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2006 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class reviews

May 3, 2006 01:00 PM EST | Coupes , Luxury Brands , Mercedes-Benz | Email to Friend | Comments (0)

View large imageOne of the finest coupes on the road today, the CL is an artful blend of performance, technology and classic luxury that rarely fails to impress.

Pros
Superbly refined in every respect, dizzying array of high-tech features, classic styling, impressive performance.

Cons
Complex navigation and audio systems, cramped rear seat.

What's New for 2006
The AMG Sport package, with AMG-designed bumpers, side sills and 18-inch alloy wheels, is now standard. The CL600 loses its integrated cell phone but picks up some former options as standard equipment, among these Keyless Go, an electronic trunk closer and a heated steering wheel.

Introduction:
Based on the flagship S-Class sedan, the CL-Class' naming might confuse some folks into thinking it shares components with the C-Class or CLK-Class. Well, it doesn't. Regardless of its quirky nomenclature, this stylish and swoopy version of the company's top-of-the-line coupe debuted in 2000, replacing the more squarish and upright 1993 to 1999 version. The CL500 is the standard eight-cylinder model, while the CL600 adds a formidable 12-cylinder power plant. Both deliver exceptional performance that makes them exhilarating to drive, yet their capabilities are never intrusive when they're not wanted, as the CL is a calm and quiet cruiser. An active suspension system, called Active Body Control (ABC), helps these big coupes handle like much smaller sports cars. The system helps to minimize or eliminate unsettling movements, such as body roll while cornering and squat and dive under acceleration and braking. Another high-tech feature is the Pre-Safe system, which can anticipate an imminent accident, and automatically tighten the seatbelts and position the power seats to afford the best protection for the occupants. Beautiful to look at, ride in and drive, the CL has the grand touring coupe segment virtually all to itself, with only BMW's 6 Series coming close in terms of offering all-out supercar levels of performance along with seating for four adults.

Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options:
The CL is a two-door coupe available in two trim levels: CL500 and CL600. Both feature nearly all the luxury amenities you would expect in a flagship coupe including high-intensity discharge headlamps, a DVD-based navigation system, dual-zone automatic climate control, an eight-speaker Bose sound system, 14-way power-adjustable seats and generous amounts of leather and wood trim. Options include ventilated seats with built-in fans to keep one's backside cool on sultry days and a power lumbar support that also inflates and deflates twice a minute, providing a slow massage to keep fatigue at bay on a long trip. Also available is adaptive cruise control, parking sensors and special designo packages for a more customized interior look.

Powertrains and Performance:
The CL500 is powered by a 5.0-liter V8 rated for 302 horsepower and 339 pound-feet of torque that delivers power through a seven-speed automatic transmission. Not to be outdone, the CL600 has a 5.5-liter V12 fed by twin turbochargers that produces an astounding 493 hp and 590 lb-ft or torque. Mercedes claims that these staggering numbers allow the CL600 to accelerate to 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds. A five-speed automatic is standard on the CL600.

Safety:
Standard safety equipment includes four-wheel antilock disc brakes; electronic traction and stability control; seat- and headliner-mounted side airbags; and emergency braking assist. Seatbelt pre-tensioners and belt-force limiters are used at all four passenger positions.

Interior Design and Special Features:
Virtually every luxury and convenience item, including a navigation system and power door-closing assist, is standard on every CL. Specific wood trim is fitted as well, with dark interiors having burled walnut, while lighter cabins are graced with chestnut timber. Most of the controls come straight from the S-Class, but the quality of materials is even better in the CL, with a leather-trimmed dash, less plastic and even more beautiful wood highlights. Particularly impressive are the CL's unique stainless steel doorsills and outer-edge door trim.

Driving Impressions:
Step on the throttle, and the Mercedes gathers itself up on a wave of torque, seemingly accelerating just as fast from 30 to 90 as it does from zero to 60. No matter which model you drive, the power delivery is the same, seamless and unflustered, the only variable being the rapidity of acceleration. In spite of a curb weight of over 2 tons, the CL handles the curves like a much smaller, lighter car, a sensation brought about chiefly by the Active Body Control (ABC) system that quells body roll as well as squat and dive while the car is being driven aggressively. In normal driving, the suspension soaks up the bumps as well as any luxury car, but when you're ready to make time on a twisty road, the CL tightens up, rising to the challenge.

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