2007 Mercedes Benz CL550
Road Test Review
The 2007 Mercedes Benz CL550 is one car I will never tire of. Heck, it would take me weeks just to explore all its unique features. There is no car that ever graced my driveway that has turned more heads, garnered more envious stares, or made me want to sell my house to afford one, than the 2007 Mercedes Benz CL550.
The styling of the CL550 is in a class by itself. The pillarless hardtop design was commonplace in American cars of the 50s and 60s, but except for convertibles, there is not a car on the road other than the CL that offers it today. Why? These days, people expect a solid car with no creaks, rattles or wind noise. The car must pass insanely violent crash testing and be able to protect the occupants from serious injury. That is a tough order on a pillarless hardtop. To do it right (and Mercedes always does safety right) stronger materials must be used to enhance the basic structure along with added bracing to compensate for the elimination of the B pillar (the post usually found between the front and rear side glass). This hidden structural support adds weight and can be difficult to engineer so that it doesn't spoil the vehicle's looks.
Mercedes has been a styling leader for as long as I can remember. I can't think of a time when a new Benz was even remotely a copy of anything else. While you often see other cars imitate Mercedes styling, vehicles that bear the three pointed star are usually fresh and fire the imagination.
I take that back. Mercedes flirted with tailfins in 1962 right about the time when Americans were losing their taste for them, but hey, anyone can have a misstep once in a while. I'm sure that you, my faithful reader, will have your own opinion of Mercedes styling as well.
Mercedes Benz engineering has also been on the cutting edge for... well, the beginning of automotive time itself. That's right, the people who started the company that is now Mercedes Benz, Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz, invented the internal combustion powered automobile in 1886. The company has been coming up with automotive firsts ever since.
Basically a two door version of theMercedes S Class sedan, the 2007 CL550 is an engineering tour-de-force. There is more fascinating technology crammed into this sleek missile than most any car on the road. All this styling and technology is so finely crafted into a single package that many car enthusiasts salivate when they see one.
Behind the wheel, you will feel like royalty sitting on your throne. Beautifully crafted leather and wood is everywhere. The dash panel and the tops of the door panels are real stitched leather as is the console sides. These areas on lesser cars would be formed of molded vinyl or hard plastic.
The instrument cluster is simplicity itself, but it is deceptive. The fuel gauge, temperature gauge and tachometer are real dials with moving pointers, but the matching speedometer is not a gauge at all. It is a high resolution color TFT flat panel display that shows a picture of a speedometer. You have to look very close to be able to tell that it is not a real dial.
The directional indicators and gearshift position are also represented in the display screen. In the center of the speedometer, you can select the information you want to see like the trip computer, turn by turn instructions from the navigation system or the Distronic cruise control display showing the distance between you and the car ahead. At night, a tap of the optional Night Vision switch changes the speedometer into a video display of the road ahead with a ribbon speedometer at the bottom of the display.
This is not the type of night vision where the camera picks up heat instead of light causing everything to look strange. No, this image looks just like a very high resolution black and white TV image. This is because there are two infra-red high-beam headlamps beside the regular lamps bathe the area in front of the car with infra-red light. You can't see the light when looking out the windshield, but the IR sensitive camera can see it and display the view on the screen. This system allows you to see ahead the same distance that you would with your high beams, but without dazzling oncoming drivers.
Our test car also had the optional Keyless Go, which means the key stays in your pocket or purse. Grab a door handle and, as long as the key is in your possession, the door will immediately unlock and open. To start the car with this feature, put your foot on the brake and press the big round Start/Stop button on the dash.
Look at this. I haven't moved the car yet and I am already salivating. Let's get this baby out on the road and... Wait... how do I put the car in drive? Where's the shift lever? In this case, look for a small stalk on the right side of the steering column that looks like the directional lever on the other side. Push the spring-loaded lever down for Drive or up for Reverse. To put it back in park, push the button on the tip of the lever. For more details on the many unique features of the CL550, check our feature article on the essentially similar2007 Mercedes Benz S550
Ok, we have it in Drive, now let's see what she's got.
Well for one thing, there is a sweet V8 engine that sits in front of a silky smooth 7 speed automatic transmission that drives the rear wheels, Acceleration is effortless and exhilarating. With 382 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm and 391 ft-lbs. @ 3000 rpm. there is more than enough power for all but the deep pocketed hot rodders. For those guys, Mercedes offers the CL600 with a 510 horsepower twin supercharged V12 engine for a measly $44,000 extra. Catch your breath. The standard CL550 with the V8 has more than enough umph to make me happy. If I can be happy with 382 horsepower, chances are you will be too. Instead of buying 4 extra cylinders for 44 grand, I'll buy a very nice SUV and keep it in my garage in case I need to ferry some extra people around some day. (of course, if get a chance to spend some quality time with the CL600, that opinion may change)
Our test car was equipped with the optional Dynamic Multicontour Front Seats with Massage. These seats were among the most comfortable automobile seats I have ever experienced.
