And now, connoisseurs, pick up our exotic dessert menu, and check out the latest in automotive confections, offered basic flavor: sublime. CL-class coupe, conceived for sophisticated tastes and served in elegant supersized portions. Hope you brought your platinum supersized credit card.
The new CLs — CL550, CL600 (on sale now), and CL63 AMG (due next June) — rank at the top of the Benz passenger-car family, sustaining a luxo-coupe heritage that dates to the 1951 Paris auto show, when Mercedes unveiled the 300S, riding a shortened 300 sedan chassis.
Like the 300S, the CLs is based on the biggest Benz sedans. Immense, posh, and conceived for the enjoyment of the owner and perhaps one other: a prospective trophy spouse perhaps. Yes, there's a back seat, but without major cooperation from those up front, it's not really habitable by adults.
Bigness. The CL has expanded in every dimension — the wheelbase goes from 113.6 inches to 116.3, for example, and the overall length from 196.6 to 199.4. Its chassis has been stiffened, and it's also packed with more equipment: luxury goodies, of course, as well as a dazzling array of high-tech accident-avoidance and survival gear. The Mercedes ABC (active body control) system, arguably the only semiactive suspension setup going, has been tuned to allow 45 percent less body roll, according to Hans-Dieter Multhaupt, engineering program management chief.
Inevitably, increased size and content beget increased mass — almost 250 pounds, according to Multhaupt. In the CL550, this totals 4400 pounds.
ABC does a good job of managing all this mass, and the superb brakes never seem to tire, but a little driving on mountain roads makes it clear that these handsome cruisers aren't sports cars. However, if they're not exactly agile, they're thoroughly competent. The only real rub is the speed-sensitive power steering, which is as numb as a missing limb.
But this asterisk is mitigated by what happens when the driver gets the CL pointed straight and tramps on the gas. The 550's new 32-valve 5.5-liter V-8 brings 382 horsepower and 391 pound-feet of torque to the party, versus the 302 and 339 of the previous 24-valve 5.0-liter V-8. It also employs Benz's new seven-speed automatic, and despite the weight gain, Mercedes forecasts 0 to 60 in 5.4 seconds.
Engine: 5.5-Liter Double-overhead Cam V8
Torque: 391 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 5.4 Seconds
1/4 Mile: 14.1 Seconds @ 101 MPH
60-0 MPH: 123 Feet
EPA: 15 MPG City/ 22 MPG Highway
Mixed Loop: 19 MPG