What's New for 2001
The CL600 makes its debut with a 362-horsepower V12. Distronic cruise control, a high-tech system using radar, braking and acceleration to maintain a specified distance from other vehicles, is standard on the CL600 and optional on other CL models. Web-based services, such as e-mail and stock quotes, will also be on board for the 2001 model year.
Mercedes has been slashing the costs and curb weights of its vehicles in recent years while substantially upping the technology and gadget quotient. This weight-loss, price-drop, techno-injected, performance-minded methodology also served as the guiding principles for Mercedes' top-of-the-line coupe: the CL. The car has a curvaceous shell inspired by the 220/280 SE Coupes of the early 1960s. The rakish 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-literSOHC 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.
A higher performance version of the CL500, dubbed the CL55, comes with a tighter suspension and a larger 5.5-liter V8 that makes 354 horsepower. This AMG-enhanced engine punts the CL55 from zero-to-60 in about 5.7 seconds.
Those seeking the ultimate CL will want to step up to the CL600. With a 362-horsepower V12 and every conceivable high-tech gadget as standard equipment, the CL600 is not for the faint of wallet. A special cylinder cut-out system will shut down half of the V12's cylinders under normal driving conditions, reducing fuel consumption and emissions by as much as 20 percent.
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.
A new technological feature for 2001 is an intelligent cruise control system, dubbed Distronic. After the driver establishes a preset distance that he wishes to maintain between his CL and other vehicles, an on-board radar unit will scan the surrounding environment and utilize up to 20 percent of the CL's braking ability to maintain this distance from other automobiles.
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, navigation and new-for-2001 Web-based 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. We like the CL line and consider it a tour de force in terms of luxury and technology. Still, if you're not into the latest high-tech gadgetry, and your frustration with COMAND is as high as it is for some of our editors, we think the less expensive Jaguar XKR makes a suitable (and seductive) alternative.