2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG: What's It Like to Live With?
Read daily updates on our long-term road test of the 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG and follow along as our editors live with this car for a year.
What do you want to know about?
- Buying It
- Bringing It Home
- It's Big, Heavy and Hard to Park
- Fuel Economy Update for December
- Grand Canyon Road Trip
- Checking and Adding Oil
- Mystery Instrument Panel Buzz
- ABC Warning Light, Part 1
- ABC Warning Light, Part 2
- Consuming Oil?
- It Won't Start, Part 1
- It Won't Start, Part 2
- Fuel Economy Update for January
- An Expensive Detail
- Trunk Action (With Video)
- Not My Favorite Engine
- Installing Bluetooth
- Interior Tour Video
- No Appreciation for Depreciation
- Hot Lap by the Stig
- Performance Testing
- Fuel Economy Update for February
- Monster Brakes
- Something's Leaking
- Active Body Control Failure and Repair
- Double-Pane Window Glass
- Adding the Right Oil Is a Challenge
- White Glove Treatment
- Tow Hook Cover
- Pillarless Coupe
- Dyno Tested
- The CD Player Changed My Mind
- Deep Reserves
- Fuel Economy Update for March
- Plate Light Out
- License Plate Light Bulb Replacement
- Adding Oil...Again
- Girlfriends Just Don't Understand
- Complex Cupholders
- Fuel Economy Update for April
- Seat Comfort
- Built for the Autobahn
- Neat Door Hinges
- Exhaust Sound Video
- No Interior Rattles or Squeaks
- Effortless Power
- A Dead Battery Stops Even the Most Powerful
- Fuel Economy Update for May
- Floppy Floor Mats
- Sunroof Fail
- Replacing the Battery
- Mixed Feelings
- Another Quart of Oil Requested
- Big New Battery Saves Idiot
- Road Trip Ramblings
- Who Needs B Pillars?
- Active Body Control
- New Rear Tire
- Back in the Shop
- Fuel Economy Update for July
- Ugliest Engine Ever
- Multiple Cylinder Misfires
- Our Engine Builder
- Missing Tow Hook Cover
- Replacement Tow Hook Cover
- 10,000 Miles
- Oregon Road Trip Part 1
- Oregon Road Trip Part 2
- Oregon Road Trip Part 3
- Oregon Road Trip Part 4 & August Fuel Economy Update
- Not Cool, Man.
- Ancient Nav
- Fuel Economy Update for September
- Platinum Anniversary
- Fuel Economy Update for October
- Air Conditioning Still Blows Coldr
- Fuel Economy Update for November
- Needs More Oil
- Purist "Winter Drive"
- Misaligned Trunk Lid
- Broken Seat Trim
- Dead Battery
- 15,000 Miles
- Pitted Windshield
- Another ABC Fault
- Brake Pad, ABC and Check-Engine Warning Lights
- For Sale
- A New Owner
With the Grand National gone, it was time for a new kind of used car for our long-term fleet. This time around, it was going to be a used AMG, but which model? A wagon? An E55? Maybe something a little more depreciation-prone?
In 2005, the CL65, with its 6.0-liter twin-turbo V12, was one of the most powerful cars on the planet. Six-hundred horsepower wasn't as common as it is today and that number was reserved for dedicated hard-core sports cars like the Ferrari Enzo, Pagani Zonda and McLaren F1. A two-door cruiser with 604 hp? Insanity. But it's exactly what Mercedes did and it's exactly why we love it.
What We Bought
The S- and SL-Class get all the attention, but the real flagship of the Mercedes-Benz lineup is the CL. Little more than a two-door, highly stylized S-Class with some tricks, the CL65 was the most expensive and exclusive Mercedes you could get until the SLS AMG Black Series rolled into town.
In 2005, the Mercedes-Benz CL was available in four trims. Starting at a pedestrian $95,000, the CL500 was the volume model for people who wanted a huge, pillarless coupe with a 302-hp 5.0-liter V8. Thankfully, for people like us, Mercedes offered more. The next rung, pricewise, was the $120,000 CL55 AMG featuring a standard Sport package and one of our favorite engines of all time. In this application, the supercharged V8 made 493 hp and 516 pound-feet of torque from 2,750 rpm. It's a helluva motor, but further up the chain are ones with more cylinders.
The $129,000 CL600 got a biturbo 5.5-liter V12 that made the same 493 hp as the supercharged V8, but added a hefty 590 lb-ft of torque from only 1,800 rpm. Shockingly, there was yet another level of power to be had.
At the top of the CL line was the wicked CL65 AMG. The $179,100 monster packed a twin-turbo 6.0-liter V12 making 604 hp and 738 lb-ft of torque. This model also got the Hands-Free Communication system, electronic trunk closer, Comfort package, 19-inch wheels and 15.4-inch(!) front discs with eight-piston(!) calipers all included for the low, low price of $179,100. That's not a typo. The CL65 was — and is — properly expensive, putting it right up there with the Bentley Continental GT or a small house in a flyover state. Ours also has the $1,080 Parktronic system and the $1,060 Keyless Go. Yeah, Mercedes had the nerve to charge for keyless start on a car that would require a mortgage for most people. Total out-the-door price in 2005 was $181,240.
Why We Bought It
"There's nothing more expensive than a cheap Mercedes." The adage gets twisted to whatever cheap car someone's trying to talk you out of, but it's generally true. There's usually a reason that something very, very interesting has become affordable, but is it always true?
When this 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG was new, it had an MSRP of over $180,000 and now, eight years later, we've picked it up for $34,000 with only 56,000 miles on the clock. This represents an operating cost to the original owner of something like $3 per mile. Battleships cost less.
This isn't some one-off, oddball powertrain, though. The "65" cars are still on sale and, through 2013, use the same motor and five-speed automatic transmission. We're now past the 50,000-mile mark on our "new" CL65 and the possible issues looming on the horizon are numerous.
Slowing a 4,700-pound, 600-plus-hp car isn't easy and the brakes have likely led a hard life. Same thing goes for the cooling system. Making all that power ain't easy, and the systems required to keep the engine from going molten are likely very, very expensive. And then, of course, there's the Active Body Control (ABC). This self-adjusting suspension is very sophisticated, very complicated and reported to be very expensive. And then there's pretty much everything else. Even the cupholder has multiple moving parts.
We don't want any of these things to break, but they might.
Now we have 12 months and 20,000 miles to see if this kind of depreciation and power make a used AMG a good deal, or if our accountant is going to have a heart attack.
Best MPG: 19.6
Worst MPG: 9.8
Average MPG over 619 miles: 14.8
Edmunds purchased this vehicle for the purpose of evaluation.
Before we stumbled headlong into our gorgeous, museum-quality 1987 Buick Grand National, we were shopping for a Mercedes-Benz CL65. The "Why?" should be obvious. These things make 604 horsepower from a twin-turbo V12, cost over $180,000 when new and have depreciated more than Michael Jordan's house.
The trouble wasn't deciding upon a CL65, the trouble was finding one.
The number of Mercedes-Benz CL65s sold in 2005 isn't exactly clear, but it's between 180 and just fewer than 500. So, not very many. And between them selling new (for about the price of a small house in a flyover state) and today, surely some have left us in unpleasant ways. So, even fewer.
But the good news is we live in Southern California which is, along with Texas and Miami, one of the few places where these things actually sold. Still, our search didn't yield many results.
There was one for $60,000 with about 70,000 miles and funny rims. Likely the original owner trying to recoup something. We didn't even bother to call. Then there was one we'd actually looked at before we got the Grand National. We didn't like that one then, and we didn't like it now with its new owner.
Eventually, we whittled it down to two. One very local and one in Reno, Nevada. The Boss told us we had to drive the car and see it in person before making an offer, so we went to check out the local one.
It was nice. Clean, low miles, ran strong. Definitely a contender, but the asking price was more than a few grand more than the one that was taunting us from Reno.
We ran the Carfax and everything came up clean and then got the OK to try and make this one happen. It was, thankfully, at Mercedes-Benz of Reno and not at some no-name shop. They'd already done a service on the vehicle, a full inspection and installed a brand-new set of (all-season) tires. From a distance, everything checked out. They'd also had the car for a couple of months and with the New Year approaching, we thought they'd be willing to talk.
When we first saw the car it was a little out of our preferred price range but had recently dropped to $35,900 and just before we called, to $34,900. Clearly they were ready to let this one go. Riswick took the lead on this one and made the call from a bench at LAX. I was still trying to haggle with the owner of the closer car. Not only did we want to try to get a better deal, but the listing left some things to be desired. We wanted to see the carpets (they were light grey, which we hated and know get ugly/dirty real fast) and the nav screen which is prone to fading. Our salesman cleared the snow off the ground, got us our shots and we began the negotiation process.
At $34,900, they didn't have much wiggle room left over the wholesale price, but we got it down to $34,000 even and called it good. They wouldn't even throw in a free set of summer rubber. I tried.
We had them fax over the paperwork with the caveat that, when we got there, we could back out if the car wasn't perfect.
A day or so later, we had the paperwork signed and a check for $34,000 in hand. Takahashi and I hopped into the Dodge Dart and headed to Reno.
The drive up was easy as pie even if it was 6 degrees over the mountains. We got into Reno sometime around noon and our salesman had already cleared that time on his calendar. We waited all of 30 seconds. A few minutes later, we were on the test drive. Everything was exactly as described and the car was tight as a drum. Easily the best one we'd seen in all the time we'd been looking.
Paperwork is paperwork, but the guys at MB of Reno explained every step, even the ones we knew, which always makes sitting in a cramped sales office more tolerable. A fancy Starbucks coffee maker and darned solid donuts made it pleasant.
Less than an hour later we were out the door, on the road and headed home with a new almost supercar. Snow was in the forecast, and even with these all-season tires, we had to be past Lee Vinnings by 4:00. We had faith the V12 could do it.
This might be my current favorite long-term test car. I only drove it one night so far but I'm smitten.
I love its smooth acceleration. But you gotta watch out. After merging onto the freeway I looked down at the speedometer and was shocked at how quickly I had gotten up to speed. The car feels like it's doing 30 when it's actually going much faster.
Someone quite a bit taller than me was driving the car before me. When I first got in I had a hard time finding a comfortable seating position. And the automatic seat controls would not work until I started the car. I'll never understand why Mercedes puts these controls on the door instead of the seat. It feels so unnatural. But once I got comfy I was in heaven.
I'm looking forward to getting to know this car over the next 12 months.
After we paid for our 2005 CL65 at Mercedes-Benz of Reno, we had the arduous task of driving a 604-horsepower V12 coupe over the totally-not-stunning-in-the-winter Sierra Nevadas.
Some days you draw the short straw.
As I said in the "Buying It" post, we had a pretty darned good experience at Mercedes-Benz of Reno (where 06Scooby's friend works — we'll know for next time!) and got out of there just in time. We had a snowstorm to beat, and brand new all-season tires or not, the paranoid California Highway Patrol and Department of Transportation weren't going to let us try to scale the hill without chains. So we had to beat the snow.
