Woah, $127,565. That’s Audi R8 money, my friends.
Not that anyone is really going to cross shop this big Merc with an R8. The CL epitomizes what makes Mercedes unique and instantly recognizable from behind the wheel. That includes the light yet precise steering, the comfortable yet controlled ride, and the relaxed throttle that serves up the 4.6-liter V-8’s stunning power and torque only when you really ask for it. In other words, a boulevard cruiser in the very best sense. It also lives up to the traditional Mercedes aesthetic — understated both inside and out and faultless in its quality and execution. For say, $80,000, it would be a fantastic alternative to all the self-consciously sporty luxury coupes on the market. But $127,565? Woah.
– David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
I told friends and family that I was driving a hundred-thousand-dollar Mercedes coupe. Turns out I was driving one that costs 27% more than that, actually, but unlike David Zenlea, this did not for one moment make me think, hey, for that money, I’d rather have an Audi R8. They are not remotely comparable cars. The CL550 is, as it has been for the past decade, a lovely grand touring machine. All-wheel drive is standard with this twin-turbo V-8 (other models are rear-wheel drive). Powertrain performance is pretty much unassailable, although when the car is cold, the transmission hiccups just a bit, but then it’s fine once it’s warmed up.
Despite the new powertrain, I can’t say that I’ve discerned a huge difference between this car and its predecessor. It’s still big and soft but ultimately responds when you need it to. The CL has always been the sort of car that just goes; lots of torque, lots of power, lots of smoothness. That hasn’t changed.
The car phone interface is brilliant; the way you access your address book is great. Huge trunk, and actual room for adults in the back seats, at least to drive to dinner or something. Love the lack of a B-pillar in the side glass, which helps make the CL a very good-looking car.
– Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
Like Joe’s experience, I had a cold morning with the CL550 that started a bit rough. Because I had every body-part-warmer in the system dialed to maximum, I luxuriated while the transmission stumbled for the first mile. Then we were all in synch-me in a car that cost two and half times more than my first house, the car rolling across the land like a private jet on four wheels. God, I wished I lived like this every single day.
– Jean Jennings
Yes, this amount of money buys plenty of attractive sheetmetal, but I’m always amazed at how hard I fall for the big Benz sedans and coupes. The CL, like its S-class sibling, is an utterly impeccable machine. The entire car exudes a substantial feel unrivaled by any other automobile; it’s as if the Bavarians somehow managed to carve a luxury coupe from a 4000-pound chunk of platinum and bless it with a leather-lined interior that is nothing short of opulent. Mercedes may have given the CL550 a new nose, new engine, and a tweaked tail for 2011, but I’m glad that this basic recipe and experience was left unchanged.
I’m a little surprised more of us didn’t jump at the chance to slide behind the CL’s wheel when we were hit with a massive Midwestern snow storm. The heated seats and steering wheel are certainly nice for such occasions, but unlike its four-door cousin, the entry-level CL model comes with 4Matic all-wheel-drive system as standard equipment. I’ve raved about this system in the past, and it’s just as good as ever. Even with low-profile all-season rubber, the CL550 clawed its way through 3-4 inches of snow and iced-over roads with nary a problem. Add proper snow tires, and this becomes the ultimate winter luxury sled.
– Evan McCausland, Web Producer
I just returned from driving multiple Mercedes-Benz 4Matic vehicles in the Alps. Among the various all-wheel-drive models was a CL550 similar to the car I drove here in Michigan. Of the four different CL powertrains, only this twin-turbo V-8 comes with all-wheel-drive. Mercedes’ 4Matic is particularly sophisticated; it uses a fixed 45/55 percent torque split with open differentials at each axle, relying on electronic intervention and manipulation of the brakes to move the vehicle forward when a wheel starts slipping. In Austria, we tackled a man-made 20 percent grade that had quickly turned into a sheet of ice as we repeatedly stopped, spun wheels, and accelerated in the same spot. While it occasionally took several seconds of the engine and brakes interacting, the cars consistently moved forward up the grade. As someone who sometimes drives hard, I also appreciate Mercedes’ use of a fixed torque split rather than a less predictable variable system. While it may not be ideal for some low traction systems, I’d rather drive this than a system that relies on electronics to apportion torque.
– Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
Even with all-season tires, this car is great in the snow. I had it the day after our first winter snowstorm, when the roads were snow- and ice-covered, and I never felt even he slightest hint of a loss of traction. Of course, it helps that this thing weighs 4600 pounds, but the 4Matic system worked just as advertised. That, combined with the ultra-opulent interior and the heated seats almost made me forget that the temperature outside was in the single digits.
– Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic
Base price (with destination): $114,025
Price as tested: $127,565
4.6-liter twin-turbocharged V-8 engine
7-speed automatic transmission
4Matic all-wheel drive
Airmatic air suspension
4-wheel disc brakes with ABS
Electronic stability control
Predictive protection system
Tire-pressure monitoring system
Comand 40GB hard drive GPS navigation
11-speaker Harman/kardon Logc7 surround sound
HD digital radio with in-dash 6-disc DVD/CD changer
Sirius satellite radio
Power tilt/sliding sunroof
Power rear window shade
Bi-Xenon headlamps with active curve illumination
Electronic trunk closer
Parktronic with parking guidance
Premium wood/leather steering wheel
Options on this vehicle:
Sport package — $5900
19-inch AMG wheels
Sport body styling
Front and rear bumpers, side skirts
Premium package — $3490
Drive-dynamic mulit-contour front seats with massage
Night view assist with pedestrian detection
Driver assistance package — $2950
Adaptive cruise control
Active blind-spot assist and active lane-keeping assist
Splitview front-seat entertainment system– $710
Heated steering wheel — $490
Key options not on vehicle:
Sport package plus one — $6650
20-inch AMG wheels
Fuel economy: 15/23/18 mpg (city/hwy/combined)
Size: 4.6L twin-turbocharged V-8
Horsepower: 429 hp @ 5250 rpm
Torque: 516 lb-ft @ 3500 rpm
Transmission: 7-speed automatic
Curb weight: 4650 lb
Wheels/tires: 19-inch AMG wheels; 255/40R19 Continental ContiSportContact performance tires