Full 2014 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class Review
What's New for 2014
Last year's optional Premium 2 package (consisting of a rearview camera, an infrared night vision display and active multicontour front seats with massage) is now standard on all CLs.
Ah, it's that age-old automotive dilemma: Should you buy the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class in its final year of production, or should you wait for its sleek new replacement, the 2015 S-Class coupe? In this case, it's an enviable problem to have. The next-generation coupe promises even more technology, and to some observers, its slinky styling is more appealing. But since the outgoing CL-Class remains one of the best all-around cars at any price, buyer's remorse is exceedingly unlikely for those who give it a chance.
One reason to jump on the 2014 Mercedes CL is that it's been on the market for a lot of years now, which means that any early-production kinks have likely been ironed out. Also, the engines shouldn't change much if at all for the next-generation car, so you won't be getting outdated hardware under the hood. Then there's the fact that this is the last year for the CL nameplate after nearly two decades of excellence. For some car shoppers, that's just semantics -- but for those with an appreciation for automotive history, it might be cool to own the final edition of a potentially legendary coupe.
If you're shopping in this segment, though, pretty much every car is potentially legendary. The Bentley Continental GT, for example, stacks up well with its twin-turbo V8 and W12 engines, not to mention its arguably superior curb appeal. The Maserati GranTurismo is also due for replacement soon, but its smooth lines and vivacious Ferrari-sourced V8 give it timeless appeal. Or you could go with the exclusive 2014 Aston Martin DB9, which matches the Mercedes with a V12 of its own, albeit a naturally aspirated one with less torque.
But if you like what the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class has to offer (and who wouldn't?), don't let its lame-duck status put you off. Time waits for no luxury car, but Benz's big coupe will always command both respect and the road.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class is a large, four-passenger coupe available in four trim levels: CL550 4Matic, CL600, CL63 AMG and CL65 AMG.
The CL550 4Matic comes standard with all-wheel drive (the only CL so equipped), a twin-turbo V8, 18-inch wheels, an adaptive air suspension, active bi-xenon headlights, automatic high-beam control, LED running lights and taillights, heated power-folding exterior mirrors, a sunroof, a power-operated trunk lid and keyless ignition/entry. Interior features include leather upholstery and trim, a wood and leather steering wheel, heated and ventilated multicontour front seats (with massage functions and active bolsters), front seat memory settings, a power rear window sunshade, multicolor ambient lighting, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, Mercedes-Benz mbrace emergency telematics, a rearview camera, front and rear parking sensors, a night vision display, the COMAND electronics interface, a navigation system, voice controls and a 15-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system with a six-CD changer, HD radio, satellite radio and an iPod interface.
The Driver Assistance package adds adaptive cruise control, a collision mitigation system with automatic braking, a blind-spot warning system and active lane-keeping assist. The Sport package tacks on 19-inch wheels and sport body styling. The Sport Package Plus One ups the ante with 20-inch wheels, high-performance tires and the sport body styling.
The CL600 includes the CL550's standard equipment, the Driver Assistance package, a twin-turbo V12 engine, 19-inch wheels, Active Body Control, unique leather upholstery, a heated steering wheel and a simulated suede headliner.
The CL63 AMG offers mostly the same comfort, luxury and convenience features as the CL550 4Matic, and it similarly offers the Driver Assistance package as an option. However, the CL63 also gets a more powerful twin-turbo V8, numerous 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, upgraded leather upholstery and an analog clock by Swiss watchmaker IWC. The AMG Performance package adds a 186 mph top speed (up from 155 mph), additional engine output and a carbon-fiber engine cover, while the AMG Exterior Carbon Fiber package adds, well, pretty much what you'd expect. Carbon fiber can also be added to the interior door panels and center console.
The CL65 AMG starts with the CL600's luxury and convenience features and adds a more powerful twin-turbo V12, plus the CL63's various AMG tweaks and interior upgrades. There's no AMG Performance package for the CL65, however, so you'll have to make do with the default 621 horsepower. Note that the CL63 AMG's optional 186 mph top speed limit is standard here.