We also had to stay within reasonable distance of the speed limit (for obvious reasons) and we had to stay together. Sure, the CL checked out in every regard, but funny things happen when you buy a new car and, well, I was paranoid. Mark and I would caravan back, I decided, and he agreed.
When Kurt and I drove to Alaska and back we came up with a good car-sharing plan: Switch drivers at every fuel stop unless someone's not feeling well. Even if you think you can still do another few hundred miles, switch at fuel. Even if you know a fun section of road is coming, switch at fuel. So at the first fuel stop, after I'd done only a few miles, I asked Mark if he wanted to trade out of our long-term Dodge Dart and into the CL. He...declined. He declined! His stuff was already in the Dart he said, and he'd have plenty of time to drive the CL, plus he had a USB input, nav and satellite radio in the Dart. Plus, something about the Dart's seats really, really agree with him.
So it was up to me to not break our Mercedes CL65 over its first few hundred miles.
The drive went as you'd expect in a CL65. It's quick, quiet and speed is absolutely effortless. Find a good song on the radio and stop paying careful attention to the speedo and you're doing go-to-jail fast without even trying.
And then there's the range. The 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG has a 23.2-gallon fuel tank. Huge, right? Well, according to the EPA, this "compact car" gets 13 mpg combined (11 city, 18 highway) and has an estimated range of 271 miles. That's...not very good. I managed to thoroughly trounce that on only our second tank of gas, letting the needle dip into the red and flirting with single-digit range remaining. The CL went 408.7 miles and drank 20.871 gallons of premium for an EPA-besting 19.6 mpg run at a pretty decent clip.
Zero problems, silky ride, endless power AND EPA-busting fuel economy? It's gonna be a good year.
Oh, the Dart? It did fine, too. Let's not mention that it only drank 11-ish gallons of fuel over the same distance and returned 34.2 MPG AND he arrived with his cell phone charged.
Our long-term 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG is big. The V12 engine is big, the seats are big, it's over 16 feet long, and at approximately 4,700 pounds it feels predictably heavy. By comparison, it's a foot longer and nearly 1,000 pounds heavier than our old long-term SLS AMG roadster.
All this, plus our coupe's lack of a rear-view camera, makes it pretty difficult to maneuver in parking lots and snug up to curbs without scratching the wheels. Unquestionably, our CL65 AMG is quick, but make no mistake, there's a lot of car here.
Well, you knew this wasn't going to be the 2005 Mercedes CL65's finest hour. After about 1,700 miles in our care, our newest/oldest long-term car is averaging 15.8 mpg. That's pretty terrible, but that's also nearly 3 better than the EPA's combined estimate of 13 mpg.
Of course, most of those miles were put on during the 19.6-mpg trip back from Reno and an all-highway road trip I took to the Grand Canyon where I averaged 17.7 mpg, so expect that 15 mpg to get lower in future months as the in-city miles accumulate. Scott Oldham's tank of 9.8 mpg probably won't be rare. But that's OK. If we wanted good fuel economy, we wouldn't have purchased a giant luxury coupe with a bi-turbo V12.
Worst Fill MPG: 9.8
Best Fill MPG: 19.6
Average Lifetime MPG: 15.8
EPA MPG Rating: 13 combined (11 city, 18 highway)
Best Range: 408.7
Current Odometer: 58,527
It's become an annual tradition that my wife and I take a post-Christmas road trip. Two years ago it was the long-term Mustang GT to Atascadero, Calif., and last year it was the long-term VW Beetle Turbo to Hearst Castle. This year we went way bigger on all fronts: Grand Canyon via Las Vegas in our new/old 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG.
Frankly, we could've been going to the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository via Pahrump and I still would've relished the thought of driving the CL65. As Mike Magrath wrote, it's a car we've been wanting for a long time and now finally have. Unlike most of our past used classic long-termers, the CL is intended to be driven long distances. I very much wanted it to be as good as I had hoped, and oh how it is.
The best thing about the CL65 is how effortlessly it goes about driving very fast for a very long time. It really does recalibrate your sense of speed. 55 suddenly feels like you're puttering along behind a marching band in the Rose Bowl Parade.
And it's not just because of the bi-turbo V12 under the hood. That helps, that really really helps. Good grief, is it monstrously fast. Want to pass someone? Just tap the throttle and you're gone, like Captain Picard ordering whatever chap's sitting at the conn to engage warp. I actually started doing the two-finger-forward "engage" gesture when passing.
Where was I? Oh yes, it's not just the engine. It's how utterly quiet the cabin is, with seemingly tons of sound deadening materials and double-pane side glass. It's the incredible Active Body Control air suspension that glides down the road as if levitating above it yet also feeling perfectly in control. It's the steering, which has the usual Autobahn-bred, numb-on-center effort, which prevents driver fatigue and over-correction at speed (but can feel a tad disconnected elsewhere).
My wife got tired of me saying things like, "This thing is incredible. I'm telling you, it's easy to take it for granted. It's better than a majority of the cars on the road and it's eight years old. It's 14 if you go by generation."
Of course, it does show its age in some areas. The most obvious is the lack of any iPhone connection, which was enough for Mark Takahashi to stick with the Dodge Dart on the drive back from Reno. Though I'm working on getting the CL retrofitted with an AUX jack (and reactivating its satellite radio), in the meantime, I had a thick book of CDs at my disposal. We didn't bother with the trunk-mounted changer and instead only went with the in-dash single player, though I recall that reviews from this era praised this type of set-up.
The rest of the cabin proved superb. There's obviously enough space for two people and their stuff, while the seats offer a multitude of adjustments (including thigh extension and side bolsters). I used seat ventilation almost constantly, while my wife got to enjoy what must be the first application of her favorite car feature: massaging seats.
As for the trip itself, the Grand Canyon is indeed spectacular. Overwhelmingly so to the point where it's almost underwhelming. It's hard to truly appreciate just how grand it is. I have similar feelings about the CL65.
The CL's trunk is quite large, with an old-school full-deck opening. Three bags and our winter coats (not pictured) fit with ease, as you'd hope from a car this big.
Garbage traffic on Interstate 15 to Las Vegas allowed us to find a nice detour through the Mojave National Preserve. You drive through beautiful desert vistas and past groves of Joshua trees. I chose to shoot the CL next to this run-down shack.
Future classic German coupe meeting current classic American coupes.
The CL65 AMG and a train. There are similarities.
Keen eyes will spot a rather famous national landmark.
We stayed overnight in Williams, Ariz., which is about 50 miles south of the Grand Canyon. The CL's temperature gauge read 28 degrees F. when we took off. The snow was old, thankfully, and the roads were clear.
Before heading out on a road trip, it's always a good idea to do a simple spot check of your car, especially an older and infinitely complicated one like our 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65.
Checking the oil in the CL-Class is not as simple as pulling out a dipstick. Instead, the car does it itself upon your command by way of the gauge-mounted trip computer. Unfortunately, this did not work for me. When I went to the oil check screen it told me to turn off the engine. When I turned off the engine, it told me it couldn't check the oil with the engine off. Um, make up your damn mind you crazy car. A reading of the instruction manual seemed to tell me to do exactly what I was doing.
So, I just assumed everything was OK and knew that if it wasn't, the car would tell me. Guess what? After about 200 miles into my drive to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon, the CL ordered me to "Add 1.0L of oil at filling station."
Very well, sir. I popped into a Las Vegas Autozone, bought 1 quart (0.946L would have to do) of the car's required Mobil European Formula 0W-40 and fed the beast.
Perhaps I was doing it wrong. Perhaps there is something wrong with the oil check system. Something to look into either way, but at least the car knows what it needs and when it needs it.
Our long-term 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG is fantastic on the highway. Its super-quiet cabin probably makes it a fantastic trip for long road trips. On a recent freeway journey though, the CL65 revealed what would appear to be our first issue.
A tiny buzzing noise seemed to be coming from the instrument panel, specifically from behind the stereo display. The noise persists whether the car is on or off, and whether or not any music is playing. It leads me to believe some moving part of the radio is the issue. There wasn't a CD inserted in the dash either, so that helps rule out the possibility of the CD player being the culprit.
Fellow editor James Riswick says he doesn't hear it once the car is warmed up and moving, but that's exactly when I started to hear the buzz. Whatever the case, it doesn't interrupt the functionality of the CL65's stereo, so I doubt we'll be tearing apart the dash any time soon.
Before we get to this picture, let me give some back story.
I was on my way to the grocery store when the Active Body Control (ABC) warning light on our 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 illuminated. I drove the remaining half-mile, bought my milk and quietly hoped the light would be out when I returned. It wasn't. Four miles later I was back home, pulling into my driveway. That's when I first smelled it...
There was a distinct scent of burning oil. I shut off the car and noticed a faint stream of smoke coming from the engine compartment vent. I popped the hood and the smoke dissipated, thankfully. Underneath, I discovered a light spray of oil across the front of the engine compartment.
Internet forums were my next stop. I soon knew all about the ABC system and its proclivity toward this sort of thing. There were horror stories of fires and repair bills of thousands of dollars. But there was also good information. We developed a hypothesis that one of the high-pressure ABC hydraulic lines near the radiator was compromised. It sprayed fluid onto the engine cooling fan, which then dispersed it everywhere else. Everywhere included my driveway and street, too.
We didn't purchase our CL65 with a maintenance plan. And the likelihood of service on the ABC system falling under warranty was equally grim. A phone call to our local dealership confirmed as much. We were busy inside our own head, debating whether to use a dealer or an independent shop, when the service rep on the phone asked, "Would you like me to connect you to roadside assistance? It is complimentary on all Mercedes vehicles as long as you have the work performed at the dealer."
The independent shop we would otherwise use was over 40 miles away. That was a tow bill in excess of $300. We accepted the free ride to Fletcher Jones Mercedes-Benz in Newport Beach. In 45 minutes there was a flatbed in front of the house. Not 10 minutes later it was loaded. Our service advisor, Dan, called 30 minutes later. "Hi, Mr. Schmidt," he began, "your car just arrived." We discussed the ABC issue. Dan was very polite and seemed familiar with the issue. He ended with, "We'll start on it first thing tomorrow morning."
We'll open the bets at $1. What's yours? How much do you think the repair will cost?
Earlier this week we towed our 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 to the dealer for service following an Active Body Control (ABC) system failure. Here is what happened next.
As mentioned previously, Dan, our advisor at Fletcher Jones Mercedes-Benz, called us once roadside assistance dropped the car off to him. He called again the next morning to tell us what they found and the cost to repair it. His third call brought good news, "Your car is ready."
He explained that the high-pressure ABC line between the pump and junction valve box had burst. At this valve the line splits into four, one for each strut. We got the impression this was the part that usually fails. The fluid level was corrected, system flushed and all of the surrounding area steam cleaned.
