By KBB.com Editors - Updated Date: 10/24/2011
Perhaps perfection has its limits, but Mercedes-Benz believes differently and proves it with the latest iteration of its flagship four-seat coupe, the 2011 CL550. Along with the appeal that comes with driving this $100,00-plus automobile is the acknowledgement that its fluid, flowing lines are accompanied by superb V8 performance and one of the most dazzling arrays of hi-tech equipment ever packed into a single vehicle. The successful entrepreneur's dream car, the CL-Class is neither showy nor obviously exotic. It demonstrates an arrival at the serious end of capitalism, and offers the visionary leader who likes to call all the shots a COMAND brain that, with a button on the console to press or rotate, can set a myriad of personal function preferences, including suspension settings. Other Mercedes-Benz CL models include the V12 CL600, the V8 CL63 AMG and the V12 CL65 AMG. The engines of all CL-Class models have twin turbos and produce prodigious power.
If you're looking for the size, safety and status of an S-Class, but prefer the intimacy only a true coupe can provide, the 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class tops a very short contenders' list.
If you're not much of a reader, the 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class 700-page owner's manual offers a daunting prospect. The Cockpit Management and Data System (COMAND), which controls navigation, audio, telephone, seat massage, suspension and other crucial settings, requires studying no less than 240-plus pages to decipher the different functions.
Key updates for the Mercedes-Benz 2011 CL-Class include refreshed exterior styling, the addition of Active Blind Spot Assist and Active Lane Keeping Assist systems and two brand-new V8 engine choices that deliver more power along with improved efficiency. Also, new is an economy enhancing stop/start feature on the CL63 that automatically shuts off the engine when the vehicle is stopped.
Standard driving practices are not necessarily applicable to the 2010 Mercedes-Benz CL550. By allowing the driver to pre-set dozens of preferences, the COMAND system can tailor the car to an individual driving style and preferred comfort level. The result is one of the best combinations of ride and handling we've ever experienced. Even at high speeds the car glides as smoothly as a Venetian gondola, the transmission traveling seamlessly through its seven gears. The active body control suspension is especially effective, hydraulically adjusting all four wheels depending upon driving situations. You can also electronically set following distance and lane changing, but the system is not infallible and may not detect vehicles not in its sightline.
When driving around curves and corners, the seat side bolsters automatically inflate to steady the body from hip to armpit; the twistier the road, the more insistent the air pressure.
Complex until thoroughly understood, it is the brains behind the CL550's entertainment, GPS, radio, communications and component settings systems. Via the controller "mouse," menus are displayed on an 8-inch pivoting screen.
In the 2010 Mercedes-Benz CL550, luxury abounds door-to-door, floor-to-roof, from the high-gloss wood trim to the small silver dashboard clock elegant enough to wear as a dress watch. The leather-trimmed aviation-style cockpit is divided by a wide center console that holds the COMAND controller. The monitor for GPS, satellite radio, emergency calls and other functions crowns the instrument area and also displays Park, Neutral, Reverse and Drive after you've shifted the small, delicate shift lever. The rear seats are full-sized, but legroom might be snug if the front occupants require anything more than average legroom.
Mercedes-Benz is to be congratulated for the restraint shown in styling its flagship 2011 CL-Class. The roofline sweeps smoothly from windshield to rear window without the interruption of a B-pillar. The two heavy doors open exceptionally wide, and Mercedes-Benz has figured out a clever electronic assistance for smaller persons, who may have difficulty in reaching out to close those big doors. Blockier headlights and a ridged hood design add a bit more aggression than in years past to an otherwise graceful and understated full-size coupe.
In addition to the long list of standard equipment one expects in a premium luxury car, the 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 stands out for its 4MATIC all-wheel drive(AWD) and improved COMAND system. Performance and handling features include an adaptive gearshift, programmable suspension, Parktronic, Keyless Go, adaptive high-beam assist, an electronic trunk closer, heated and ventilated front seats, an electronic stability control system and steering wheel shift paddles. Among the nine airbags are full-length side-curtain bags for head-protection for both front and rear occupants.
Among the safety features of the 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class are Brake Assist Plus, which warns of imminent rear collisions, and Active Lane Keeping Assist, a system that vibrates the steering wheel warning the driver if the car drifts out of its lane. In extreme situations the Active Lane Keeping Assist system can use differential braking to actively pull the vehicle back into its lane. Other helpful options include a night vision system and DISTRONIC PLUS, a programmable cruise control system with two onboard radar sensors to detect slower-moving vehicles ahead, as well as vehicles hidden in the driver's blind spot. Among packaged options are the Sport and Sport Package Plus One packages that include front and rear sport bumpers, side skirts and AMG-style wheels.
Under the 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550's hood dwells a demon of an engine, yet the 4.7-liter V8 is extremely quiet as it purrs out 429 horsepower. Zero-to-60 mph is achieved in 4.8 seconds. Moving up to more powerful CL600, CL63 AMG or CL65 AMG helps shave a few tenths off the zero-to-60 run and increases top speed, maxing out at a lofty 186 miles per hour in the case of the CL65 AMG. The CL range comes equipped exclusively with an automatic transmission; V8-equipped models featuring a 7-speed gearbox that enhances the coupe's ability to maximize fuel economy and performance, while V12 variants make do with a 5-speed. Buyers of the CL63 AMG might consider the AMG Performance Package, which boots engine output from 536 to 563 horsepower, increases torque by 74 lb-ft and increases top speed from 155 to 186 miles per hour.
4.7-liter V8 twin-turbocharged
429 horsepower @ 5,250 rpm
516 lb-ft torque @ 1,800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 15/23
5.5-liter V8 twin-turbocharged
536 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm
590 lb-ft of torque @ 2,000-4,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 15/21
5.5-liter V12 twin-turbocharged
510 horsepower @ 5,000 rpm
612 lb-ft of torque @ 1,800-3,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 12/18
6.0-liter V12 twin-turbocharged
621 horsepower @ 4,800 rpm
738 lb-ft of torque @2,300-4,300 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 12/18
The 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550's Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starts at around $114,000, which is about $30,000 more than that of the Jaguar XK. The CL63 AMG starts around $152,000, the CL600 near $160,500 and the awesome CL65 AMG in the neighborhood of $213,000. Fair Purchase Prices, which represent prices consumers are actually paying in your area, can differ substantially, so be sure to take a look at them before you head to a dealership to compare. In terms of resale value, the CL550 holds up about as well as its less-expensive rival, the BMW 650i, and slightly better than the Jaguar XK.