Full 2008 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class Review
What's New for 2008
The 2008 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class line sees a couple of powerful additions. Specifically, a pair of AMG versions debut: the 518-horsepower CL63 and the stupendous, 604-hp CL65.
A large, grand touring coupe such as the 2008 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class is something of a rare sight, a Weimaraner in a suburb full of golden retrievers.
Usually, folks with the big bucks and a penchant for six-figure automobiles get either a large sedan or a flashy sports car. But there's something undeniably elegant about a big coupe with its stretched-out body, sleek roof line and hunkered stance.
Staying true to Mercedes' coupe tradition, the CL-Class features frameless side windows as well as a lack of B-pillars, which together give the car an airy look and feel. A rising character line and a tapered rear end further the CL's ready-to-pounce impression, which is confirmed when one nudges the accelerator pedal. When you're not being pressed back into the seat by a wave of torque, you'll want to take a few moments to appreciate the handsome cabin design. The tasteful use of wood and metallic accents, along with impeccable fit and finish, bring old-world class to the big Benz that would give a Bentley a run for its money.
Based loosely on the S-Class platform, the CL-Class shares that sedan's power plants and leading-edge high-tech features, such as night view assist. The CL-Class is offered in four trims that include the anything-but-base CL550, the V12-powered CL600 and the even more pumped-up AMG brothers, known as the CL63 and CL65.
In the niche segment of exotic four-seat grand touring coupes, not many can match the Mercedes-Benz CL-Class's enticing blend of passenger room, performance and opulence. Yet, in spite of its smooth moves, the CL-Class is too heavy to be much of an athlete, so those looking for more of a sports car feel should consider the BMW 6 Series or Maserati GranTurismo. That said, we expect that just about everyone who takes a CL for a test-drive will be smitten by its classy presence and quiet, luxurious cabin.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class is a large grand touring coupe available in four trim levels: CL550, CL600, CL63 AMG and CL65 AMG. The CL550 comes packed with luxury features such as bi-xenon headlights, 18-inch alloy wheels, a hard-drive-based navigation system, a 600-watt Harman Kardon audio system with six-disc CD/DVD changer and satellite radio, Bluetooth connectivity, 14-way power heated front seats, power sunroof, power door and trunk closers and park assist. Options for the CL550 include the AMG Sport Package and a pair of premium packages. The former is essentially fancy wheels and a body kit, while the latter two equipment groups include features such as keyless starting, ventilated front seats, a nighttime vision assist system and "Drive Dynamic" front seats whose bolsters automatically inflate to add support during hard cornering.
The V12-powered CL600 adds those premium packages' features, leaving but two options: an iPod integration kit and 19-inch wheels.
The ultra-performance-focused AMG versions offer even more powerful engines as well as unique exterior enhancements, sport-tuned suspensions, high-performance brakes, 20-inch wheels and AMG multicontour leather sport seats. The chief difference between these two super coupes is their engine choices: the CL63 AMG has a 518-horsepower V8 while the CL65 AMG features a 604-hp twin-turbo V12. There is also a limited-edition CL65 painted in "liquid metal" to celebrate AMG's 40th anniversary.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2008 Mercedes-Benz CL550 is powered by a 5.5-liter V8 (382 hp and 391 pound-feet of torque) that sends its power to the rear wheels via a seven-speed automatic transmission. The CL600 features a twin-turbo V12 engine (510 hp and 612 lb-ft) mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. Either way, performance is impressive, with the CL550 hitting 60 mph in 5.5 seconds and the CL600 doing the same in just 4.5 seconds.
The CL63 AMG delivers a more visceral experience with its AMG-developed 6.3-liter normally aspirated V8 (518 hp and 465 lb-ft) that's paired with a performance-tuned version of the seven-speed automatic transmission. The end result is a 0-60 time equal to the CL600. The truly power-hungry will lust after the CL65 (604 hp and 738 lb-ft), which can leap to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds and possesses high-speed acceleration more akin to a Formula 1 racecar than a comfy four-place GT.
All the latest safety features are standard, such as a full complement of airbags (including side curtain and driver's knee), adaptive xenon headlights and stability control. There is also PreSafe which, when it senses a possible accident (via rapid brake pedal and steering inputs and/or stability control intervention) will automatically position the front-passenger seat for optimum airbag use and close the windows and sunroof if a rollover is imminent. All but the CL550 feature PreSafe Brake, which can automatically apply up to 40 percent of the vehicle's braking capacity when it senses a seemingly imminent collision. In addition, on all but the CL550, the brake lights flash rapidly during emergency braking to help prevent rear collisions.
Interior Design and Special Features
The CL's luxurious cabin is similar to that of the S-Class sedan, meaning it boasts the same clean, elegant design. The high-quality materials and superb fit and finish quietly bespeak the fact that this is an expensive car. Supple leathers and highly polished wood and metallic trim abound. Should you wish for a more personal touch, custom colors as well as Alcantara trim are available.
Though at first the absence of a console-mounted gear selector may seem odd, the CL's steering column-mounted stalk is easy to get used to. It also allows more console space for the cupholders and the spin-knob controller that's similar to BMW's iDrive but easier to use.
The large doors open easily and feature a power closing assist. The front seats are fantastically comfortable, with numerous adjustments as well as heating and, on upper trims, cooling and massage functions. The rear seat is also well-shaped and offers considerably more room for occupants than that of the BMW 6 Series. Trunk capacity stands at 13.5 cubic feet, more than enough room for a weekend's worth of baggage and golf clubs.
The 2008 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class delivers a serene driving experience with plenty of performance to wake up passengers who might have otherwise been lulled to sleep by the car's super-quiet and comfy cabin. Standard across the lineup is Mercedes-Benz's Active Body Control (ABC) active suspension system that reduces body roll in corners, squat under acceleration and dive during braking. The open road is one of the few places where the CL feels light on its feet, as it glides over rough pavement without feeling overly soft. This is the kind of driving this big coupe was made for. Even when driven moderately briskly in the turns, the big Benz feels utterly composed.
However, when you try to play sports car on a tight twisty road, ABC's ability to keep the vehicle planted becomes a bit of a double-edged sword. Because ABC is capable of reducing body roll to virtually nil, it's hard to tell when you're getting close to the limits. The CL's 2-tons-plus weight is also obvious in these situations. When pressing hard on long, sweeping turns, the grip from the standard 18-inch tires runs out more quickly than you might expect, and when you transition from one tight corner to the next, even its sophisticated suspension can't always make the CL feel graceful. The brakes, on the other hand, are faultless, as they provide plenty of bite with little fade.