Full 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class Review
What's New for 2011
For 2011 the Mercedes-Benz CL-Class gets a substantial refresh that includes updated front-end styling and a pair of new twin-turbo V8s. The powerhouse CL65 AMG benefits from a boost in horsepower, now a staggering 621 hp. Lane-departure and blind-spot monitoring systems have also been updated.
If you're looking for the ground-bound equivalent of a private jet, look no farther than the 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class. Like a Gulfstream G650, this big grand touring coupe surrounds its occupants in exquisite leather, polished wood and other top-grade materials. And once underway, the CL does a fair impression of a jet blasting down the runway, with any of its V8 or V12 engines delivering enough thrust to imprint the shape of your Gucci belt buckle on your belly.
The CL is based on the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, sharing engines, platform components and features with the big sedan. This year's refresh introduces a new front fascia, grille and hood, plus fenders that offer a more restrained arch over the wheelwells for the front tires. There's also a revised rear fascia. The CL-Class offers a strong yet stylish presentation with an elegant pillarless greenhouse, a sweeping beltline and an expansive rear window.
There's also a pair of new engines: a twin-turbo 4.6-liter V8 for the CL550 4Matic and a twin-turbo 5.5-liter V8 for the CL63 AMG. Thanks to direct injection, both engines deliver substantially more power than their predecessors (with 429 horsepower and 536 hp, respectively) yet offer improved fuel economy as well. Then there's the available twin-turbocharged V12 engines -- a 5.5-liter in the CL600 that makes 510 hp and a gonzo 6.0-liter in the CL65 AMG that cranks out 621 hp and an ungodly 738 pound-feet of torque.
But good as the CL-Class is, it doesn't own this niche segment. Other executive-class rides include the Bentley Continental GT and even the 2011 Porsche Panamera, though it's not a traditional coupe. But for sheer road-eating dominance, few cars can touch the formidable 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Mercedes CL-Class is a grand touring luxury coupe that comes in four trim levels: CL550 4Matic, CL600, CL63 AMG and CL65 AMG.
The CL550 comes standard with 18-inch alloy wheels, bi-xenon headlights, a sunroof, 14-way power heated front seats with power lumbar support, power door and trunk closers, park assist, keyless ignition/entry, the COMAND interface, a hard-drive-based navigation system, Bluetooth and a 600-watt Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system with a six-CD/DVD changer, satellite radio, iPod/USB integration and HD radio.
There are also several available option packages. The Sport package adds a choice of 19- or 20-inch wheels, performance tires and a body kit. The Premium 2 package includes a rearview camera, a night-vision camera and Drive Dynamic front seats (with bolsters that automatically inflate during hard cornering). The Driver Assistance package includes blind-spot monitoring with assist, lane-departure warning with assist and adaptive cruise control. Individual options include a heated steering wheel, a split-view monitor and different wheels.
The V12-powered CL600 includes all the standard features on the CL550 plus 19-inch wheels, the Premium 2 package, the Driver Assistance package and a heated steering wheel. Stand-alone options include 20-inch wheels and the split-view monitor.
The ultra-performance 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 an AMG adaptive suspension with active body control, a leather steering wheel with aluminum shift paddles and the Drive Dynamic seats found on the Premium 2 package (the other features found in this package may be added as well). An optional AMG Performance package adds engine tweaks for more power, lighter twin-spoke 20-inch wheels, carbon-fiber trim and a higher 186-mph top speed governor.
The top-of-the-line CL65 AMG includes all standard features found on other models plus the Driver Assistance package, the Premium 2 package and the AMG Performance package. The CL65 stands further apart via special leather sport seats and diamond cross-stitching on the seats and door panels.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic comes standard with all-wheel drive and is powered by a twin-turbocharged, direct-injected 4.6-liter V8 that makes 429 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque. A seven-speed automatic is the sole 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; Mercedes-Benz claims the CL550 can hit 60 mph in 5.5 seconds and the CL600 reaches the same speed in about 4.5 seconds.
The CL63 AMG is powered by a twin-turbo direct-injected 5.5-liter V8 that produces 536 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque. It's paired with a performance-tuned version of the seven-speed automatic, yielding a 0-60-mph time roughly equal to that of the CL600. The available AMG Performance package adds 27 hp and 74 lb-ft (for total output of 563 hp and 664 lb-ft) and can achieve a top speed of 186 mph (the standard version is electronically limited to 155 mph).
The CL65 AMG is in another league altogether, boasting a 6.0-liter twin-turbo V12 that churns out a towering 621 hp and 738 lb-ft of torque. Zero to 60 passes in just 4.3 seconds, while acceleration at highway speeds is simply otherworldly.
Fuel economy estimates for the various models of the CL-Class range from 15 mpg city/23 mpg highway for the CL550 down to 12 mpg city/18 mpg highway for the 12-cylinder models.
The 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class comes standard with stability control, a full complement of airbags (including side curtain and driver knee) and PreSafe (which can tighten the seatbelts, reposition the front passenger seat and even close the sunroof if it senses an impending collision). Also standard is Attention Assist, a drowsiness detection system that monitors your driving inputs and sounds an alarm if you start behaving erratically.
The Driver Assistance package is optional on the CL550 4Matic and CL63 AMG, and standard on the other models. It includes blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning and active cruise control with PreSafe braking. For 2011, the CL's lane-departure and blind-spot systems are also active; integrated into the stability control system, they can tap the appropriate brakes to nudge you gently back to where you're supposed to be.
Interior Design and Special Features
The CL boasts essentially the same elegant, luxurious cabin layout as the S-Class sedan. The supple materials, rich leather and gleaming polished wood 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-operated assist feature.
A wide range of steering wheel and seat adjustments plus heated and ventilated front seats combine to make trips of any length comfortable in a variety of climes. The rear seats offer a fair amount of room for passengers. Trunk capacity measures 13.5 cubic feet, large enough for weekend bags and golf clubs.
Impressively powerful, serenely quiet, completely unruffled at high speeds, the 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class is the sort of vehicle that is traditionally most at home on the German autobahn. The CL65 AMG deserves special mention; there's quite simply nothing else in this price range that can match the car's 6.0-liter "biturbo" V12, the beastliest production engine this side of a Bugatti Veyron.
The CL's handling is respectable for a large coupe, especially with the Active Body Control suspension technology (standard on all but the CL550 4Matic), which suppresses any hint of body roll in corners.