The first thing you notice is that they are adjustable in a gazillion ways. You have the normal Fore, Aft, Up, Down, Tilt and Seatback recline that is found in most cars. Added to that is the fact that you can lengthen or shorten the lower seat cushion for perfect thigh support. Another control allows you to power the headrest up or down,
Now comes the interesting part: Push a button on the console and a display of the driver's seat pops up on the center screen. You can then make any additional adjustments using the main console control knob. You can adjust the firmness of the seat cushion or move the side bolsters toward or away from your legs. You can control the seatback bolsters in the same way to hold you in place during spirited cornering. You can, of course, adjust the lumbar support in, out, up or down. You can even adjust the top part of the seatback to match the curve of your back. All these adjustments are the result of Fifteen pneumatic chambers that can be individually inflated or deflated for a perfect fit.
Many of these adjustments are available on other high-end luxury cars, but so far, I haven't mentioned anything about the "Dynamic" part of the Dynamic Multicontour seats. You see, when you are driving along a winding road at any kind of speed that may impart some side-to-side G-forces, you will feel the seat change shape as one of the side bolsters quickly inflates on the appropriate side to hold you in place. If there is minimal G-forces, you will hardly feel any movement, but toss the car into hard a turn and the bolster will rapidly respond with additional force to counteract any unpleasant jostling. If this is not to your liking, the effect can be reduced or completely turned off.
There's more. One of the selections on the seat adjust screen activates a massage function. Seriously. By selecting "Pulse Mode", you can choose one of 4 massage settings that will make you wish you had these seats in your living room. It feels like a series of rollers that randomly move up and down the length of your spine working out the tension in your muscles. The front passenger's seat has all the same adjustments as the driver's seat, including the massage function. My wife had it going every time she was in the car.
Another option for the seats is active heat and ventilation. Choose ventilation and a series of small fans draw the cool air from under the seat and send it through the perforations in the leather. In the winter, the air is heated before being sent up. And if it isn't enough to just warm your tush on a particularly cold day, there is a heated steering wheel available on the option list.
The new engine in the CL550 is larger than before and considerably more powerful with 382 horsepower on tap, up from 302 in the previous CL500. The new engine also has more torque (391 lb. ft., up from 339) which means the big Benz will launch with gusto and a fair amount of muscle car tire spin, that is until the traction control takes things in hand to preserve the dignity of the driver. What's even more important is that it gives you this additional 26 Percent More Power with the same fuel economy numbers as last year's CL500. All this chest-thumping power is good for a standing start to 60 miles per hour acceleration blast in 5.4 seconds. Definitely muscle-car territory. The engine uses 4 valves per cylinder along with continuously variable intake and exhaust valve timing.
ABC (Active Body Control) suspension system
The CL550 may be a sporty looking coupe, but it is a big car that is built for comfort. That is not to say that it doesn't handle well or go fast, it does both better than some performance cars. It just doesn't do it at the expense of comfort.
In fact, the ABC (Active Body Control) suspension system provides the best ride of just about any car on the road, soaking up bumps as though they weren't there. Push a button on the console to place this system in Sport mode and the ride gets slightly firmer, but you can then take corners at speed with no body lean at all.
Need more ground clearance? No problem. Push a button on the dash and the Benz lifts up to allow you to go places where a normal low slung car would scrape bottom.
Our test car had the optional AMG Sport Package ($5,600) which included aerodynamic lower body panels. This package also included performance wheels and tires, so the rubber was more than up to the challenge of maintaining traction during wild cloverleaf exits.
We took the CL550 for a ride out to the end of Long Island NY on the first mild spring day of the season. It was such a beautiful day that we opened all the windows and let the wind blow through our hair.
Montauk Point was our destination at the very eastern tip of the island. There is a large landmark lighthouse there that overlooks the Atlantic Ocean and wards away any stray ships who might be having trouble with their GPS navigation system.
The route took us through the Hamptons where there are more wealthy people, not to mention celebrities, than anywhere outside of Beverly Hills. I thought that these were the people who would most appreciate this type of car and, judging be the stares and thumbs up we were getting, I was right.
Perhaps, some of the people were trying to see if they might recognize the occupants. Sorry to disappoint. I'm just a poor shlub who just happened to feel like a king for the day.