The CL reminds me of a killer whale, and not just because its air suspension sometimes emits a certain "pfft" that sounds like a blowhole. Rather, it's the way the CL glides effortlessly glide down the road, feeling every bit like the 4600-pound luxo-barge that it is, only to then accelerate like a muscle car or grip through a corner like a sport sedan. And this is the base model.
There's been a lot of hand wringing in the press lately about the direction Mercedes is headed with its higher volume, lower-priced CLA and upcoming GLA crossover. I say the brand is just fine if it can continue to build cars like this.
David Zenlea, Associate Editor
It's cars like this, the all-important S-Class sedan and its meaningless CL-Class coupe, that make it possible for Mercedes to sell the CLA and GLA at premium prices. The CL-class is downright anachronistic, though, reminding me of a modern-day Cadillac Coupe de Ville more than anything else. It has good road manners in corners thanks to adjustable dampers and wide, 20-inch diameter tires, but mostly it's all about reclining the massaging heated/cooled driver's seat back a few degrees and rolling down the freeway at extra-legal speeds. Massive brakes will bring you back down to safe double-digits when you spot that Fife and the biturbo V-8 will get you back up to speed as soon as you wish. The car looks fabulous in its Designo trim package -- when Mercedes launched Designo in the late '90s, some of the first SLKs with it were a bit too much. My wife enjoys spending the first 15 minutes of the drive adjusting the front passenger seat's lumbar support and massage features, and yes, she likes the dynamic bolsters that support your right knee and thigh in left-hand corners and your left knee and thigh in right-hand corners.
This particular CL550 is a lame duck. The new S-class sedan is just coming out, and within a year, Mercedes will complement it with the S-class coupe, which helps ensure that it will beat the BMW 7 Series and Audi A8 in the sales charts. Not by much, though -- big luxury two-door coupes always have very low volume sales. If I were a raconteur who operated slightly outside the law, I could see myself "retiring" to Buenos Aires with a straw fedora, two-tone shoes, and this car.
Todd Lassa, Executive Editor