Our advisor, Dan, was on top of things. He had answers to our questions. He was polite and professional. And throughout the repair process he not only communicated frequently but initiated it. We would recommend him based on this experience.
Total Cost: $1,217.75
Total Days out of Service: 2
I recently read an update James posted mentioning that our 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 was low on oil. It was down about a quart at 58,500 miles, so he added as much. Here we are, 500 miles later and I get a warning that the Mercedes is low another quart-and-a-half. Curious, I looked around...
I noticed this mess on the oil filler neck, which didn't necessarily seem excessive. Still I wiped it clean so we can check back on it later. There aren't any oil drippings beneath the car, either. Maybe it is normal for this engine to burn a little oil? Over a quart every 500 miles can't be normal, though. Maybe it stems from the electronic measuring process? There is a chance our technique is off, but I kind of doubt it. Or, maybe I'm nuts. There is an answer someplace that I can't quite put my finger on.
This is our 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65, parked on pit row at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. We had just completed a series of routine performance tests. The same tests we do on all long-term cars. And our CL65 did great.
We parked the car and came back about 20 minutes later. When we turned the key this time the CL65 wouldn't quite start. Instead, it shuddered violently. We shut it down. Then this happened (take the jump for video)...
The Mercedes would only crank. We gave it 5, 10, 15 minutes and the results were the same. Stranded again.
We called roadside assistance and arranged to have the car towed to the dealer. The operator politely asked, "Where is the vehicle located?" We laughed and told him it was at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana. He continued, "In a parking structure, or parking lot?" We explained that the car was on pit row. "I haven't had one of these before," he laughed. Thirty minutes later the truck arrived and our car was en route to service.
We towed our 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 to Fletcher Jones Mercedes-Benz in Newport Beach after it left us stranded. "I called to tell you that we received your car," started our advisor. "I walked up to check it out and the car fired right up. There was a stored misfire fault code, but no check engine light." We discussed our potential next steps...
There weren't many options. We decided to leave the car overnight to see if the dealer could get it to fail again. No luck. This will have to be something we monitor. Maybe it will never happen again. Wishful thinking is okay, right? While the CL65 was in for this service, we also asked to have an unusual dashboard clicking noise investigated.
The noise happens while the car is on and right after it goes off. Our dealer tied this chirp to the aspirator motor behind the air conditioning push-button display. "It sounds like the fan inside is starting to go out. It could still last a long time, though," our advisor explained. He added, "The part alone is $1,018. We can't replace the motor only. The whole push-button display has to come out with it. With labor your total is $1,275. If you'd like to have the work done, give me a call."
That idea to turn up the radio and drown out the noise sounds much more cost effective now. I think we'll do that for awhile.
The good news this month? We're still topping EPA mileage ratings by a wide margin in our 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG.
The bad news? Our overall average is falling.
Yes, believe it or not, our twelve-cylinder, 604-horsepower, 4,600-pound luxury coupe is not the most fuel efficient means of travel. It continues to be quite luxurious, however, and that's pretty much the name of the game when it comes to this car.
Worst Fill MPG: 9.8
Best Fill MPG: 19.6
Average Lifetime MPG: 14.6
EPA MPG Rating: 13 (11 city/18 highway)
Best Range: 408.7 miles
Current Odometer: 59,440 miles
There are plenty of examples of "expensive things" on this car. The over-the-top V12 engine, the Active Body Control suspension and the heated/air conditioned/massaging seats to name just a few.
But every time I get in this car I can't help but notice the chrome door finishers you see above. They're such an old school touch, mainly because they're entirely unnecessary and probably not all that light. Normal cars never have anything this extravagant, but on a car like this they fit right in.
The 2005 Mercedes CL65 AMG has a deep trunk. I was surprised to find that it is actually only 12.3 cubic feet.
You can open the trunk automatically by pressing the button twice on the key fob. But watch this video to see how quickly the trunk closes when you press the button on the trunk lid. I had to jump back out of the way.
On paper, our 2005 Mercedes CL65 AMG looks like a monster. Its twelve-cylinder, twin-turbo engine has more horsepower than most sports cars while its torque output would impress an F-350 owner.
Yet for all its brawn I don't really like the way it feels from behind the wheel. Sure, it will snap heads at full throttle, but when you're just easing into normal speeds there's so much howling from the turbos that you barely hear anything else. It gives it a soft feel that doesn't convey the car's abilities very well.
Compare that to the deep rumbling you get from one of AMG's V8s of that era and the distinction couldn't be starker. If I were contemplating a similar purchase, I would stick with a V8, the "65" badges just aren't worth it.
One of the problems that used-car shoppers face is that a car designed and built several years ago was never intended to co-exist with today's portable technology. Two of the features that have become commonplace are iPod/iPhone music connections and Bluetooth phone connectivity. The latter is, for all intents and purposes, legally mandated in most states.
So, what happens if you're buying a used car that doesn't have these features?
It's an issue my cousin is experiencing as she's set to inherit her mother's 2004 Honda CR-V and one we're dealing with in our long-term 2005 Mercedes CL65 AMG.
Bluetooth is the more pressing issue for many given hands-free phone laws. It's also a more widespread problem amongst used cars, as it took longer for Bluetooth to become a standard feature. One common solution is to buy an aftermarket, stand-alone unit that mounts to the visor or elsewhere. I bought one for my wife's 2007 Mazda 3s and it seems to work acceptably. There are also more expensive systems that can be integrated into the car.
Thankfully, however, our CL65 has a built-in solution. Certain Mercedes from this era had a phone system that worked ostensibly like one of today's Bluetooth interfaces. Calls are heard over the car's audio system, you can dial through the car's number pad and it even downloads the contacts from your phone. I especially like how it organizes them into individual, alphabetical folders.
The only difference is that the system back then was intended for you to physically plug-in a special phone. This obviously went out of fashion rather quickly, but Mercedes created a Bluetooth-enabled unit that plugs into the phone system's port. We bought one of these "Mercedes Bluetooth Module Cradle Adapters" on eBay, pre-owned, for $249.
It took me all of two minutes to set up. Plug in the unit, hold down the only button for three seconds, wait for the "MB Bluetooth" name to show up on your phone, enter the code provided with the instructions, and that's it. My phone's contacts were seemingly downloaded instantly. The Bluetooth systems of modern cars can sometimes take quite a while.
As long as no one looks inside the secondary under-armrest bin, they'd never guess our 2005 Mercedes CL65 didn't leave the factory without Bluetooth.
In terms of a portable music player connection, cars from the early-to-mid 2000s were produced in the period before the ubiquity of auxiliary jacks, but after tape decks went out of fashion. Our long-term Acura NSX, Buick Grand National and my personal BMW Z3 can all use tape adapters to play an iPod.
In the case of our CL65 AMG, there is an integrated iPod interface available for the car's COMAND unit, but the functionality seems terrible. A simple auxiliary jack seems to be the preferred method of connection, but it'll take some time to nail down the right solution and will most certainly need to be professionally done.
Click through for a video tour of our long-term 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG.
My father stared at the 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG 's engine bay and asked again, "How much?"
"About one-eighty new," I said.
"And you guys paid about forty. Unreal."
Pops is not unwise in the ways of depreciation. He seemingly bought and sold a car every couple of years when I was growing up. There was a mid-1970's Stingray, a 911 SC, an Alfa Spider Veloce, a 2+2 turbo 280ZX with T-tops, an S-Type, a CJ-7 Wrangler, and several short-termers, including a Nissan pickup and Ford Escort GT that I took off his hands for pennies.
But learning of our CL65's cliff-jumping depreciation offered no solace as he mulls plans to cut loose his Mercedes SLK280. Few expect their cars to appreciate, especially large, thirsty ones like the CL65. It's not an ideal car for wheeling around on errands. The throttle is hard to modulate, with pedal feel somewhere between neoprene and novocaine. The turbos are sleepy spoolers. The CL feels big and drives big.
Then again, few throttles come tethered to a twin-turbo V12. And when that signal is finally received, like when you need to pass a rig ascending the on-ramp and five other cars end up in your rearview mirror, the results are sensational. The CL65 has an initial stage of acceleration, a near triple-digit cruising lope, and a final reserve bank of thrust that comes standard with four-letter surprises. You should almost need another class of license to access this much power for $40,000.
Dad won't take a CL65-like hit when he goes to sell his SLK. The roadster has fewer than 10,000 miles. It's been a pampered, weekend fun car. Even so, Edmunds TMV suggests it's worth only about $22,000, less than half what he paid. That's still a good chunk towards the C7 convertible he's been inquiring about, a car that will certainly cost me many more pennies to take off his hands one day.
The 2005 Mercedes CL65 AMG was made for a lot of things: Being fancy. Being comfortable. Cruising. Long highway rides. Burnouts. Having more torque than anything else. Costing more than anything else in the MB fleet. Being pillarless.
What it's not made for, despite a 604-horsepower twin-turbo V12, is lapping a racetrack. Still, that didn't stop the boys from Top Gear putting the Stig behind the wheel to see how fast it went 'round their track. Stay tuned for our own testing numbers — performed by people with names and faces — shortly.
By a rounding error of horsepower and an entire bucket of torque, our 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG is the most powerful car we've ever had in the long-term test fleet.
Our awesome 2009 Dodge Viper was close, making 600 horsepower and a pedestrian 560 pound-feet of torque with fewer cylinders but way more displacement. Our SLS AMG roadster was kind of close in power with 563 hp and a laughable 479 torques. But what our CL65 AMG really feels closest to is our long-term Tesla Model S. It's all thrust, all the time. That car makes 416 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque, but does it in such a bizarrely smooth way that those numbers hardly feel relevant.
With its 6.0-liter V12 engine and a pair of turbochargers, the CL65 AMG makes a whopping 604 hp and 738 asphalt-peeling lb-ft of torque. Or at least it did in 2005. Have the past nine years and 59,000 miles taken a spring out of the old girl's step? We took it to the track to find out.