The "Splitview" front infotainment display, which can project different images to the driver and passenger, is a stand-alone option on every CL. Also, a handful of the higher trims' standard features can be specified on lower trims as options, and there are many wheel options to choose from.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic is powered by a twin-turbo 4.7-liter V8 engine that produces 429 hp and 516 pound-feet of torque. A seven-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive are standard. In Edmunds performance testing, the CL550 went from zero to 60 mph in an impressive 4.6 seconds. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 18 mpg combined (15 mpg city/24 mpg highway).
The CL600 features a twin-turbo 5.5-liter V12 that produces 510 hp and 612 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive are standard on this version. Mercedes estimates that the car will hit 60 mph in 4.5 seconds. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 14 mpg combined (12 mpg city/18 mpg highway).
The rear-wheel-drive CL63 AMG features a twin-turbo 5.5-liter V8 engine that produces 536 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque. With the AMG Performance package, these numbers increase to 563 and 664, respectively. A specialized seven-speed automatic transmission is standard. Mercedes estimates a 0-60 time of 4.4 seconds without the AMG package. Fuel economy stands at 18 mpg combined (15 mpg city/22 mpg highway).
Finally, the CL65 AMG gets a twin-turbo 6.0-liter V12 engine that cranks out 621 hp and 738 lb-ft of torque. An AMG-tuned five-speed automatic sends this prodigious output to the rear wheels. The car's 0-60 time is estimated at 4.2 seconds. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 14 mpg combined (12 mpg city/18 mpg highway).
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, a rearview camera, a night vision camera and front and rear parking sensors. Also standard is Mercedes-Benz mbrace emergency telematics that includes emergency assistance and crash notification.
The Driver Assistance package (optional on CL550 and CL63, standard on CL600 and CL65) includes a frontal collision mitigation system with automatic braking, an active blind-spot monitoring system and active lane-keeping assist. These technologies differ from other passive warning systems in that they can independently control driver inputs (throttle, steering and/or brakes) to prevent anticipated collisions.
In Edmunds brake testing, a CL550 4Matic came to a stop from 60 mph in 108 feet, a stellar performance for such a massive vehicle.
Interior Design and Special Features
As has been the case for many years, the CL basically borrows its dashboard and front cabin design from the S-Class sedan. Materials quality is predictably top-notch, and fit and finish is outstanding. The CL also retains Mercedes' classic "pillarless" side window design: The rear windows power down just like the fronts, and with all the windows down, there's nothing between the roof and sills but air. Although the doors are long and heavy, they open with surprising ease -- and while the power-closing feature may not be strictly necessary, your passengers will think it's neat.
Thanks to extensive adjustments and heating/cooling/massaging capability, the CL's front seats are among the best in the business for road-trip comfort, and their active side bolsters automatically provide lateral support as needed. As for the rear seats, they're actually designed to accommodate full-size adults, which can't be said for many luxury coupes. The 13.5-cubic-foot trunk isn't huge, but it should be enough for weekend luggage and/or a few golf bags.
You expect serious speed when you see "CL" on the trunk lid, and the 2014 lineup doesn't disappoint. Even the base CL550 is so quick that Mercedes could probably pass it off as an AMG model. The CL63 AMG is quicker still, but if you ask us, this elite luxury coupe is at its best with one of the two mighty V12s aboard. The CL600 is the gentleperson's choice, concealing its awesome power beneath a restrained exterior, while the considerably stronger CL65 AMG lets it all hang out with exuberant styling cues (by CL standards, at least). Unless you need the CL550's all-wheel drive, a V12 CL-Class seems most likely to satisfy.
What you may not expect from this coupe is cornering prowess, but the CL turns out to be one of the better-handling large cars on the market. Even with its impressive balance and precise, direct steering, though, the CL is ultimately too big to be fun on roads with tight turns. Where the big Benz really shines is in the fast lane, as its supple ride, well-insulated cabin and impeccable stability make it a real pleasure to drive, hour after hour.