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The Mercedes-Benz CL-Class is that rare animal in the automotive kingdom, a large luxury coupe capable of accommodating two rear passengers in comfort while simultaneously shoving them into their seatbacks with abundant power. Other two-doors tend to offer either opulence or power, but the CL manages both and features a sumptuous leather-adorned interior to boot. Now in its fourth generation, the CL has undergone a few name changes over the years, but it has maintained its status as perhaps the quintessential large luxury coupe.
Whether it was called 560SEC or S500 coupe, the CL-Class has essentially been a two-door version of the Mercedes-Benz flagship sedan -- today's S-Class. Although the CL now ventures a little farther from the mothership in terms of styling, it has retained its close family ties. As in the past, the two vehicles share similar interior design, features and engine options. Since it's based on such a large sedan, the CL is more of an autobahn-storming, boulevard-cruising luxo coupe, rather than a road-carving GT.
Current Mercedes-Benz CL-Class
The Mercedes-Benz CL-Class is a luxury coupe that's crammed full of the latest and greatest safety, comfort and entertainment technologies the engineering wizards from Stuttgart have been able to craft. The CL ventures farther from the S-Class than past generations in terms of exterior styling, featuring curvier, more muscular lines than its subdued predecessor. This girth makes the CL much larger and hundreds of pounds heavier than its closest competitors.
There are four trim levels and engines: CL550 (429-horsepower twin-turbo 4.6-liter V8), CL600 (510-hp twin-turbo 5.5-liter V12), CL63 AMG (536 hp twin-turbo 5.5-liter V8) and CL65 AMG (621-hp twin-turbo 6.0-liter V12). The V8s get a seven-speed automatic transmission, while the V12's abundant torque requires a more robust five-speed. The CL550 is standard with all-wheel drive, while the rest are rear-wheel drive.
Standard feature highlights include highly adjustable power front seats with heating, ventilation and memory, a hard-drive-based navigation system, Bluetooth phone connectivity and a surround-sound audio system with a hard drive capable of storing MP3 files. There's also a full array of Mercedes' latest high-tech safety features should all that high-speed fun come to an abrupt stop. Distronic Plus adaptive cruise control, which automatically accelerates and brakes even in stop-and-go traffic, is standard on higher trims. The AMG models focus on performance with unique exterior enhancements, a sport-tuned suspension, high-performance brakes and leather sport seats. The CL63 AMG can be equipped with the AMG Performance package that ups its output by 27 horses along with other performance bits and pieces.
In reviews, our editors have been impressed by the CL's top-quality interior, competent handling and awesome performance regardless of trim level. Even the base CL550 is hard to fault, but its more powerful siblings are a league apart. In particular, the CL65's 738 pound-feet of torque seems sufficient to alter the Earth's orbit, and it should, given that the top CL costs more than Mercedes' halo car, the SLS. One complaint is that the CL's long doors make it difficult to exit in small parking spaces. But chances are you'll be parking this swanky $100,000-plus Mercedes coupe as far away from other vehicles as possible.
Used Mercedes-Benz CL-Class Models
The current fourth-generation Mercedes-Benz CL-Class joined the Benz family as a 2007 model following the launch of its platform-mate, the redesigned S-Class. CL models from 2007-'10 featured softer, less aggressive styling and different engines than the current car, but we can't say these are significant detractors when springing for a used CL.
Initially there were just two models: CL550 and CL600. The CL550 had a 5.5-liter V8 that produced 382 hp and was rear-wheel-drive only -- all-wheel drive became standard for '09. The CL600 had the same V12 as the current car. The AMG models joined the lineup for 2008, though until 2011 the CL65's engine produced 604 hp, while the CL63 featured a 6.2-liter naturally aspirated V8 good for 518 hp.
The third-generation Mercedes-Benz CL-Class was produced from 2000-'06. It was lighter, less expensive and much sleeker than its massive, brick-shaped predecessor. The CL500, powered by a 302-hp V8, was the only model offered initially, with the 362-hp, V12-powered CL600 and the 354-hp, V8-powered CL55 AMG arriving in 2001. As usual, Mercedes used the CL to showcase its latest technologies such as Active Body Control, Distronic adaptive cruise control and PreSafe (for 2003). Mercedes also used '03 to introduce the now-turbocharged CL600 and now-supercharged CL55 AMG, both pumping out 493 hp. The CL500 added a seven-speed automatic transmission in 2004, while an AMG Sport Package was added to the CL500 and CL600 as standard equipment for this generation's last year.
With many of these cars available as "certified pre-owned" (meaning a pristine, lower-mileage example with all maintenance up to date and an extended warranty), this generation represents the best choice for a consumer looking to get into a Benz CL-Class without spending a small fortune. At the time, our editors were impressed with its powerful engine choices, dizzying array of high-tech features, classic styling and comfortable long-distance cruising ability. We weren't fond of its complex COMAND navigation and audio system, and found the rear seat to be cramped.
The second-generation Mercedes-Benz CL-Class had a slight identity crisis, beginning its life as the 500SEC and 600SEC in 1993, changing into the S-Class Coupe in 1994 and finally settling on today's CL-Class moniker in 1998. Its sturdy, boxlike body changed very little during its run, giving it a strong resemblance to the S-Class/500SEL. It was offered with a 315-hp V8 and a new 389-hp V12 engine, neither of which changed during this generation's lifespan. As with today's generation, our editors couldn't find much to fault about this coupe's impressive combination of size, luxury and power. Its blocky styling is polarizing, however, and its huge price tag led us to suggest taking a look at cheaper alternatives.
The original flagship-sedan-based Mercedes-Benz luxury coupe was known as the SEC, which lived from 1981-'91. The 1986-'91 editions had a 238-hp, 5.6-liter V8, whereas the prior years were underpowered with a 3.8-liter, 155-hp V8. With its especially commodious rear seat, the 560SEC was actually considered a two-door sedan. This generation was also one of the first vehicles to offer airbags, antilock brakes, traction control and a self-leveling suspension.
If you are looking for newer years, visit our new Mercedes-Benz CL-Class page.