Tesla Model S
|0-60 (with rollout)||
|1/4-mile (sec. @ mph)||
12.2 @ 116.4
12.6 @ 108.4
11.7 @ 122.3
11.6 @ 125.7
|Skid pad (ft.)||
Driver: Mike Monticello
Price: $34,000 (New: $181,240)
Drive Type: Front engine, rear-wheel drive
Transmission Type: Five-speed automatic
Engine Type: Longitudinal, twin-turbocharged V12
Displacement (cc/cu-in): 5,980/365
Redline (rpm): 5,500
Horsepower (hp @ rpm): 604 @ 4,800
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm): 738 @ 2,000
Brake Type (front): 15.4-inch ventilated, drilled and slotted discs with eight-piston fixed calipers
Brake Type (rear): 14.4-inch ventilated and drilled discs with four-piston fixed calipers
Tire Size (front): 245/40ZR19 98Y
Tire Size (rear): 275/35ZR19 96Y
Tire Brand: Michelin
Tire Model: Pilot Sport A/S 3 M+S
Tire Type: Asymmetrical, directional all-season
As Tested Curb Weight (lb): 4,646
0-30 (sec): 2.0 (w/ TC off 2.1)
0-45 (sec): 2.9 (w/ TC off 3.1)
0-60 (sec): 4.2 (w/ TC off 4.4)
0-60 with 1-ft Rollout (sec): 4.0 (w/ TC off 4.1)
0-75 (sec): 5.8 (5.9 w/ TC off)
1/4-Mile (sec @ mph): 12.2 @ 116.4 (12.4 @ 115.5 w/ TC off)
30-0 (ft): 29
60-0 (ft): 112
Slalom (mph): 63.9
Skid Pad Lateral Acceleration (g): 0.89
Acceleration: Here's what's amazing: On the first run, with traction control on and going straight from brake to full throttle, this 9-year-old car did zero to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds. The rush of power is alarming, yet utterly smooth. If there ever was a deceptively fast car, it's this CL65. Unfortunately, we could never duplicate that original run. Trap speeds did drop off a bit on subsequent runs, but it was more due to controlling wheelspin partway through 1st gear with traction control switched off. The other problem is that the transmission will upshift to 2nd early when it gets decent wheelspin, which immediately kills the run. But still, even 4.4 seconds to 60 mph is pretty darn incredible. Manual shifting is via buttons on the back of the steering wheel or the console shift lever (slap left to downshift). It does not hold gears to the rev limiter (shifts at 5,500 rpm) and does not blip the throttle on manual downshifts.
Braking: Considering that the CL65 has a pretty long-travel pedal in around-town braking, it felt pretty good in our panic stops. The pedal did get a bit more spongy by the final run or two. Not too much nosedive but lots of crazy ABS commotion, especially at the end of the stop. Consistent distances. The first stop was the shortest at 112 feet. The fourth stop was the longest at 115 feet and the sixth and final stop was 113 feet.
Slalom: The rock-hard all-season tires aren't helping the big CL in this test. It's interesting driving the car around the cones, because it feels really old. The steering is super-slow and requires busy hands to make it turn. The ABC (active body control) suspension gives little feeling because it allows minimal body roll. But considering the tires, how big and heavy it is and the car's age, this isn't a bad performance.
Skid pad: While the active suspension returns little feedback to the driver due to the lack of lean angle, there's no denying that 0.89g is a better-than-expected level of grip.
Which one of these vehicles gets better fuel economy? Just kidding.
Our average fuel economy continues to trend downward in the 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG, dropping by a few tenths down to 14.2 mpg. That's still better than the EPA's combined estimate of 13 mpg.
This month also saw our lowest fuel economy to date, with 7.534 gallons drained in the course of 49 miles, or 6.5 mpg. That was in the course of dyno-testing our CL65 AMG, though, so cut it some slack, Jack.
Worst Fill MPG: 6.5
Best Fill MPG: 19.6
Average Lifetime MPG: 14.2
EPA MPG Rating: 13 combined (11 city, 18 highway)
Best Range: 408.7
Current Odometer: 60,503
While the 2005 Mercedes CL65 AMG's twin-turbo V12 gets all the attention, it's not the only thing in our big Benz that boasts prodigious power. Lost in the acceleration numbers of our recent CL65 AMG track test was the braking distance.
The 4,646-pound CL65 AMG needed only 112 feet to stop from 60 mph. That would be perfectly average if it had summer tires, but it has unremarkable all-season tires with no shortage of aggressive driving under its belt. No matter the vehicle segment, the all-season average is usually between 120 and 125 feet. Although I can't be certain (our digital database of track numbers only goes back so far), there's a very good chance this is the best all-season stopping distance we've ever recorded.
We really have to put some summer tires on this thing.
It was only the second time I drove our long-term 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG. Not 10 minutes after I got to my desk, somebody stopped by to tell me something was leaking from it in our parking garage. At this point I've taken to calling it the Silver Plague.
I went down to the garage and yes, it was certainly leaking some green fluid from the driver side front corner. My assumption was coolant.
I popped the hood to see what was going on and I found a fine spray of the green stuff all over that corner of the engine bay and hood. Ugh. Here we go again. After a little discussion, I drove it over to our local dealer service center.
As it turns out, there's no coolant reservoir in that corner, and the Mercedes hydraulic fluid is green, not red. I'll give you one guess what the problem is.
Stay tuned for the prognosis and cost.
We knew going into our test of the 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG that its Active Body Control (ABC) System was a potential crutch. The life of its components averaged about 60,000 miles according to many owners. When the ABC system acted out for the first time at 58,900 miles, we weren't completely surprised. Now, just 1,500 miles later, it's failed again...
Last time, the ABC warning light alerted us to a ruptured high-pressure line. This round, a pool of hydraulic fluid beneath the car was our cue something was amiss. No light. We popped the hood to find the system purging fluid. We drove it to our nearest dealership for service, W.I. Simonson Mercedes-Benz in Santa Monica.
Early the next day our phone rang with news on the CL65. "We determined that one or more of the damping sphere valves has failed," our advisor began. "The valves are inside the spheres, so we can't tell which is to blame. We recommend replacing all four."
The spheres, or accumulators, house nitrogen gas in the upper hemisphere, hydraulic fluid in the lower and have a membrane separating the two. The gas chamber is sealed under pressure. The liquid side has a valve that allows fluid to pass in and out of the accumulator as needed to absorb road imperfections and minimize body roll. In our car, one of the valves failed, no longer allowing fluid to fill the accumulator. With nowhere else to go, it was pushed out of the overflow reservoir and onto our garage floor.
These accumulators tend to fail in two ways. 1.) The membrane is compromised. It can rupture or, with time, the natural passing of gas through the membrane depressurizes the sphere to the point it no longer damps as intended. 2.) The valve can fail, keeping the hydraulic fluid from holding up its half of the deal.
Our initial phone conversation with Kevin, our advisor, was extensive. We weren't about to okay the $2,600 estimate until we understood the situation fully. He did a good job of answering most of our questions at that time. Those he could not answer we put on hold until he could consult with his mechanic and call us back.
The second phone call started a little shaky. At this point we still had not approved the work. We talked some details of the job before I asked, "So how much did you say this was going to cost us again?" Kevin replied, "Let me add this up. It will be $3,050 with tax." I reminded him that the original estimate was $2,600 and asked what had changed between then and now. He said, "Let me add this up again. Okay, $2,700 out the door, tax included." I repeated this amount aloud. He responded with, "You know what? I quoted you $2,600. Let's stick with $2,600." We felt a bit put-off by this dance. But our research showed this to be a reasonable price for the work involved. We okayed the job.
This was the only awkward interaction in our dealings with Kevin. He was otherwise attentive to our needs and quick to respond to our questions. At our request, he made arrangements for us to take a few photos of the work in progress and speak briefly to the mechanic operating on our CL65. Admittedly, he had just learned we were with Edmunds. I can't say if this granted us backstage access, but I'd like to think any concerned owner could get the same treatment.
Overall, we were pleased with the level of service received. And even more so that the estimate overshot the actual cost.
The right-rear accumulator is tucked up above the exhaust.
The right-front accumulator is easier to access.
Access to the left-front sphere requires removing the wheel shroud.
The left-rear wasn't visible when we arrived, but here is its replacement.
All of that shiny is hydraulic fluid from the overflow.
Total Cost: $2,141.27
Days out of Service: 7
Our long-term 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG's cabin is extremely quiet. Regardless of highway speed or bustling city noise, there is almost no impact on the interior. The radio can be played at a lower volume, conversations can be heard easily and commutes are less grating as a result. The double-pane glass used for the windows is partly to thank for this, but it also has an unintended consequence.
Like many other Edmunds employees, I'm used to waving my parking pass around until the gate to our garage notices it and raises the gate. Some cars (like our Tesla Model S) have windshields that block the card reader, so you have to use the side window instead. The CL65 however, doesn't let any signals in or out from the front or side windows.
As a result, I have to roll down the window on the CL65 and wave my parking pass around outside the car. The same is true with my garage door opener at home. Unless I roll down the window, the garage door stays closed. It's a bit annoying when you've just had the car washed (I've taken to just opening the door to avoid a streaky driver window), and I probably look silly flailing my arm about outside the car, but it's really a small price to pay for a very serene city commute.
I was halfway into a 160-mile trip when I got a stern warning telling me to add 1 liter of oil to the 2005 Mercedes CL65 AMG. I knew that Mike Schmidt had added oil only 1,879 miles ago so I wasn't completely surprised. But checking the oil level and responding to this message wasn't easy.
There is no dipstick for this enormous power plant. Instead, you have to park it on level ground for five minutes and then check the oil via a special sensor. This time the display informed me that I needed to add 1.5 quarts, so the onboard computer converted from metric to the U.S. system.
Finding the right kind of oil was also an adventure and took me 15 minutes of gazing at racks of oil in an auto parts store and comparing the current oil descriptions to those in the owner's manual from nine years ago.
By the way, I came across this handy reference for choosing oil from Mobil.
With oil added, the stern warnings went away and I was able to begin enjoying the car rather than worrying about when the next problem would arise.
Exploring our long-term 2005 Mercedes CL65 AMG is like going on a treasure hunt. Everywhere you turn there's some nice little touch to pamper you.
After reading about the fast-closing trunk, I had to see it for myself. Lifting the richly carpeted trunk liner I wanted to see what kind of a spare tire it packed, since a fifth wheel is becoming an endangered species.
I was treated to the sight of white gloves (never used) to protect your hands while changing a flat tire. The designers thought of everything.
I love driving this phenomenal car, but it makes me nervous. I keep bracing for the next problem. This morning I discovered the cover for the rear tow hook fell off. It leaves a small but unsightly black square in the right side of the rear bumper.
When I pointed this out to another editor he said, "Replacing it will only cost $800-$900 plus labor."
Pillarless coupes like our long-term 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG are a rare breed these days. In most cars, the B-pillar supports the structure of the car in side impacts. Since the CL doesn't have one, it makes up for this with a reinforced C-pillar.
Ditching the B-pillar makes for a very open-feeling cabin. Since there is no metal getting in the way, you can more easily see cars in what would have been your blind spot. This is one of my favorite features of the CL65.
The rear-quarter windows roll down and, when combined with use of the sunroof, they really add to the airiness of the cabin. When I had all the windows down and the sunroof open this past weekend, the wind never got too loud or intrusive, even on the freeway.
Even now, the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CL65 continues this pillarless coupe design and the car looks just as good.
Our long-term 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG is defined by its numbers in a way that few cars are. Big weight, big dollars, big torque, big power. Even twelve cylinders weren't enough when Affalterbach was devising its looney-tunes M275 engine. It had to be a twin-turbo V12. With twenty-four spark plugs, because it needed another big number.
