We all know that the Mercedes-Benz CL is a fabulous ride with stunning design and the ability to sprint to 60 mph in less than 5 seconds (and that’s the “base” CL550). But what I got to enjoy about the CL this time around is its excellent all-weather capability. Even on all-season tires, the all-wheel-drive CL550 easily tackled Ann Arbor’s first real snowstorm of the season. You’ve actually got to be careful because the car insulates you so well from what’s going on outside and on the road surface that it’s easy to find yourself going faster than you should be on slippery surfaces. The heated steering wheel and seats and excellent defrosters made my snowy late-night drive home that much nicer. With winter tires on a CLS550, the only limiting factor in winter would be ground clearance.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
In the world of big, luxurious GT cars, the Mercedes-Benz CL is perfect. The cabin is so incredibly well insulated from the outside world, the twin-turbo V-8 is ideally paired with a seven-speed automatic, and a seamless AWD system effortlessly puts that power to the ground in all weather conditions.
Few cars feel as solid as a big Mercedes does. It’s incredible that, even as a hardtop without B-pillars, the car can feel so much like a cocoon of safety. There’s a tactile reward when you touch any interior surfaces and everything looks elegant without being stuffy. The COMAND system isn’t quite as modern and useful as Audi’s latest MMI system, but Audi doesn’t offer any a car that competes with the CL.
I cannot think of a better car for a two-up road trip than a CL. It certainly works well as a daily driver, but you’re much better off heading away from the city and finding a good road where you can open this coupe up a bit and enjoy the speed and comfort it offers.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor
Actually Rusty, ground clearance isn’t necessarily an issue either as the CL550s body can be raised and lowered at the touch of a button. I had the occasion to use this feature when parking spaces became scarce at an event I attended and a grassy incline bordering the driveway became my only option. I watched as people reversed their SUVs, crossovers, and more pedestrian sedans up the not-insignificant grade and wondered how the low-slung CL would fair. With power going to all four wheels, I knew traction wouldn’t be an issue on the damp grass, but was worried that the fairly steep angle combined with the shallow ditch along the road could be enough to cause the CL to scrape the underside of its low-slung nose. I contemplated my situation for a moment and then noticed a button on the upper dash to the left of the infotainment display, picturing a vehicle in profile with an up arrow on it. I pushed it and the CL550’s body raised up, allowing me to clear the cement with ease. The system can only be activated at low speeds but it’s definitely handy and is the type of feature that most people won’t know they need, until they need it.
Jennifer Misaros, Managing Editor, Digital Platforms
I had the opportunity to drive the CL over the Thanksgiving weekend, during which I drove to Grand Rapids and back, about a 280-mile trip. There are few cars on the market that are as well suited to highway driving as the CL. The 429-hp twin-turbo V-8 and seven-speed automatic combine to put the power to the road swiftly, smoothly, and with no drama. The slightest amount of pressure on the accelerator gives you plenty of additional power for passing, and cruising at 80 mph is effortless. The cabin is luxurious in the way that only Mercedes cabins are: nicely bolstered seats, rich leather, glossy wood, and well-crafted dials and gauges.
As might be expected from a turbocharged V-8, mileage isn’t anything to write home about, but 24 highway mpg and a 22-gallon fuel tank mean an effective range of about 500 miles on the freeway. Driving six hours plus at a stretch isn’t most people’s idea of a good time, but if there’s any car in which you’d be comfortable doing it, the CL is it.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
Oh, how nice it was to leave the office at 10 o’clock last night and find a Mercedes-Benz CL550 waiting for me in the parking garage. For some reason I thought I had been handed the keys to a Mercedes-Benz E-Class coupe, and while that’s a pretty nice car in its own right, the CL550 is in another league altogether. We just got our first snow of the season, and I initially thought to myself, I hope the roads aren’t slippery, but then I remembered that Mercedes-Benz made 4Matic all-wheel drive standard equipment on the CL several years ago. I’ve always liked the CL: the size, the presence, the comfort, and the relaxed performance are right up my alley. Is it heavy? Yes. Is it thirsty? Yes, although this twin-turbo V-8 is reasonably efficient. On this 27-degree morning, the heated seats and the heated steering wheel were most welcome.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
Complaints? About a $128,515 Mercedes-Benz coupe? Hard to come by. But not totally absent, either. Despite the confident powertrain, the leather-lined vault of a cabin, and the unrelenting poise, I just can’t get past the price of this CL550. An all-wheel-drive BMW 650i starts at nearly $30,000 less with a similar air of quality, luxury, and performance.
At the same time, I could make a solid argument as to why Mercedes-Benz can realistically pitch this car as an alterative to a $170,000 Bentley Continental GT. The CL drives with all the refinement and capability of a winged B coupe and only looks like less of a car if you’re a sucker for ultra-high-end materials and finishes in the cabin. So depending on how you look at it, the Mercedes-Benz CL550 is either a great value or an overpriced luxury. But I’d say the CL550 is worth every penny of its price.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
2012 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic
MSRP (with destination): $114,975
PRICE AS TESTED: $128,515
4.6-liter twin-turbocharged V-8
Horsepower: 429 hp @ 5250 rpm
Torque: 516 lb-ft @ 1800 rpm
WHEELS AND TIRES:
19-inch aluminum wheels
255/40VR-19 Continental ContiProContact tires
FUEL ECONOMY (city/highway/combined):
Cargo: 13.5 cu ft
Legroom (front/rear): 42.2/32.2 in
Headroom (front/rear): 36.9/36.4 in
Magnetite Black/Sahara Beige
Air suspension w/active damping
Antidive and antisquat rear suspension systems
18-inch aluminum wheels
COMAND w/hard-drive navigation
Harman/Kardon surround sound system w/in-dash DVD/CD changer and SD card reader
Bi-Xenon headlights w/active curve illumination
Keyless entry and ignition
Electronic trunk closer
Power heated and ventilated front seats
Mbrace in-vehicle services
Tire pressure monitoring system
OPTIONS ON THIS VEHICLE:
Sport package- $5900
19-inch AMG wheels w/all-season tires
Sport body styling
Premium package- $3490
Multicontour front seats w/massage
Night View Assist w/pedestrian detection
Driver Assistance package- $2950
Adaptive cruise control
Active blind spot assist
Active lane keeping assist
Splitview screen- $710
Heated steering wheel- $490
KEY OPTIONS NOT ON THIS VEHICLE:
Sport package plus one- $6650
20-inch AMG wheels w/high-performance tires
Sport body styling
Mercedes-Benz says this coupe can go from zero to 60 mph in an estimated 4.8 seconds.