What's New for 2000
2000 marks the introduction of an all-new CL500 that is lighter, less expensive, and more advanced than the previous version.
Mercedes has been slashing the costs and curb weights of its product in recent years while substantially upping the technology and gadget quotient. The recently redesigned S-Class, for instance, is lighter, faster, more advanced and cheaper than previous versions. Early reports indicate that the next SL line will benefit from these same design philosophies.
This weight-loss, price-drop, techno-injection methodology also served as the guiding principles for Mercedes' top-of-the-line coupe: the CL500. Everything from the drivetrain to the suspension to the exterior shape has been improved. The new car has a curvaceous shell inspired by the 220/280 SE Coupes of the early 1960s. The raked grille and long, flat hood give the CL a racy look and a .28 drag coefficient. This, combined with a 600-pound drop in curb weight and an advanced suspension system, means that the CL's racy image extends beyond its appearance.
Powering the CL500 is a 5.0-liter, SOHC 24-valve V8 engine that delivers 302 horsepower and 339 foot-pounds of torque to a five-speed automatic transmission. With its broad torque band and an adaptive transmission that adjusts to meet driver needs, the CL500 never feels slow. For those wishing to make their own up- and downshift decisions, a "Touch Shift" manual mode can be engaged for maximum gear control.
Perhaps the CL's most impressive feature is its Active Body Control (ABC), which uses a hydraulic servo mounted atop each coil spring to control body roll, dive and squat. Toss it into a tight corner and the CL will remain flat and composed, laughing at your efforts to produce unwanted wallow or pitch. Settings for ABC include normal and sport to accommodate different levels of driving enthusiasm.
The CL's high-tech pedigree continues inside where 14-way adjustable heated and ventilated seats, complete with a "pulse" massage mode, await front passengers. Dual-zone climate controls are easy to operate, but the audio and navigation systems are all combined into Mercedes' trademark COMAND control unit. This system is both praised and ridiculed by the Edmunds.com staff, depending on their level of patience for its undeniably complex interface. You can love it or hate it, but don't expect to understand it after just a few minutes of fiddling. COMAND commands much dedication to appreciate.
Only 2,500 CLs will be offered to the American buying public this year. For roughly $10,000 less you could have a Jaguar XKR that boasts greater sex appeal and horsepower, but less advanced gadgetry. We like the CL500 and consider it a tour de force in terms of luxury and technology. But with the a 12-cylinder CL600 due to hit American shores in the near future, we'd probably either buy the Jag now or wait for the more powerful version of the CL.