So we recently hit the dyno rollers in our CL65 AMG in pursuit of knowledge. First, of course, big numbers. But we also wanted to find out if age and miles have eroded this thing's ability to belt out the goods. Our performance testing of the big coupe was certainly an informative exercise to help flesh out the answer, but a dyno test can tell us so much more.
So, yeah: 6.0 liters, 604 horsepower and 738 lb-ft of torque when new. We headed to our usual dyno haunt, MD Automotive in Westminster, CA, and got busy with the CL65 AMG.
Here's what we measured at the wheels:
Well, then. Yes, that's 674 lb-ft of torque and 528 horsepower to the wheels. Factoring in driveline loss, it's safe to say this thing is still plenty perky despite its near-double digit age and almost sixty thousand miles on the clock.
What's more, the CL65 was freakishly consistent. Each pull was almost exactly the same to the horsepower as the prior one: just a smooth arc of torque accompanied by a muted whoosh. Easy peasy. It's the most relaxed, unstressed-feeling 600-horsepower engine on the planet...until the rev limiter cuts in. The CL65 AMG's brutally hard fuel cut was the most violent thing I've ever experienced in any car on the dyno. No soft rev limit here: the power slams off so hard at 5,200 rpm the entire car jerks the straps holding it down.
The engine revs low, like an old-school big-block pushrod engine. But, no, this is an SOHC mill, albeit still with only two valves per cylinder. I'd wager that the stock turbos are backpressuring the heck out of the engine at high revs, anyway, making more revs moot. Still, what a torque monster. It's too bad it's backed by such a mushy, syrupy automatic gearbox that saps out any snappiness this engine might have.
Automatic gearbox-equipped cars are always more tricky on the dyno than manual ones. Slushboxes think they're smarter than you, downshifting at inopportune moments (which results in an aborted dyno run). But the CL65 AMG turned out to be no problem at all. Just click it into manual mode and it will hold exactly the gear you choose. Imagine that!
By the way, the results you see above were achieved in third gear. I tried using fourth but there was a speed governor that shut the party before the revs ran out. So I went back to using third so that I could get a full pull all the way to the rev limiter. I'd expect even larger dyno numbers in fourth gear.
For kicks, here's how the CL65 AMG stacks up against the modern twin-turbo 5.5-liter M157 V8 in the 2012 CLS63 AMG. I dyno-tested this car on this same dyno a while back.
As equipped with the AMG Performance Pack, this car is rated at 550 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque at the flywheel. Er, flexplate. Or whatever.
In our testing the CLS63 AMG put down 514 horsepower and 543 lb-ft of torque to the wheels, placing it quite close to the power we measured at the CL65 AMG's wheels, while the torque delta as measured between the two cars is about what one would expect. Note the completely different character in the comparison above. The CLS63 AMG is quite the revver by comparison. The closer ratios of its 7-speed gearbox will also do a better job of keeping the modern car in the heart of its power delivery, too.
Nowadays, AMG backs the twin-turbo V12 in its *65 cars with a 7-speed gearbox instead of the 5-speeder in our CL65 AMG. Two more gears makes for bigger numbers in more ways than one.
In the past I've been doubtful about our long-term 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG. I've wondered why James Riswick and Mike Magrath were so excited to get one. I've thought, "It's a big, old, silver Mercedes. What's appealing or unique about that? Can't we just get another NSX?" And when I have had the chance to drive our CL65, it has been on short commutes tarnished by the soul-crushing rush-hour traffic in West Los Angeles.
It's not an ideal environment for a fair evaluation, but on a seemingly mundane Tuesday evening, my mind was completely changed about this car, all because of the CD player.
The CL65 doesn't have an auxiliary audio jack, a USB connection or even Bluetooth audio. This leaves the options of terrestrial radio and CDs, so I keep a small case of the latter around.
I left my house around 9:00 p.m. Tuesday night, fully expecting to run to the grocery store, grab a six-pack, see what was available on Redbox and settle in for the night. Instead of popping in my "Workout mix" or catching up on a podcast, I put in one of my favorite Red Hot Chili Pepper albums. Immediately upon hearing the first track, I knew I had to keep driving and listen to the album in its entirety.
With the sunroof back and all four windows down on the CL65, I forgot my other plans and headed for Pacific Coast Highway. Since there's no B-pillar between the front and rear windows on the CL65, the open air traveled through the cabin with ease and with the sunroof open I felt like I was cruising in the world's most comfortable convertible.
As the third track on the album wrapped up, I was headed north with the Pacific Ocean on my left and the Santa Monica Mountains on my right. Upon spotting the first canyon road, I took a right and started using the shifter paddles.
I've noted before that our long-term 2012 SLS AMG Roadster was long, but in comparison, the CL65 takes up an additional 14 inches of real estate and carries an extra 800 pounds of body fat. Whenever I drove the SLS through the hills, I was afraid the nose would plow in to a guard rail, or that some hairpin turn would force me wide in to oncoming traffic, so I was always extra cautious while I drove it. Any trust I had in that car's abilities came slowly, and there was always a fear in the back of my mind that it would try to kill me somehow. The CL65 was very different.
The CL65 isn't sporty, but it inspired confidence on this night. The brake pedal travel is frighteningly long, but if you brake early enough and anticipate the necessary downshift, the 8-piston calipers up front do their job very well. Around long sweeping bends, the CL felt serene and well anchored. The steering wheel feels like it was borrowed from a school bus, and tighter turns took quite a bit of steering input, but by the time the tenth Chili Peppers track came on, I was in love.
As I descended from the hills and found my way back to Pacific Coast Highway, the hour-long album finished playing for the second time. Two hours had passed. Usually, after that much time in the canyons like that, I'm in need of a shower, a masseuse and a nap. But with the CL65, I wasn't sweaty, tired or sore.
Sure, we've already dealt with some expensive repair issues and the CL65 still wouldn't be my first pick for a personal car, but thanks to the CD player, I've developed an appreciation for this big V12 coupe.
Range anxiety. I hate it. I got in our 2005 Mercedes CL65 AMG the other day and the fuel gauge, at a quick glance, looked as though it was run to empty. Ugh. As I shifted into conservative driving mode, my immediate fears proved unfounded.
Just as the needle kissed the bottom white tick mark, an amber bar extended just past it. It's got a slightly hidden reserve in the gauge itself. Hooray!
I decided to fill up when I got closer to the office, since I knew there was a convenient gas station right around the corner. Once filled up, the reserve-bar light went dark. Considering that the CL65 has only been averaging 14.2 mpg and had a worst tank of 6.5 mpg, this is a pretty smart feature.
Even though our 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG has been in the garage for a few months now, it's new to much of the staff. As such, we are still having fun putting the bi-turbo V12 through its paces. So much so that in March, the CL65 fell just below the EPA combined driving estimate at 12.9 mpg. The overall fuel economy also dropped, to 14.1 mpg.
Lending the CL65 to Features Editor Mike Magrath and Photo Editor Kurt Niebuhr for a few days yielded an impressively low 9.5 mpg. That's second only to the current record of 6.5 mpg achieved after the Merc was dyno-tested in February. But that wasn't real driving, so it doesn't count.
Worst Fill MPG: 9.5 (6.5 in dyno-testing)
Best Fill MPG: 19.6
Average Lifetime MPG: 14.1
EPA MPG Rating: 13 combined (11 city, 18 highway)
Best Range: 408.7
Current Odometer: 61,753
One of the lights illuminating our license plate is out and our 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG was nice enough to not only let us know, but let us know which one.
Confirmed. It's out.
This is probably the easiest thing to fix on the CL, so we're going to go ahead and strap on our overalls and do this one ourselves. Will report back when that gets done.
Also, we'll have to make sure whoever changes the bulb rips that license plate frame off, too.
Our 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG has finally developed a problem that doesn't require a dealer visit and a spare $3,000 to correct. A warning bell from the instrument panel display alerted us to a burned out license plate light bulb. I grabbed a pair from a local auto parts store and set to work.
To get to the light cover, you must first deal with the Merc's trunk that is happiest either fully closed or full open. The trunk needs to be semi-open to access the light, and that means propping it up with your shoulder. I learned the hard way that the trunk never stops its attempt to close even if an object impedes its downward progress.
Getting the light cover dislodged once the screws are removed was another challenge. There's a rubber seal that keeps dirt out of the cover, so I wedged the car's front license plate (it isn't mounted, so it lives in the trunk) in between the light cover and its holder to free it.
Removing the bulb is as easy as jamming a screwdriver underneath and praying it doesn't shatter from the pressure. Bulb replacement is much easier, and all that's left is to throw the cover back on to the trunk.
Total cost: a measly $5.96.
Our twin-turbo V12-powered long-term 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG is using oil. About a quart every 1,000 miles.
We bought the car back in December with 56,000 miles on it. It was a CPO car and had just been serviced by Mercedes-Benz of Reno, NV. However, we've already added oil to the big V12 four times: a quart at 58,500 miles, 59,000 miles, 61,000 miles and now at 62,000 miles. Per the car's spec we used Mobil 1 0W40 full synthetic European Car Formula, which ain't cheap.
There doesn't seem to be any leaks under the car and we have no way to manually check the oil level. Remember, this Mercedes does not have a dipstick. Instead it relies on a digital computer-generated oil level gauge and low level warning system. It is possible that measuring system is on the fritz and we are overfilling the engine, which would not be good, but I don't believe that to be the case.
Meanwhile, that same computer tells us a scheduled service should be performed in 4,500 miles. We'll keep you posted.
The girl who lives in my house doesn't quite understand our 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG or why I love it.
The girl and I carpool most of the time. We work about a mile apart and, with a commute that can last an hour, it's nice to have some company to keep me from going crazy. We've been at this a while, and she's got a good eye for test cars. Still, when I picked her up in the CL, she walked by it half a dozen times before getting wise to the scene. I laughed. She asked what I did with the corpse of the old man I'd carjacked this thing from.
But the jabs didn't stop there. The outdated buttonry, tiny nav screen with pixelated everything and the less-than-fresh outside design all got skewered on that first drive home and it hasn't stopped.
A ride up PCH with the sun setting and the windows down didn't do it. (She doesn't get the pillarless thing. "I don't look backwards, why should I care?") My resurrection of an old Caselogic CD binder didn't do it. Even the frequent application of all 604 hp hasn't had an effect. To her, the CL65 isn't a six-figure super cruiser at a bargain price, it's just another old Mercedes that isn't old enough to be really cool.
From the second I picked up our CL65 in Reno, I've been considering buying this thing for myself when the test is up. After this, I still am. I love this thing.
When cupholders do their job, you'll never give them a second thought. But perhaps too much thought was given when Mercedes-Benz designed the cupholders on our long-term 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG. They are needlessly complex and aren't very good at holding anything larger than a can of soda.
