2009 Mercedes-Benz CL Class Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Trevor Wild Trevor Wild Author
June 20, 2009

The 2009 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class doesn't skimp on traditional luxury, and it's the flagship model for technology features in the Mercedes-Benz line.

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.

If you want a coupe with high performance, luxury, elegance, and some of the world's top technology, the 2009 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class is all that. The German auto manufacturer introduces 4Matic all-wheel drive for its 2009 CL550 model.

Because of the negligible gas mileage trade-offs and the year-round traction and stability benefits (on both wet and dry roads) all-wheel drive provides, the systems are becoming increasingly popular. The 2009 CL550 4Matic is identifiable by its 18-inch wheels from the outside, while the inside comes standard with new equipment, including heated and ventilated front seats and the Keyless-Go system.

The CL550 is pushed by a 5.5-liter V-8, making 388 horsepower, 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 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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In addition to the new CL550 are three other coupes. The 2009 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 CL600 and CL63 AMG have similar power ratings, though they have very different personalities behind the wheel. The 2009 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 sports cars without sacrificing the comforts and tech features offered in the other CL-Class models.

The CL series 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 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. The interior design of the 2009 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.

The 2009 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class has not been crash-tested, but there's a trio of techno systems 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. Blind Spot Assist, which monitors both blind spots and warns the driver whenever a turn signal is activated, is now part of the optional Distronic Plus system. 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.

Standard equipment on the base 2009 Mercedes-Benz CL550 includes 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 multicontour front seats with massage. All 2009 CL models receive the Hold convenience braking feature, as well as new gear shift paddles on the steering wheel and push-pull power window switches as standard equipment.

Also available on the 2009 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.

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2009 Mercedes-Benz CL Class

Styling

The sheetmetal that adorns the 2009 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class flows gracefully from hood to trunk, but not everyone will appreciate the somewhat overwrought look.

An understated exterior may be a disappointment to some, but the interior of the 2009 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class is sure to impress.

According to Edmunds, minimal external differences separate the different CL models other than the AMG versions that come with "unique exterior enhancements" and "20-inch wheels.” Otherwise, they share a "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" 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 comment that this 2009 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.”

Kelley Blue Book praises the interior of this 2009 Mercedes-Benz, as do 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 2009 CL-Class interior "announces that this is a genuine luxury article." ConsumerGuide mentions "most major controls are logically placed and easy to reach." 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."

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2009 Mercedes-Benz CL Class

Performance

Despite its hefty weight, the 2009 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class is superbly responsive.

As long as you’re not racing through the Alps, the 2009 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class boasts all the performance you desire. Because of the negligible gas mileage trade-offs and the year-round traction and stability benefits, on both wet and dry roads, the 2009 all-wheel-drive CL550 4Matic should prove to be a popular vehicle.

According to Edmunds, the high-end AMG Mercedes-Benz 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. 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 2009 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),” says Edmunds. In the CL550, Cars.com reviewers states 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 Mercedes-Benz 2009 CL-Class offers "mind-boggling acceleration." And no matter which engine is fitted in the CL-Class, these 2009 Mercedes-Benz coupes are blazingly fast.

There are two transmissions available on 2009 CL-Class models: one transmission for two models and another for the other two. According to ConsumerGuide, the CL65 AMG and CL600 both get a "5-speed automatic transmission w/manual-shift,” and in the CL63 AMG and CL550 is a "7-speed automatic transmission w/manual-shift." Kelley Blue Book describes 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."

Winning huge praise from reviewers are the brakes on the 2009 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." 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 2009 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class is "reassuringly stable when cornering." However, the Mercedes-Benz CL-Class is not meant to be a sports car, as Edmunds reviewers observe: "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."

Fuel economy on the 2009 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 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.

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2009 Mercedes-Benz CL Class

Comfort & Quality

The 2009 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class is close to flawless in quality and comfort—provided you don't use the backseats.

A luxurious and comfortable, though snug, interior and superlative materials and build quality place the 2009 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class among the world's best.

Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com unanimously appreciate the top-notch materials and assembly quality on the 2009 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class models. Even the typically conservative reviewers at ConsumerGuide declare the "assembly quality is flawless." 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." 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."

Say the Cars.com reviewers, inside the "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."

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," says Cars.com, adding, "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." Most reviews read by TheCarConnection.com indicate that rear space in this Mercedes-Benz 2009 coupe is at a bit more of a premium. ConsumerGuide says it is "cramped for even average-size adults" and warns "entry and exit is tight despite power-forward front seats."

The true storage on the Mercedes-Benz 2009 CL-Class is inside the cabin, where ConsumerGuide says "interior storage includes deep door pockets, multi-chambered center console, and a large glovebox." However, ConsumerGuide testers find "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." Storage space inside the 2009 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class is adequate for most functions, though it certainly isn't built to haul cargo.

The high-quality construction of the 2009 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class does an exceptional job of reducing outside noise during driving. Car and Driver says "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." ConsumerGuide reports that "V8 or V12, the engines produce classy, mechanical sounds during acceleration and are nearly silent while cruising."

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2009 Mercedes-Benz CL Class

Safety

The 2009 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class is packed with high-tech safety features that point to exceptional protection, even though the CL hasn't been crash-tested.

Because the 2009 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class is "an ultra-low volume car," it hasn’t been subjected to government or IIHS crash-testing, says Cars.com. However, the results are in and the 2009 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class overflows with class-leading safety features. In fact, 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 2009 Mercedes-Benz, such as Pre-Safe, 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 2009 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 2009 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."

Thanks to the prodigious glass windows that surround occupants in the Mercedes-Benz 2009 CL-Class, driver’s visibility is excellent. But even great vision can use some technological parking assistance. Kelley Blue Book states that this 2009 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.

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2009 Mercedes-Benz CL Class

Features

The 2009 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class provides every feature you'd want, plus a rich dose of ultra-luxury.

An almost intoxicating blend of high-tech, highly desirable, and exclusive features dominate the 2009 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class. The features story on this 2009 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 2009 Mercedes-Benz.

Edmunds says that all 2009 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." ForbesAutos gushes 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." One would expect any car with a six-figure starting price to be nicely equipped with standard features, but the 2009 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class runs miles ahead of those expectations.

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 "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."

One option 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, 2009 brings a few stand-alone options, which ConsumerGuide lists as an "iPod adapter" and "heated steering wheel."

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