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Car reviews - Mercedes-Benz - CL-class - 2-dr coupe range

Our Opinion

We like
Remarkable fuel efficiency for the V8s, especially the AMG version, strong engine performance once going, quick shifting transmission, high class interior, several interior options
Room for improvement
AMG V8 doesn’t sound as good as the 6.2, can lose composure over the odd bump, some controls hard to use, daytime LEDs look like an after-thought

Mercedes-Benz logo26 Nov 2010

By JAMES STANFORD

THE latest generation of Mercedes-Benz V8s are perfectly suited to the cosseting CL coupes, delivering great performance without dramatic fuel consumption.

Whether the new AMG 5.5-litre engine making its debut on the of the confusingly named CL63 will thrill buyers of more youthful AMG models is not yet clear.

The potential problem is that the big-bore thunder of the previous 6.2-litre naturally aspirated V8 has gone missing in action. That really comes as no surprise, given the new smarter and smaller V8 relies on two turbos for assistance.

The new V8, however, sounds great on gear changes, issuing a kind of powerful ‘thrump’ up through the gears and blipping the throttle on the downshift.

Of course, the cruisy CL63 AMG is going to be more quietly tuned than other AMG models, including the C63, but it is a substantially different sound to that of the sledgehammer 6.2.

It also misses out on the incredibly brutal low-down acceleration punch of the 6.2, but nevertheless builds power hard and fast all the way to 6500rpm.

This remarkably smooth engine has a phenomenal torque spread. Need to overtake? No worries, just ease the accelerator down and it fires forward.

Pull up to the lights and all the excitement stops as the engine switches off to save fuel, quickly firing up again to zoom off the line before other road users get frustrated.

It is all pretty easy to live with, but Mercedes understands that not everyone will like this system, adding an off switch.

The wet clutch automatic is a treat, with quick shifts via the paddles in manual mode. That’s if you can be bothered slipping it out of automatic mode which works so well that gear changes are hardly noticeable. Of course, it helps that so much torque is on tap.

The CL63’s 20-inch rims don’t spoil the ride, while the Active Body Control suspension continually alters the damping rates to keeps the ride remarkably flat.

The CL500’s 4.7-litre engine is not as much of a thrill as the larger 5.5-litre V8 in the CL63, but it still a sweet unit, revving smoothly with more than adequate performance for this bulky car.

Tested over a harsh section of road, the CL500’s suspension was well composed with a surprising amount of vertical travel without a lot of body movement.

The CL500 was upset by the bumpiest section of the road loop, and there the body gave a little wobble on occasion, along with some rattle through the steering wheel. Apart from that, the cruising comfort was exemplary.

We didn’t get a chance to test the blind spot technology that actively stops the car from turning into a car. As you can imagine, this is not something that you want to try and find that maybe it doesn’t work out so well.

Testing the feature that corrects the car when it starts to drift out the lane was also not possible, partly because we drove the vehicles in a monsoonal downpour in Melbourne’s west.

With water sitting on the road, it was deemed unwise to try a system that applies the brakes on one side of the car to pull the car back into line.

The exterior design might have been refreshed, but it doesn’t look too different. That’s not really a criticism because the refined elegance with a hint of muscle seems to work quite well.

The daytime running lights don’t add much, appearing to have been fitted simply because everyone else has them.

The CL interior is beautiful in a crisp Germanic way. The woodgrain and leather is well matched, and the surfaces and screen resolution are all top-notch, as you would expect at this end of the market.

It dies, however, fall short of the Jaguar XJ interior, which is in our opinion the best on the market, but it is in keeping with the Mercedes style.

One thing Mercedes needs to take into account is the complicated nature of the controls.

This is a minor issue, but a series of controls take some time to get used to, including the gear shift, cruise control-speed limiter stalk and range of other tricky levers and buttons.

The radio was blaring in one car we hopped into, and we instinctively looked for a knob to turn down the volume. It took some time to discover the only volume control is on the steering wheel.

Of course, familiarity will help, but these things should be intuitive. Interestingly, Mercedes admits that the CL is bought by its oldest customers, which in Mercedes terms means old, so we can’t help but think it should be a little easier.

Still, the CL is a well made vehicle that cossets its customers with a luxurious interior and generally comfortable ride.

The new engines mean the big coupe can build up quite a pace with little effort. Both engines are impressive engines, as is the fuel economy. If only the AMG V8 was not so quiet.

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