The cupholders are hidden in the center console until you need them. Using them requires a two-step process (three if you want a second cupholder). When you flip it into position, the cupholder appears on the right, as if it belonged to the passenger. There's a tall (small if you're not versed in Starbucks jargon) iced coffee in the above photo. Opting for the Venti (large) would've been a risky proposition.
When you're done with your beverage of choice, there's a four-step process to put them away (five if you've used the second cupholder).
Take a look at this video to see the cupholders in action:
Our 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG logged 1,336 miles in April. Its average monthly fuel economy of 13.6 mpg brought the big coupe's lifetime average down to 14.0 mpg, from the previous 14.1.
Our worst tank for the month delivered just 11.2 mpg, with a best fill of 15.9 mpg, the last partially thanks to the author's long highway commute.
The CL's best range remains unchanged at 408.7 miles.
Worst Fill MPG: 9.5
Best Fill MPG: 19.6
Average Lifetime MPG: 14.0
EPA MPG Rating: 13 Combined (11 City/18 Highway)
Best Range: 408.7
Current Odometer: 63,090 miles
At 3:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning I was wide awake and eating breakfast. My friend (and fellow Edmunds.com employee) Megan was already on her way to meet me. We were running a half-marathon that day and the gun at the start line was set to go off at 6:15 a.m.
A few days earlier, I had snagged the keys to our long-term 2005 Mercedes Benz CL65 AMG, with fond memories of the seats. I remembered they had more padding than a king-size mattress and although I hadn't used it before, some sort of massage function. Sounds perfect right? Not exactly.
Once Megan arrived, we threw our gear in the trunk and headed out for the race. For starters, the seats in our CL65 AMG are huge, but they don't fit me well. I adjusted the side bolsters in to their most relaxed position, but I couldn't get 100% comfortable. The bolsters are intrusive, much like the Recaros Sport Seats in our old long-term 2013 Ford Focus ST which cramped my shoulders and mid-back. The CL's seats aren't nearly as rigid, but they made me shuffle around the whole time.
Then there are the massaging seats I mentioned earlier. There's a button on the seat that says "Pulse" and when I first pressed it, I thought it was broken. I didn't feel any difference in the seat and I wondered if I'd done something wrong. I leaned back and sure enough, I felt a slight increase in lumbar support, then it went away. It's like the seat was taking a deep breath in, then letting it out. While I knew I wouldn't get a hot-stone massage like the 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class, I was hoping for at least some sort of pressure. I have a $40 shiatsu pillow at home that's better than what the CL has. What a letdown.
Finally, there were the heating and cooling functions on the seats. For me, the heating function never got hot enough before the race. After nearly 60 miles, they felt relatively warm but no-where near as hot as I would've liked. The heated seats in our long-term 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 are much better. They get warm quicker and you can even pick between heating your back and your bum. Once we'd run the race, it was sunny and warm outside so I switched to using the seat cooling function on the way home. I was wearing my synthetic running gear which is pretty thin, but I couldn't feel a temperature difference. Maybe I'll test them again when I'm not sunburned and exhausted, but after an hour on the road I still felt no change, so I just turned them off. I asked Megan later what she thought of the seats in the CL65 and she responded by giving the most apt description of the seats I could think of, "I don't remember loving or hating them."
Was the CL65 comfortable on the freeway to and from the early-morning run? Absolutely. Were the seats plush and supportive? Sure. Are they the most comfortable seats in our long-term fleet? Probably not.
"It feels like it wants to cruise at 90 mph." This is what my coworker James Riswick recently told me about what it's like to drive our 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG on the highway. I hadn't driven our CL previous to that. But sure enough James was right.
American highway speed limits can feel like an injustice to this car. The CL65 AMG is so stable and its V12 is so strong and unstressed that normal cruising barely taps into the car's potential. Dawdle along at 65 mph and it's like going to a concert for the pianist Paul Lewis, but because of rules he can only perform "Mary Had A Little Lamb."
You can tell the CL65 AMG is a product of the country that came up with the Autobahn.
It's interesting to have our 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG in the Edmunds' long-term fleet. This was Mercedes' flagship coupe back in the day and packed the best and most advanced stuff from the company's arsenal. Obviously, a lot of technology used here seems pretty mundane nearly ten years later. But from a design standpoint there are still a lot of cool touches.
The CL's door hinges are a great example. Mercedes could have just used regular door hinges. But because the CL's doors are notably long and heavy, a regular opening door wasn't good enough for Mercedes' engineers, it seems. Instead, they came up with a specialized double-action hinge.
With normal hinges, the CL's long doors could be problematic in tight parking spaces (causing door dings on other cars) or even hard to close because the door pulls would be far away. The CL's hinges, however, allow the doors to move away from the car by a few inches as they also simultaneously open up conventionally. This outward, complementary parallel movement provides extra open space for you to enter and exit the CL (particularly closer to the front of the car, where your feet are) while still keeping the door relatively close.
It's a neat design. And along with the soft, power-closing door feature, getting in and out of this big luxury coupe is drama free.
If you knew you were about to fire up a car with a hand-built, twin-turbocharged 6.0-liter V12 good for 604 horsepower, you'd probably expect to hear the automotive equivalent of Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries. But this is our 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG. Apparently, a certain amount of decorum is required.
If you're seated inside with the windows up and twist the key (or push the starter button atop the gear shifter), there's very little indication about what just came to life underneath that hood. It's a "civilized" V12 sound. But if you're standing outside of the car near the exhaust tips, it's a very different sound.
This V12 isn't loud, necessarily. But it does sound pretty sweet.
After approximately nine years and 60,000 miles of use, the interior of our 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG still looks great and is holding up well.
Sure, there are a few cosmetic marks and scuffs, and we're living with the instrument panel buzz because getting rid of it would cost $1,275 to fix. But the interior's overall construction is still tight. Nothing is warping or fading. And when I've driven the CL65 AMG down the highway and around town, I don't ever recall hearing any consistent panel rattles or squeaks.
Whether or not this impresses you likely depends on your expectations. On one hand, this was originally a $181,240 Mercedes. For that kind of money, you'd darn well expect it to not have any rattles, right? On the other hand, nine years is still nine years of use, and who knows how hard this CL65 AMG was truly driven previously or how well or poorly it was taken care of?
With 604 horsepower and 738 pound-feet of torque coming from the V12 in our 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG, you expect (and get) jetliner-like acceleration when you punch the accelerator. But another quality about this V12 that I enjoy comes about when you're not driving it hard.
This engine is smooth and so strong at low rpm that for normal driving the transmission upshifts right around 2,000 rpm. That's it. The other 4,000 rpm? Don't need 'em. Even when you're cruising at California highway speeds the V12 is still spinning right around 2,000 rpm.
I went back and looked at our CL65 AMG dyno test. Unfortunately the graph doesn't start until about 2,700 rpm. But it seems fair to assume that the V12 is still cranking multiple Honda Civic engine's worth of torque right off idle.
A paradigm of a super luxury coupe V12? Pretty much.
"It'll be fine."
This was me telling my wife about leaving the long-term 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG parked at the airport while we went away for a trip. Originally, a friend was supposed to give us a lift. But he couldn't at the last minute so I decided we'd just take the CL. It did seem a little undignified to leave it parked, but I also considered that it's a nine-year-old car that Edmunds bought for less than $40,000. Plus, nothing can break on it if the car's just sitting, right?
Famous last words.
My wife and I returned from our trip late at night five days later. I knew something was amiss as soon as we approached the car. Nothing was happening when I pressed the key fob's unlock button. I pressed it a few more times. Nothing. My wife just gave me a look. "See, just like I said, it'll be fine," I told her.
Our CL65 AMG has keyless ignition and the electronic-style key, so there's no immediate way to just unlock the car. But I knew that the fob would have a hidden metal key that can be used to unlock the door, so I did that. And sure enough, there was no power whatsoever in the car. The battery was completely dead.
It was too late at night to do anything about it or get a ride home, so we just got a taxi ride home. I figured I'd deal with the CL65 the next morning. But I was a little concerned since I parked the CL65 head in, and I wasn't sure how I'd get jumper cables up to the engine bay (more on that shortly).
To play it safe, I just called a tow service and met them at the airport parking lot. I had a bit of time before the service arrived, so I checked the CL. It turned out that the battery was actually in the trunk. I was annoyed at myself at that point for not bringing my jumper cables and doing it myself, but at that point the tow service was already there.
Actually, it was just a guy in a Nissan Versa. He hooked up a portable battery jumper pack first and we tried starting the CL65. There was some power but it didn't seem like the portable pack was powerful enough. So we hooked up jumper cables from the Versa to the CL as well. The CL65 AMG's V12 came to life. Success! He figured the age of the battery (four years old), the days of parking and the 100-degree heat all conspired to kill the battery.
The CL65 seemed fine, and we both agreed that we should keep it running for 20 minutes or so. I figured I'd just drive it straight home. On the way I was feeling pretty good. I thought about how my wife had asked me to pick up some groceries since we had been out of town. "Well, the grocery store's about 20 minutes away," I thought to myself. "That should be enough time for it to recharge the battery."
After shopping, I came out of the Whole Foods parking lot with my groceries only to find the CL65 dead again. And it wasn't just mostly dead. It was completely dead just like it was at the airport. Even the doors wouldn't unlock. Sigh.
Thankfully, one of the employees at Whole Foods said he had some jumper cables in his car, and he offered to give me a jump. (He even put my cart of groceries in the store's cooler while we worked on the car. Nice guy.) We hooked everything up and...no luck. There was power but the V12 wouldn't turn over. We tried idling his car about 10 minutes for more charging, but still it didn't seem to be enough. Finally, I just called the tow service again.
This time it was a real tow truck. But we encountered the same problems as before. The V12 wouldn't turn over, even after keeping everything hooked up. Finally after about 30 more minutes the tow driver suggested we double up. I found my Whole Foods friend and he kindly brought his Altima over again. With both the truck and Altima hooked up, the CL65 finally started.
I was relieved. I drove it straight home and parked it. I knew I'd need to get a new battery. More on that in the next update.
We added 850 miles to our 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG in May. Our average fuel economy for the month was 15.9 mpg, considerably higher than the EPA combined estimate of 13 mpg. That's pretty darn good when you think of how easy it is to go fast in this car.
This helped us improve our lifetime average number to 14.1 mpg.
Worst Fill MPG: 9.5
Best Fill MPG: 19.6
Average Lifetime MPG: 14.1
EPA MPG Rating: 13 Combined (11 City/18 Highway)
Best Range: 408.7
Current Odometer: 64,088 miles
This is the trunk of our 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG. Those are the floor mats to the CL65. I'm not sure who put them there, but I think I know why...
See, these floor mats have two big problems. The first is the color. Nobody in the office wanted this light interior color. Light floor mats are a silly idea if you're the type of person who doesn't change shoes before getting into your car. They show all of the dirt, all of the time and are impossible to clean.
