2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG Long-Term Road Test - Introduction

2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG Long-Term Road Test

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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.


  • emajor emajor Posts:

    This could be very very amusing. The question here isn't whether buying a used luxury car is a good idea, it's whether buying a used ostentatious pseudo-supercar with ridiculous running costs & even more ridiculous failure rates is a better idea than buying it new for $180K when it will lose 70% of its value by fifty-five thousand miles. A twin turbo V-12. May God have mercy on your soul if anything breaks.

  • kyolml kyolml Posts:

    Yes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Love it!!!!!!!!!! Finally you guys made a decision and stuck with it. Always want to know how expensive and how DIYerable once it's broken. If everything can be fixed DIY this might be a good deal!

  • marcos9 marcos9 Posts:

    lol, this is awesome. Looking forward to updates!

  • Thank you for finally posting something users might be interested in. I love the CL65 and can't wait until you guys do tests and figures to see how owning one might be like. Also, bring Insideline back.

  • jps429 jps429 Posts:

    way to go guys!! i will be following this closely. we need some comparisons to the Vette and 911 please!

  • benson2175 benson2175 Posts:

    Awesome! As an owner of a W140 S-Class I'll say it's not as bad as people say but it is a slow bleed. I still love it and for me I couldn't drive anything else.

  • ed341 ed341 Posts:

    These kind of adventures go hand in hand with being a car enthusiast, unless you're very wealthy. I'm playing this same game with my 2006 Range Rover. Yes I could have had a new Hyundai with a great warranty for the same price, but where's the fun in that? Live life to the fullest.

  • throwback throwback Posts:

    Nice choice! The CL500s of this series can be had for under 25K.

  • drerx8 drerx8 Posts:

    I can't wait for to see how this turns out... The ABC WILL BREAK...and it WILL COST THOUSANDS. Trust me...I have an R230 SL and myself and wallet know the ABC all too well

  • I cannot wait to watch this one unfold. Depreciation of $4 per mile is completely outrageous, but a benefit to those of us with more shallow pockets. Good luck!

  • noburgers noburgers Posts:

    I wondered if Edmunds was going to continue buying older models for the Long Term fleet. My guess is that maintenance and repairs will be very costly, but when you add them to the low purchase cost you end up with overall would probably be considered reasonable. What YOUR resale price will be at the end of the test, however, will reveal if it was worth it.

  • noburgers noburgers Posts:

    I wondered if Edmunds was going to continue buying older models for the Long Term fleet. My guess is that maintenance and repairs will be very costly, but when you add them to the low purchase cost you end up with overall would probably be considered reasonable. What YOUR resale price will be at the end of the test, however, will reveal if it was worth it.

  • Nice choice. I imagine this is going to be a very expensive experiment.

  • bankerdanny bankerdanny Posts:

    Fun. Do a comparison test with your new Corvette.

  • seth111976 seth111976 Posts:

    This. Is. Awesome. I started reading this blog a few years ago when you purchased the Ferrari and starting driving it around for a year. I'm glad to see the tradition continuing with this purchase. There is not a car guy on in this country who's looked at the stat sheet of those early '00 Mercedes along with their current used pricing and thought, "Should I?" I'm glad to see Edmunds stepping up to do this. Hopefully you're accountants will agree after 12 months...

  • mercedesfan mercedesfan Posts:

    I'm afraid you guys may regret this. You chose to buy a Benz from their least reliable era by far and equipped it with a V12 that is notoriously finicky. There is a reason these things depreciated like rocks. Good luck! haha

  • evodad evodad Posts:

    awesome, I"m not a huge MB fan, but I love the used car reviews and luxury/performance cars that have depreciated to within the reach of the average joe have really struck my interest in recent years. Perhaps I will look back into picking up an nsx...

  • diondi diondi Posts:

    I once considered a CL500 - used - as my first car but shied away from the expensive maintenance and repair costs. I will get to live vicariously through you guys!

  • adamb1 adamb1 Posts:

    Looks like a photo shopped burnout to me.

  • jlh3 jlh3 Posts:

    Great. Let's see what the repair cost will be over the next 20K miles. I remember, maybe back over the summer when Edmunds originally began tossing this idea around. Now lets see what happens. I actually test drove a used 05 S55 a few weeks ago. It needed work and was not worth the $19K they were asking. I told the guy call me when you get the seat, radio, distronic, and brakes checked. He calls a week later and says they sold the car off at auction. It needed $9K in repairs.

  • juddholl10 juddholl10 Posts:

    This is by and large the best decision you've ever made. And that interior is in AMAZING shape. Whoever owned that car before took real care of it. My '09 A4 shows more wear than that. I can't wait to read more about this one.

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    I freaking love it. The people who bought the base-model Camry with plastic seat covers AND the extended warranty will scold, but I am really curious to see if this follows the trajectory of the SLS you just had, or if it provides max fun for the buck and does not cost TOO much to run.

  • good buy!!!

  • loseit loseit Posts:

    should be interesting!

  • bankerdanny bankerdanny Posts:

    Tell me again why it is that only "intoroduction" articles have no link to comments and why is it that Edmunds can't either (a) hire a competent CTO or purchase working software or both?

  • darthbimmer darthbimmer Posts:

    Buying a luxury car used-- the question posed in this story's title on the main page-- is often a good idea. It's a way to get, for example, a $50k car for $20-30k that still looks great, runs great, and has lots of rewarding miles of life left. I've done it twice and recommend it. But I'm not so sure about the wisdom of buying a $180k car at $35k. Why did its value plummet? The trap when buying used at such a small fraction of the original price is repairs. Maintenance costs are going to be inline with a $180k exotic, not a $35k near-luxury car or even a $50k entry-luxury car.

  • duck87 duck87 Posts:

    I'd only do this if I had something like a CPO or Carmax type warranty... You guys are nuts and but I love it! Can't wait to see what happens over the year...

  • 330i_zhp 330i_zhp Posts:

    I'm surprised and happy at this purchase. Much like your previous Ferrari, it's not something most people are shooting to own simply because of maintenence, but it's something many enthusiests are very curious about. I'll be following this one very closely.

  • stovt001_ stovt001_ Posts:

    Actually when I was in Indianapolis a few years back I saw an ad for brand new homes that I certainly wouldn't call small going for the low $100Ks, so the money for this car when new could have actually bought you a medium-large house in a flyover state, possibly with a little extra property too. Glad you guys finally got this, I know the idea has been kicked around for quite a while.

  • themandarin themandarin Posts:

    Keep your checkbook in the glovebox

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