2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG Long-Term Road Test: Introduction
December 18, 2013
With the Grand National gone, it was time for a new kind of used car for our long-term fleet. This time around, it was going to be a used AMG, but which model? A wagon? An E55? Maybe something a little more depreciation-prone?
In 2005, the CL65, with its 6.0-liter twin-turbo V12, was one of the most powerful cars on the planet. Six-hundred horsepower wasn't as common as it is today and that number was reserved for dedicated hard-core sports cars like the Ferrari Enzo, Pagani Zonda and McLaren F1. A two-door cruiser with 604 hp? Insanity. But it's exactly what Mercedes did and it's exactly why we love it.
What We Bought
The S- and SL-Class get all the attention, but the real flagship of the Mercedes-Benz lineup is the CL. Little more than a two-door, highly stylized S-Class with some tricks, the CL65 was the most expensive and exclusive Mercedes you could get until the SLS AMG Black Series rolled into town.
In 2005, the Mercedes-Benz CL was available in four trims. Starting at a pedestrian $95,000, the CL500 was the volume model for people who wanted a huge, pillarless coupe with a 302-hp 5.0-liter V8. Thankfully, for people like us, Mercedes offered more. The next rung, pricewise, was the $120,000 CL55 AMG featuring a standard Sport package and one of our favorite engines of all time. In this application, the supercharged V8 made 493 hp and 516 pound-feet of torque from 2,750 rpm. It's a helluva motor, but further up the chain are ones with more cylinders.
The $129,000 CL600 got a biturbo 5.5-liter V12 that made the same 493 hp as the supercharged V8, but added a hefty 590 lb-ft of torque from only 1,800 rpm. Shockingly, there was yet another level of power to be had.
At the top of the CL line was the wicked CL65 AMG. The $179,100 monster packed a twin-turbo 6.0-liter V12 making 604 hp and 738 lb-ft of torque. This model also got the Hands-Free Communication system, electronic trunk closer, Comfort package, 19-inch wheels and 15.4-inch(!) front discs with eight-piston(!) calipers all included for the low, low price of $179,100. That's not a typo. The CL65 was — and is — properly expensive, putting it right up there with the Bentley Continental GT or a small house in a flyover state. Ours also has the $1,080 Parktronic system and the $1,060 Keyless Go. Yeah, Mercedes had the nerve to charge for keyless start on a car that would require a mortgage for most people. Total out-the-door price in 2005 was $181,240.
Why We Bought It
"There's nothing more expensive than a cheap Mercedes." The adage gets twisted to whatever cheap car someone's trying to talk you out of, but it's generally true. There's usually a reason that something very, very interesting has become affordable, but is it always true?
When this 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG was new, it had an MSRP of over $180,000 and now, eight years later, we've picked it up for $34,000 with only 56,000 miles on the clock. This represents an operating cost to the original owner of something like $3 per mile. Battleships cost less.
This isn't some one-off, oddball powertrain, though. The "65" cars are still on sale and, through 2013, use the same motor and five-speed automatic transmission. We're now past the 50,000-mile mark on our "new" CL65 and the possible issues looming on the horizon are numerous.
Slowing a 4,700-pound, 600-plus-hp car isn't easy and the brakes have likely led a hard life. Same thing goes for the cooling system. Making all that power ain't easy, and the systems required to keep the engine from going molten are likely very, very expensive. And then, of course, there's the Active Body Control (ABC). This self-adjusting suspension is very sophisticated, very complicated and reported to be very expensive. And then there's pretty much everything else. Even the cupholder has multiple moving parts.
We don't want any of these things to break, but they might.
Now we have 12 months and 20,000 miles to see if this kind of depreciation and power make a used AMG a good deal, or if our accountant is going to have a heart attack.
Best MPG: 19.6
Worst MPG: 9.8
Average MPG over 619 miles: 14.8
Edmunds purchased this vehicle for the purpose of evaluation.