The bigger issue with these mats is their overall floppiness. In the past 9 years, they've lost all of their structure and now have the rough integrity of a pair of jeans. Compounding this issue, they don't have any sort of hook to anchor them to the actual carpet. What this means is that after about 3 miles, the damned things are all bunched up by the pedals which is...bad. They've never obstructed them, just gotten too close for comfort.
So while I'm not sure who did this, I support it. (And hope you'll pay for the necessary carpet cleaning when we go to sell this thing.)
The sunroof in our 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG used to work correctly. It doesn't anymore.
UPDATE: It's fixed!
Holding the button (or pressing it) SHOULD open the sunroof all the way. It doesn't. All it does is move the sunroof an inch or so back. Then you have to press it again. Then again. Then again.
The return feature still works correctly, but for now, the sunroof is dead to me. All four windows still go down.
UPDATE: This one falls on me. I knew this happened with windows but never considered it would happen on a sunroof. User Turbospark was the first one to call me out. "Dead battery will do that; to the windows too. Don't press it to the double stop auto-open setting - just halfway and hold while it opens all the way and for 5 seconds after. Should work right after that..." 100% right. Took all of 11 seconds including getting into the car.
Taking out the old battery wasn't terribly difficult. You have to remove the cover and then a bracket that holds the battery in place. I did need a long extension for my socket wrench to loosen the bracket's bolt.
Granted, lifting a big and heavy battery like this out of a recessed hole isn't much fun for your back. Thankfully, there are two handles on the battery's top to make it (a little) easier.
Oh, and because there wasn't any power to the power opening and closing mechanism, the CL's trunk lid had a habit of slowly closing on its own due to gravity. It would seem the struts are a little worn. I used a piece of wood to keep it in place while I did my work.
Then I was off to my local Mercedes-Benz dealership to buy a new battery. What's that saying about there's nothing more expensive than a cheap Mercedes? Total cost with the core swap was $267.32
"What do you think of the CL?" This was the question fellow editor Mike Magrath posed to me after I finally spent some quality time with our 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG.
"Umm..." was about the best I could start with. It wasn't an easy question to answer.
For the CL65, I find myself oscillating between different opinions. On one hand, it's just bonkers that we bought a 604-horsepower super luxury coupe (that cost $181,240 new) for just $34,000. That's not chump change exactly, but is quite within the range of what a lot of people spend on a "normal" new car these days. We paid more to buy our long-term 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250.
Yet the CL65 AMG isn't normal. It's ridiculously powerful, stately, surprisingly capable around turns, and still very good looking in my opinion. Other motorists or bystanders in the know will compliment you on the CL65 AMG.
The various problems we've encountered with our CL65 AMG don't really bother me, either. Sure, the car's been a hassle to keep running and we've spent a good chunk of change on repairs so far. We also spent a lot on maintenance for our long-ago 2002 BMW M3, for example. That's expected territory for a used performance car as far as I'm concerned.
I start to waffle, though, when I think about whether I'd actually buy this car for myself. It's just not my kind of car. The CL65 AMG puts you at ease and delivers effortless power available at all times. But I don't get excited about driving it. Coupes that are personable and passionate are more my thing.
I do appreciate it for what it is, though. It's pretty amazing what $34,000 got us.
Make that a liter. Our long-term 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG popped up an alert on the instrument cluster to "add 1.0 liter of oil at filling station." But all I had was a quart...
Since said quart of 0W-40 Mobil 1 was previously placed in the car by some thoughtful editor (probably Herr Riswick), it made my job that much easier. Thanks, person!
So, why is the CL65 consuming oil?
Well, oil can only escape an engine two ways: it leaks out or is burned in the combustion chambers. Our CL65 is bone dry, so that means it must be being burned.
Some amount of oil consumption is a fact of life with internal combustion engines. It only signals a problem when the rate of consumption becomes excessive. Our CL65 had a quart added at 58,500, 59,000, 61,000, 62,000 and now 64,315 miles. Apparently our observed rate of oil consumption is (anecdotally) not uncommon among Benzes equipped with this twin-turbo V12 (known as M275 in Daimler-land).
Still, I can't help but wonder why these engines consume oil at this rate. Are the M275's oil control rings not as effective as they could be? Is the crankcase breathing system inherently inadequate (crankcase pressures push oil vapors into the intake at a high rate, rather than separating the oil mist from blowby gases and returning them to the sump)? Valve guides (there are certainly an awful lot of them in a V12...)?
I don't have the answer. If anyone out there is intimately familiar with these engines, drop me a line. I'm genuinely curious about what makes this engine tick. So to speak.
In any case, our CL65's engine is certainly strong. Check out the dyno test we ran on it:
Fellow editor Brent Romans recently replaced the battery in our long-term 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG.
And it's a good thing, too, because I'm an idiot.
Among other reasons I'm sure readers will point out, here's why. There I was, driving the CL65 up a narrow street in Los Angeles. After a third car pulled out from a side street in front of me, I decided it would be smart to turn on the headlights. Y'know, so that people might actually see the nearly two-and-a-half-ton coupe coming at them in the daylight of late afternoon.
Shortly thereafter, I parked. I'd completely forgotten that I'd switched the headlights on. It was still plenty light out, so their glow was not apparent from behind the wheel. I locked it up and walked away.
But what of the warning? Surely the CL65 warns you that you left the headlights on, right? Yes, the CL65 chimed and alerted, but since it always chimes at you and displays the message you see above, I've since tuned it out completely. It chimes when you unlock it and open the door; it chimes when you switch off the engine and open the door. Chime chime chime. I don't even look at the display anymore. If I had, I'd have seen the key warning above, then a "headlights on" warning a few seconds later. But I didn't.
Nearly three hours later, I returned to the car. It was now dark out. The CL65's headlights were readily apparent a block away. I immediately realized what I'd done. On one hand, I was relieved the headlights were still on. This meant the battery wasn't dead.
On the other hand, the CL65 has a monster starter motor. Seriously, it sounds like a race car's external starter during cranking, going VREEEEEE instead of the typical chuggachuggachugga of lesser engines.The thing probably draws a Hoover Dam-grade amount of current. If the battery was at all compromised after leaving the headlights on for almost three freaking hours, it wouldn't have enough sauce to turn the starter, and I'd have needed a jump.
No matter. The starter cranked as usual, the big V12 lit up as usual, and I was on my way.
It probably helped that the CL65 has HID headlights that don't draw as much current as do halogens. It probably helped more that the battery in this car is the size of Missouri. And brand new. Thanks, Brent!
Last weekend I drove our long-term 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG to what is probably its primary adopted North American habitat, a swanky resort in Santa Barbara.
On the grounds were variously brand new Range Rovers, Bentleys, other Benzes galore, and...pickup trucks. Yes, the trend of full-size pickups as the personal transport choice of the rich has arrived on the west coast, after a long gestation in the Midwest.
Most common of all were BMWs, and not necessarily the largest or most expensive. Plenty of 3 and 5 Series and X3s, oddly enough. Everything was pretty late model. No cool old cars at all. I was disappointed by the lack of imagination.
Anyway, when I arrived, I pulled up to the entrance where I was greeted by a flotilla of valets. As soon as I stepped out one of them asked, with genuine enthusiasm, "Hey, how fast have you gone?"
I didn't really expect the question. "Uh, in this car?" I replied idiotically. He nodded. I really didn't know. So I gave a vague answer so that I could get on with things.
"Well, I'll tell you this much. It really likes triple digits." I didn't mention that I was referring to its thirst, in units of fluid ounces per hour.
The trip from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara was my first long drive in the big CL65. Around town the ride can smack at bumps, but on the open highway the CL65 is in its element. Pavement imperfections are smothered over with aplomb; the slow steering settles into a surprisingly appropriate groove; it is as unfazed by crosswinds as a Brinks truck; and the torque. Sweet mother of holy schnikes, the torque. The rate at which the speedo needle blazes across the face of the gauge is simply astonishing.
And the car is so quiet and stable that watching the speedometer provides your only cue that you're accelerating as ridiculously rapidly as you are. It's really a serene mile eater and would be a great car to drive cross country. The range is only okay (300 miles or so per tank) for such purposes, though, and imagine the fuel bill. Still, this car was clearly intended to be in its element in the left lane of derestricted portions of the Autobahn.
I'm still not crazy about the overly syrupy autobox transmission. It's just got too much mush. Even in Sport mode, which sharpens things up somewhat and allows starts in 1st gear (Comfort makes you leave in 2nd gear).
I'd love to use this engine in a pre-smog Benz hot rod of some kind, like a 280 SE coupe or something. Back it up with a manual gearbox that can take the torque (can a Viper gearbox live behind this V12?) and run a more vocal exhaust. Otherwise leave the engine untouched. Such a sled would be far lighter than the neutron-star CL65 to boot. Hmm. Anyone wanna help?
I'm not really a convertible person, primarily because I don't like the sun unrelentingly blaring down on me. It's the same reason I dislike sunbathing or day baseball. Also, the state of Arizona.
Nevertheless, I own a convertible, purely for nostalgia purposes, and I was driving it this weekend. I enjoyed the wind and the sounds, but that damn sun got old. I then swapped into our 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG and enjoyed the glory that is a B-pillarless, "hardtop" coupe. I haven't driven the CL since the "winter," so this was my first full experience driving with all four windows down. It was marvelous: the wind, the sounds and protection from the sun. The key, however, is the lack of buffeting you'd experience in a sedan or regular coupe with a B pillar.
Just another reason I adore the CL65.
One of the reasons NOT to buy a used 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG is Active Body Control. It is a common and expensive source of problems with the car, and we've already experienced a few thus far in our short time owning our CL.
However, before you bemoan ABC's unreliability and laugh at us for making such a foolhardy used car buying decision, allow me to offer a retort: ABC is wildly sophisticated and thoroughly impressive.
What is ABC? In short, sensors throughout the car observe body movements and send their data to a central control unit every 10 milliseconds or so. That control unit then instructs hydraulic servos located in the suspension to counter those forces that would cause any other car to lean, squat or dive. In other words, the car feels like its defying physics by remaining astonishingly flat, especially through corners.
Long, sweeping highway onramps really seem to flaunt ABC's capabilities, and along with the ultra-quiet cabin and the twin-turbo V12's unending thrust, you really need to recalculate your brain's interpretation of speed as a result. There's a very good chance that your seat-of-the-pants feel is playing tricks on you, so it's best to keep a keen eye on the speedometer.
So yes, ABC is complicated and expensive as a result, but it's also a significant reason for this car's greatness and a reason TO buy it.
With the frequent unexpected problems that arise in our 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG, it's nice to see our big coupe at the dealer for a normally scheduled service for once. We showed up at our local Mercedes-Benz dealership for the CL's B-Service.
We met our service advisor and explained what we needed. We also wanted repair estimates for the trunk (which closes quicker than it should) and a whirring noise that manifested a few days earlier.
