Mercedes Benz CL500 Road Test

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Category:$95,000 to $130,000 Premium Luxury Coupe
Who should buy this car:A person looking for the ultimate luxury coupe with all the status and class that goes with it
Comparable cars in this class:Jaguar XK, Maserati Coupe, Porsche 911
Newer articles:2007 Mercedes Benz CL550 Road Test

I would be willing to bet that about 95% of you good folks who are reading this article will never seriously plop down 100 grand on this or any single car. And yet, here you are. I do it too. It just feels good to see what is attainable should you one day find yourself holding the winning lottery ticket. It’s good to dream. Gives you something to strive for. An article like this allows you to add details to that dream which makes it seem even more real. And I aim to please.

It’s not easy to take a week out of my busy schedule to just drive aimlessly around my neighborhood so I could see how this big Benz feels and performs. How it turns heads. How it feels to have so much money that you have to look for creative ways to spend it, but hey, I make the sacrifice so that you, my faithful reader will get your money’s worth. So, for all of you dreamers out there and for the occasional folk who can afford this buggy and want to make sure that it is right for them, I present my findings…

The CL Coupe is the sporty coupe version of the big S-Class Sedan and is available with the same assortment of engines (with the exception of the small 4.3 liter V8) that come in the big Benz. Our CL500 with the 5 liter V8 is the cheap one of the bunch, weighing in at $93,400 before options. If that’s not rich enough, you can step up to the CL55 with an eye popping 493 horsepower and a base price of $118,570. This is the hotrod of the trio. Still want more? How about the CL600 with a super-smooth twin-turbocharged V12 engine for $127,470. Bear in mind that these prices do not include options. There are enough extra cost items on the options list to pay the price for a nice second car. Oh, I forgot to mention, at the 2004 New York Auto Show, Mercedes announced that for 2005, they will add a CL65 AMG to the coupe lineup. The CL65 is a version of the 12 cylinder CL600 that has been souped upby the AMG folks in order to produce 604 HP! That is enough juice to blow the doors off a Z06 Corvette and give the Viper a serious run for the money. And that is with an Automatic and a comfy ride!

The CL is one of the few cars in the world today that is a true pillarless 2-door hardtop in the purest American tradition of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. That means that when you open all the windows, there are no posts between the front door and rear quarter glass. In order to eliminate any chance for wind noise with these free-floating windows, Mercedes designed a system so that when you grab the handle to open the door, both the front and rear glass open a little, then after you close the door, the windows close again to form a tight seal. And if you should be so feeble as to not close the door completely, a small motor will suck it closed the rest of the way, at which point you will hear the “wump-wump” as the two windows form their seal.

Other nice details on the door include a chrome panel to finish the edge of the door and a rubber gasket that fills the gap between the door and the body to eliminate any chance of stray wind noise that may enter the cabin.

Behind the wheel, you feel like you are royalty sitting on a throne. The steering wheel, console and doors are slathered in beautiful wood and leather. Even the top of the dash is covered in intricately stitched real leather.

The seats on our test car were the standard ones that come with the base package. They were extremely comfortable and supportive with a good range of adjustments, 14 in all. Rear seats were also quite comfortable for a 2-door car with plenty of room for 2 adults, as long as they are limber enough to climb back there. (which wasn’t too difficult as 2 door cars go).

The Navigation system, called Command by MB is finally DVD based so that you can drive coast to coast without changing discs. Ease of use is a little better than the previous system, but still needs some work to bring it to the level of systems found in high end Japanese cars.

This car was supposed to have a CD/DVD player and a cassette player, but I had a real problem finding them until I decided to crack open the owner’s manual. It seems that I had to press a button beneath the map display, then choose either CD or Cassette from the display. Ok, I chose Cassette first and, low and behold, the screen slid down about an inch exposing the cassette slot. Neat. I then chose CD/DVD and the screen moved up to expose the slot for the CD/DVD player. Double neat.

