Full 2012 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class Review
What's New for 2012
After significant updates last year, the Mercedes-Benz CL-Class carries into 2012 unchanged.
Trivia question: What is the most expensive new Mercedes-Benz on sale this year? If you answered the gullwing SLS supercar, you'd be wrong. Starting a good $26,000 north of the flashiest Benz is the 2012 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG, the ultra-luxury grand touring coupe with a mind-blowing twin-turbo V12 under the hood. Maybe it won't get quite the same attention as the SLS, but the CL65 AMG and its lesser-engined comrades within the 2012 CL-Class lineup offer the sort of grand opulence that can be appreciated whether you're on a weekend back road drive, a 700-mile road trip or the daily slog to work.
As always, the CL is essentially the two-door version of the S-Class sedan. That means it shares its platform, engines and exquisite interior. Stylistically, though, the coupe differs with unique exterior design, long doors, a dramatically sloping greenhouse and Benz's trademark frameless and B-pillar-less side windows. The whole look was also reworked last year to add a welcome hint of aggression. The AMG models in particular look especially imposing, but still maintain their classy presence.
As for those engines, you don't need the CL65 to go fast. In Edmunds testing, the "base" model CL550 4Matic went from zero to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds, which is truly staggering for a car this big and heavy. On paper, the other engines are only a few tenths of a second quicker, but it's hard to quantify the difference their extra wallops of torque provide.
There are certainly other high-end luxury coupes begging for your attention. The Bentley Continental GT certainly has the size and opulence part down, though it's generally more expensive than the Benz. There's the Maserati GranTurismo, which is a more invigorating car to drive, but it can't match the Benz's comfort, size or immense feature content. The same can be said of the Aston Martin DB9 when compared to the CL's AMG models. It obviously comes down to one's preference. But frankly, it's hard to come up with a good reason why someone shouldn't buy a 2012 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class is a large, four-passenger coupe available in four trims that correspond with engine size: CL550 4Matic, CL600, CL63 AMG and CL65 AMG.
Standard equipment on the CL550 includes 18-inch wheels, adaptive air suspension, active bi-xenon headlights, LED running lights, a sunroof, a power rear window sunshade, keyless ignition/entry, a power trunk closer and front and rear parking sensors. Inside, you get leather upholstery and trim, heated and ventilated 10-way power front seats with four-way adjustable lumbar, front seat memory functions, ambient lighting, Bluetooth, Mercedes-Benz mbrace emergency telematics, the COMAND electronics interface, a navigation system, voice controls and an 11-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system with a six-CD/DVD changer, HD radio, satellite radio and an iPod interface.
The Premium 2 package adds a rearview camera, infrared night vision display and front seats with massage and active bolsters. The Driver Assistance package adds adaptive cruise control, crash detection and an automated braking system, a blind-spot warning system and a lane-departure warning system. The Sport package adds 19-inch AMG wheels and sport body styling. The Sport Package Plus One adds 20-inch AMG wheels, high-performance tires and the sport body styling.
The CL600 includes the Premium 2 and Driver Assistance packages, plus a V12 engine, 19-inch wheels, Active Body Control, a heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated eight-way power rear seats and a faux-suede headliner.
The CL63 AMG offers the same comfort, luxury and convenience features as the CL550, and offers the Premium 2 and Driver Assistance packages as options. However, the CL63 gets a more powerful twin-turbo V8, various AMG-tuned components (suspension, brakes, steering and exhaust), 20-inch AMG wheels, Active Body Control, AMG-specific styling tweaks, a sport steering wheel, different interior trim and front sport seats with adjustable bolsters and massage. The AMG Performance package (optional only on the CL63) adds a raised top speed, additional power and a carbon-fiber engine cover.
The CL65 AMG gets the same AMG components as the 63, but with the added benefit of the twin-turbo V12. It also gets all the same luxury and convenience features as the CL600.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2012 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic is powered by a 4.7-liter twin-turbo V8 that produces 429 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque. A seven-speed automatic is standard. The CL550 is the only member of the CL-Class to get all-wheel drive -- the rest send their power to the rear wheels. In Edmunds performance testing, the CL550 went from zero to 60 mph in an impressive 4.6 seconds. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 15 mpg city/23 mpg highway and 18 mpg combined.
The CL600 gets a 5.5-liter twin-turbo V12 that produces 510 hp and 612 lb-ft of torque. An older five-speed automatic is needed to handle all that torque. Mercedes estimates that it will hit 60 in 4.5 seconds. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 12/18/14.
The CL63 AMG features a 5.5-liter twin-turbo V8 that produces 536 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque. With the AMG Performance package, those numbers increase to 563 and 664, respectively. AMG's seven-speed automated dual-clutch manual is standard. Mercedes estimates a 0-60 time of 4.4 seconds without the AMG package. Fuel economy stands at 15/21/17.
Finally, the CL65 AMG gets a 6.0-liter twin-turbo V12 capable of altering the earth's rotation with 621 hp and 738 lb-ft of torque. An AMG-tuned five-speed automatic is responsible for sending that power to the tires. Its 0-60 time is estimated at 4.2 seconds. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 12/18/14.
Standard safety equipment includes stability and traction control, antilock brakes with brake drying, active front head restraints, front and rear side airbags, side curtain airbags, a driver knee airbag and Mercedes-Benz mbrace emergency telematics.
Optional on the CL550 and CL63, but standard on the CL600 and CL65, are a rearview camera, infrared night vision display, a pre-crash detection and automated braking system, a blind-spot warning system and a lane-departure warning system.
In Edmunds brake testing, a CL550 4Matic came to a stop from 60 mph in 108 feet -- an excellent distance for such a large car.
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 closing assist feature. We also can't say enough about the lack of a B-pillar, which creates a sense of interior openness that very few cars with a fixed roof can match.
A wide range of steering wheel and seat adjustments, plus heated, ventilated and (optional) massaging front seats combine to make trips of any length comfortable in a variety of climes. The rear seats provide a fair amount of room for passengers, while in CL600 and CL65 guise they offer eight-way adjustment, heating and ventilation. Trunk capacity measures 13.5 cubic feet, which is more than enough for weekend bags and golf clubs.
You just don't expect something this big to be this quick, but the 2012 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class is a certifiable monster of power. Even the "base" CL550 delivers the sort of thrust that would've been restricted to lighter AMG models several years ago. All the other engines simply turn the dial up further, with the CL65 AMG topping out with its twin-turbo V12 and otherworldly 738 lb-ft of torque.
Of course, there's more to these cars than the engines. Each is an Autobahn-bred grand tourer capable of reeling off great distances with the utmost comfort. 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 body roll in corners. We would never describe the AMG models as athletic, but their responsiveness to inputs is nevertheless impressive given their size and impeccable ride quality.