which ForbesAutos says "creates a black-and-white video image in the driver's instrument display" using "an infrared camera" to aid with nighttime visibility, and adaptive cruise control. Speaking of that cruise control, Kelley Blue Book describes it as "a programmable cruise control system with two onboard radar sensors" that automatically maintains the proper distance from cars ahead. Cars.com notes that the Mercedes-Benz 2008 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."

Driver's visibility in this big coupe is impressive despite the vehicle's size, thanks largely to the prodigious glass windows that surround occupants in the Mercedes-Benz 2008 CL-Class. For those who need a little assistance when it comes to visibility, Kelley Blue Book writes that this 2008 Mercedes-Benz coupe has an available "radar-controlled" feature called Park Assist that, as its name so aptly implies, helps point out obstacles when parking. The optional adaptive cruise control also "includes blind spot alert," according to ConsumerGuide.


2008 Mercedes-Benz CL Class


An almost intoxicating blend of high-tech, highly desirable, and exclusive features dominate the 2008 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class.

The Mercedes-Benz 2008 CL-Class excels in features, providing all the usual equipment and a rich dose of ultra-luxury.

One would expect any car with a six-figure starting price to be nicely equipped with standard features, but the 2008 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class runs miles ahead of those expectations. ForbesAutos says that the "list of standard features seems endless," including the "standard Harman Kardon audio system" that puts out "600 watts through 11 speakers" and features a dashboard slot that accepts "a PCMCIA card, a digital format that can hold up to 1,500 songs." Edmunds adds that all 2008 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class vehicles feature "a hard-drive-based navigation system," as well as "heated front seats, power sunroof, power door and trunk closers."

Also standard on all Mercedes-Benz 2008 CL-Class coupes is the "latest version of Benz's COMAND interface," which Car and Driver calls "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." Many of the computer-driven user interfaces in the automotive industry have drawn fire for their complex nature, most notably BMW's iDrive, but reviews read by TheCarConnection.com are impressed with the COMAND system's improvements. ConsumerGuide even says that, "with patience, COMAND becomes second nature for audio functions," although it "greatly complicates others."

The features story on this 2008 Mercedes-Benz coupe doesn't end with the standard amenities, as those who crave more than just what's included on every CL-Class have the ability to add a wide variety of options to their 2008 Mercedes-Benz. One feature that receives rave reviews is the "Drive-Dynamic Multicontour front seats" that Cars.com says "have enhanced features like upper and lower side bolster adjustment and a massage setting." ForbesAutos adds "an optional upgrade adds 'active ventilation' to dry perspiration and dampness in warm weather." For the CL-Class Mercedes-Benz, 2008 brings a few stand-alone options, which ConsumerGuide lists as an "iPod adapter" and "heated steering wheel."

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