On the CL500, comfort and style take precedence over brute performance. That is not to say that performance is bad, on the contrary, this car really has the moves. Flooring the throttle from a standstill produces a solid, relentless rush of power for a 0 to 60 time of 6.1 seconds. And that is from the basic CL500 with 302 horsepower. I can’t wait to see what 604 horsepower will feel like when I romp on it.

The first thing that you notice about the ride is that it feels solid. No floating or bounding over road irregularities that you might expect on a soft riding car. Yet the CL absorbs bumps and ruts in the road like they weren’t there. Handling in the tight twisties is secure, competent and very flat. I can’t say that it feels light and nimble, but overall, it is a pleasure to drive on just about any road.

A new feature for 2004 is an automatic transmission with 7 speeds. This unit is only available in the CL500 (as well as the S500 with rear wheel drive) and is as smooth as they come. The CL600 and CL55 still come with the 5-speed, which is no slouch in the smoothness department either.

I had a good opportunity to get acquainted with the 7-speed during the week that I had this car. For one thing, it has a lower first gear than the 5-speed, which means more jump off the line. 7th gear had a higher ratio than the top gear (5th) on the old trans. This allowed a quieter ride on the highway, with the engine loafing at barely above idle speed.

Shift quality was so smooth at light throttle that you had to watch the tach to know when it was shifting, and even then, the needle moved such a small amount, that it was easy to miss it.

We talked about options earlier, and you may be wondering what features you would have to pay extra for in a $90,000 car. Here is a list of some of the available options:

So, if you are in the market for a luxury coupe with close to a 6 digit price tag, should you consider the CL500? It is hard to find anything not to like here, and if you value comfort and smoothness above performance and racecar-like handling, and you want a car that comfortably seats four, the CL500 is the only game in town. Enjoy.


CL500CL55 AMGCL600
Engine Type5.0-liter V8,5.5-liter Supercharged V85.5-liter Twin-Turbocharged V12,
SOHC 24-valve. (3 Valve per cylinder) dual spark plugs & dual coils per cylinder, high-pressure die-cast alloy cylinder block, alloy heads.
Horsepower302 @ 5,600 RPM493 @ 6,100 RPM493 @ 5,000 RPM
Torque339 lb-ft @ 2,700 – 4,250 RPM516 @ 2,750 – 4,000 RPM590 @ 1800 – 3,500 RPM
Fuel RecommendedPremium 91 Octane Unleaded.
TransmissionElectronic 7-speed automatic with driver-adaptive control.Electronic 5-speed automatic with driver-adaptive control.
Drive TypeRear Wheel Drive
Tires – Standard225/60R16 98H, all-season, front & rearP245/45YR18 Front & P265/40YR18 rearP245/45YR18 Performance Tires
Tires – SportP245/45ZR18 Front & P265/40ZR18 rearP245/45ZR18 Front & P265/40ZR18 rear
Overall Length196.4
Turning Diameter37.6 ft Curb to Curb
Curb Weight4,085 lbs.4,317 lbs.4,473 lbs.
Fuel Tank23.2 Gals.
Miles Per GallonEPA city 16,
hwy 22.
EPA city 14,
hwy 22.
EPA city 13,
hwy 19.
Acceleration 0 to 606.1 Seconds4.6 Seconds4.6 Seconds
Base Sticker Price$93,400 plus $720 destination charge.$117,850 plus $720 destination charge$126,750 plus $720 destination charge

Mercedes Benz CL500 Rear Wheel Drive Premium Coupe

Standard Equipment

(partial list)

Major Available Options

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Charles Ofria

Automotive Expert

Charles Ofria was an automotive journalist who was active in the automotive industry for over 40 years. During the '70s, he was owner-operator of Ofria Automotive, a thriving auto repair shop in Brooklyn, NY. During that time he became involved with auto mechanic training when he set up courses to help prepare mechanics to take the then new A.S.E. (Automotive Service Excellence) mechanic certification exams.

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