What's New for 2009
For the 2009 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class, the CL550 gains all-wheel drive; it's now the only drive configuration available for that trim. The CL550 also includes standard keyless ignition and entry and heated and ventilated front seats. All CL-Class models now have gearshift paddles in place of gearshift buttons, as well as a hill-hold braking function.
There's nothing quite like the look of a large, grand touring coupe. With its imposing proportions, stretched body and aggressive stance, the 2009 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class is a rare breed in a price range dominated by high-end sedans and two-seat sports cars.
The CL-Class is loosely based on the S-Class platform, and the two models also share the same engines and many high-tech features. The coupe sets itself apart with long, heavy doors and a curving greenhouse that give it a sleek, elegant appearance. Consistent with other Benz coupes, the CL-Class features frameless side windows and lacks B-pillars -- design elements that lend it a more open look and feel. The CL-Class is just as impressive on the inside, with high-quality materials and impeccable fit and finish.
Although it's tough to beat the Mercedes-Benz CL-Class' enticing blend of passenger room, performance and opulence, this four-seat grand touring coupe is too heavy to be much of an athlete. Those looking for more of a sports car feel should consider the BMW 6 Series -- especially the 500-horsepower M6, as a much-lower-priced alternative to the CL63 AMG. And there's also the fetching Maserati GranTurismo, which competes with entry- and midlevel CL-Class models. However, there's no competition when it comes to the CL65 AMG, with its jaw-dropping 604 hp and 738 pound-feet of torque. It's in a class all its own.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Mercedes CL-Class is a large grand touring coupe that comes in four trim levels: CL550, CL600, CL63 AMG and CL65 AMG. The CL550 comes standard with 18-inch alloy wheels and is packed with luxury features such as bi-xenon headlights, a power sunroof, 14-way power heated and active ventilated front seats, power door and trunk closers, park assist, keyless ignition and entry, a hard-drive-based navigation system, Bluetooth connectivity and a 600-watt Harman Kardon audio system with a six-CD/DVD changer and satellite radio. Options include a Sport package (which bumps up the wheel size to 19 inches and adds a body kit) and the Premium 2 package (which includes a rearview camera, a nighttime vision assist system and Drive Dynamic front seats, whose bolsters automatically inflate to add support during hard cornering).
The V12-powered CL600 includes all the standard features on the CL550 plus the Premium 2 package and adds a heated steering wheel and Mercedes' Distronic Plus system, which includes adaptive cruise control, brake assist, parking guidance and a blind spot detection system. Stand-alone options include 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 CL63 AMG comes standard with all the features found on the CL550 plus AMG active suspension, a leather steering wheel with aluminum shift paddles and the Drive Dynamic seats found on the Premium 2 package (the remainder of the features found in this package may be added as well). An optional AMG performance package adds lighter, twin-spoke 20-inch wheels, carbon fiber trim and a higher top speed, which is a sizzling 186 mph.
The top-of-the-line CL65 AMG includes all standard features found on other models plus the Distronic Plus system, the Premium 2 package and the AMG performance package. The CL65 is further set apart with special leather sport seats and diamond cross-stitching on the seats and door panels.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2009 Mercedes-Benz CL550, which now comes standard with all-wheel drive, is powered by a 5.5-liter V8 that makes 382 hp and 391 lb-ft of torque. Power is sent to the wheels via a seven-speed automatic transmission. The rear-wheel-drive CL600 features a 5.5-liter twin-turbo V12 engine that makes 510 hp and 612 lb-ft of torque. It is paired with a five-speed automatic transmission. Performance is impressive with either model. The CL550 hits 60 mph in 5.5 seconds, and the CL600 reaches the same speed a full second faster.
The CL63 AMG is powered by a 6.2-liter V8 that produces 518 hp and 465 lb-ft; it's paired with a performance-tuned version of the CL550's seven-speed automatic. The end result is a 0-60-mph time equal to that of the CL600. Those looking for mind-blowing power could most certainly be pacified by the CL65 AMG, whose 6.0-liter, twin-turbo V12 churns out a whopping 604 hp and 738 lb-ft of torque. All that power propels the hefty GT coupe from zero to 60 mph in a mere 4.2 seconds.
Fuel economy for the 2009 CL-Class, while not terrible for the base model, is predictably abysmal for the higher-performance trims, thanks to the car's massive weight and impressive performance specs. The CL550 achieves 14 mpg city/21 mpg highway and 17 mpg combined, the CL63 AMG is rated at 11/18/14 mpg and the CL600 and CL65 AMG rival the fuel economy of many full-size SUVs at 11/17/13 mpg.
All the latest safety features are standard, such as a full complement of airbags (including side curtain and driver 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 optimal 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-end collisions.
Interior Design and Special Features
The CL boasts the same elegant, luxurious interior design as the S-Class sedan. Supple leathers, gleaming polished wood and metallic trim are of the highest quality, and fit and finish is superb.
Although the doors are large and heavy, they open easily and close tightly, thanks to a power close assist. A wide range of steering wheel and seat adjustability, as well as heated and ventilated front seats, make traveling comfortable for trips of any length in a variety of climates. The rear seat is also well shaped and offers considerably more room for passengers than 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.
Despite the car's size, the 2009 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class offers plenty of performance to go along with its serene, cushy cabin. And while the CL-Class may never feel as nimble as the 6 Series, features like Mercedes-Benz's active suspension system -- which reduces body roll in corners, squat under acceleration and dive during braking -- keep the CL-Class composed on demanding roads. However, because the active suspension cuts body roll so drastically, it also makes it hard to tell when you're pushing the car close to its limits. As a result, transitions from one tight corner to the next don't always feel graceful, and drivers might find themselves running low on grip around long, sweeping turns with the standard 18-inch tires. On the plus side, the brakes perform flawlessly and provide plenty of bite with little fade.
The 2009 CL-Class excels as a freeway cruiser and is best used for city driving and long road trips, as the 2-ton-plus coupe seems to glide down both Main Street and high-speed straightaways with utmost confidence.