We were given a list of add-on services but we stuck with the most basic one that matched the items listed in our owner's manual. Even so, a rogue fuel injector cleaning service snuck its way onto our invoice, and we requested that it be removed. Rear differential fluid replacement was also recommended. The manual encourages this service every 40,000 miles, but we felt it was worth replacing. We didn't know the CL's complete service record and decided to err on the side of caution with our accident-prone old-timer.
The B-Service amounted to little more than an oil change, air filter replacement, and various inspections that totaled a spit-take-inducing $488.99. The diff service added another $117.45.
The next day we received a call from our advisor, who was ready with quotes for the repairs. Replacement trunk struts carry a price tag of around $400. A sound dampener would be another $800. We deemed both to be nonessential repairs, so we held off fixing the problems for now.
Total cost for B-Service and differential service: $629.67
Days out of service: 1
We couldn't have placed a nail in the tire of our 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG any more perfectly. Didn't lose any air, and was still too close to the sidewall to be repairable!
Quick trip to Stokes here in Santa Monica and a new Michelin Pilot Sport AS/3 in size 275/35R19 ran us $331 mounted and balanced.
The problem started about a week back. I texted Mr. Takahashi at some point mid-morning on a Saturday with concerns about an intermittent noise at full throttle (weee!) from our CL. We checked out the car, he made pastrami sandwiches (pretzel bread, lots of mustard) and then we took a test drive. The noise happened once every 3-4 pulls and neither of us had any idea what it could be.
It sounded a bit like a blender with the blade disconnected was sitting just in from the driver, glued to the firewall and happened during acceleration and for a second when you let off. Belt? Turbos? Transmission? Someone said if it had a speedometer cable, it could be that.
In any case, Mark and I couldn't figure it out. So instead of taking it to the Mercedes dealer again, we took it to an indie shop around here that comes well regarded. During the test drive, the shop owner made one of those faces that says "that's crazy" when the noise happened. I asked, "Is that a 'I know this problem well!' or a 'I've never heard that before' face?" He said he'd never heard it before and we headed back to the shop.
Upon popping the hood, we found the metal engine cover had lost a grommet and was rattling against some metal bits on top of the engine. Sure enough, when jiggled by hand, it was a close approximation. Amplify that by 4K revs and we're talkin!
He said he'd order the grommet and I went off to get that blasted tire replaced. Once it got back from Stokes, I ripped off the engine cover and took it for a drive. Sure enough, the noise persisted.
Back to our indie shop.
Our guy had already refused to address the noise damper (ABC pump) because it "isn't bad yet. Next year, maybe. Four years" and was reluctant to take it for another drive, when the noise didn't happen because he never gave it the spurs, he doubled-down on his grommet theory and said he'd call next week. I'm not 100-percent sure I ever gave him my phone number. His shop is full of classic old Benz's and a handful of new stuff, I can't blame him for not wanting to tackle the hyper-complex CL65, but I'd rather he just say that.
So, without a diagnosis from our indie specialist, I set out Saturday to figure out a sure-fire way to make the car perform this noise when we took it to a dealership. I wasn't leaving with a "could not duplicate."
I let the CL warm up in the garage a bit and then hit the streets. 0.7 miles later, accelerating onto the highway the rattle/squeal/screech struck again. This time accompanied by a check-engine light and a fun new rough idle!
Simonson Mercedes service center was on my way back to the office so I dumped it there, told them to call me with a diagnosis and walked back to the office.
If you have been following along with our long-term updates, you've probably noticed a drought of new info about our 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG. As Magrath noted a few weeks ago, several problems have kept the car out of our hands and at the dealership. We were still able to squeeze a few miles out of the coupe before it temporarily relocated to the maintenance bay at Simonson Mercedes.
528 miles were added to the odometer in July. Our average fuel economy for the month is 13.8 MPG, while the overall average MPG remains unchanged at 14.1.
Worst Fill MPG: 9.5 mpg
Best Fill MPG: 19.6 mpg
Average Lifetime MPG: 14.1 mpg
EPA MPG Rating: 13 Combined (11 City/18 Highway)
Best Range: 408.7 miles
Current Odometer: 65,712 miles
Yesterday I made the mistake of removing the engine cover from atop the twin-turbo V12 that powers our long-term 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG. What lies beneath is without a doubt the ugliest engine of all time.
It was like peeling off Brad Pitt's clothes and finding me underneath.
A shame really. The all-aluminum, twelve-cylinder, 604-horsepower beast is a mechanical work of art, but its appearance, some would say in the grand Germanic tradition, heavily prioritizes function over form.
But even Wolfgang and Ferdinand know ugly when they see it, so AMG invested substantially in the half aluminum/half carbon-fiber engine cover. Without it our big coupe's 6.0-liter engine doesn't exactly fit the CL's polished image or its when-new $185,000 price tag.
Needless to say, I reinstalled the engine cover quickly and don't plan on removing it again anytime soon. Meanwhile, we've driven the big Mercedes nearly 10,000 miles since we bought it back in December. That's quite a bit considering how many days it's been down in the shop.
Our last update of the 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 ended with an all-too-familiar picture of the AMG parked in the service drive at the W.I. Simonson Mercedes-Benz dealership. I want to tell you it was back in action the next day. Or three days later. Or even ten. But I can't. That's because we didn't see it until 12 days after Mike dropped it off with a check-engine light. So what happened? The picture is part of the answer...
I'll get back to the lead photo shortly. First, let's take a detour through the dealership's approach to fixing the problem. When our car is dropped off, the dealer accepts a certain degree of liability. It has to report all of the issues found, regardless of severity, and we get that. In the case of our CL65, the list was extensive, and pricey.
We sifted through a quote of over $14,000 in items potentially needing attention before returning our focus to the problem at hand: the check-engine light. Our CEL displayed codes P2050, P2058, P205A, P2043, P2046, P204C, P204D, P204E, P204F, and P205C, according to the work order. This translated to misfires from multiple cylinders. A series of electrical tests narrowed it down to P2058 (cylinder 11 misfire) and P205A (cylinder 12 misfire).
Back to that lead photo. If you guessed it was an upside-down pan flute, pack your bags, you're headed home. It is actually the original ignition coil pack. All signs pointed to it as the root of our problem. Parts and labor were just shy of $2,200. While the coil was out, the tech replaced the spark plugs from the two cylinders in question.
The set of plugs on the right are from cylinder 11. If you're counting, yes, the CL65 has two per cylinder. Wear on these two could be considered typical for a 60,000-mile spark plug. It's the abnormal wear on the pair from cylinder 12 that raises a little concern. On that one plug in particular there appears to be extracurricular damage, but it's hard to know the cause at a glance. What we do know is that 6,500 miles ago the CL made gobs of power on the dyno. With the new coil and plugs, it's quick as ever, so it seems the problem was fixed.
Here is a close-up of the coil from the underside. There is evidence of activity unbefitting a spark plug in the left-most cylinders (11 and 12).
While the CL65 was at the shop waiting for parts to arrive, the dealer replaced a worn bracket for one of the ABC lines. It was done free of charge, since it was part of a prior repair performed by this shop.
Total cost: $2,199.44
Total days out of service: 12
I'd like to meet Andreas Schulz.
I probably never will, but it would be a thrill to meet the man that built the 6.0-liter, 604-hp, twin-turbo V12 that powers our long-term 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG.
How do I know it was Mr. Schulz that painstakingly assembled our engine? Simple, he signed it.
No I'm not kidding. Every AMG engine is built by one man at the company's facility in Affalterbach, Germany. And when he is finished, and the engine is ready to be installed in a vehicle, he signs it just as Picasso signed his works.
AMG enthusiasts take this very seriously. Some communicate with their engine builders. Some send birthday cards. Others travel to Germany to say thank you in person. On the forum MBWorld there's a thread called Who built your motor? Reading through it we learned Mr. Schulz also assembled some supercharged 5.5-liter V8s.
Thank you, Andreas. If you're ever in Santa Monica please stop by. We'll go for a ride and enjoy your wonderful craftsmanship.
For quite some time now, the little plastic cover that conceals the rear tow hook of our 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG has been missing. We're not really sure when or how, but I'm guessing it was stolen. Why? Because as I discovered, the replacement part is $95 (they originally quoted me $135) with another $45 needed for the paint.
So that's $130 for a tiny piece of plastic, which sounds like a viable reason for the unscrupulous owner of another AMG CL-Class to boost our cover. Apparently, obscure parts for rare cars turn out to be expensive. Who'd have thunk it?
Of course, it would be even more expensive if we had someone paint it for us, but I was going to have no part of that. And by that I mean I'm going to hand it over to Langness to do it, so look for his post soon.
Whether it's using brushes, rollers, pinstripes or aerosol cans, painting is fun. If you make mistakes, you can make them birds. Yeah, they're birds now. And as Riswick previously mentioned a nefarious character hijacked the tow hook cover from our long-term 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG and the replacement we ordered needed some paint. I volunteered to do the work and here's how it turned out.
First, I scuffed up the cover with a 3M scouring pad (pictured above) so the paint would stick. Then, I sprayed three layers of the "Brilliant Silver Metallic" paint a few hours between each coat to allow for drying.
I applied a few more layers of clear-coat (Mercedes calls it "Klarlack" or Clear lacquer) with the same drying time in between.
With any larger or more visible bodywork, I'd usually wet-sand the paint with a smooth-grit sandpaper but with such a small, inconspicuous piece I thought that was unnecessary. I popped the cover in to place, and voila.
Hopefully this tow hook stays connected to our CL65 for the remainder of our test, but if it does go missing, we've got plenty of paint left for another one.
In mid-December, we bought our 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG. Nine months later, we hit 10,000 miles.
With our new cars, we do everything in our power to hit 20,000 miles within a year. With our fun ones, things like maintenance and general levels of comfort usually keep us from hitting this mark, but we try. Our Acura NSX got 12,000. Our beloved, dearly missed 2002 Corvette Z06 hit 18,000. Even our museum piece Buick Grand National hit 10,000. So we needed to clear SOME milestone with the most powerful car we've ever had in the long-term fleet. We bought it with 56,413 miles and have had 66,413 burned into our brains ever since. We had to hit that.
Cue James Riswick taking a road trip to Oregon.
Cue the fanfare.
What did it take for us to hit this mark? Money. How much?
In the first 9 years of its life our 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG averaged 6,222.2 miles per year. Just about 120 miles per week. Or just about 17 miles per day if we (wrongly) assume this was ever someone's only car/daily driver. To say we're on an enhanced duty cycle is an understatement. Combine that with this car's current mileage (right in the zone where things traditionally go wrong on this car) and the CL65's limited-production parts and insane packaging, we didn't expect it to be cheap. And the good news is that it isn't!
Do the math and that adds up to $5,922.41. That column on the far right? That one is days out of service for maintenance issues. Total there are 23.
Back in December, I drove to the Grand Canyon, a trip made all the more special thanks to the long-term 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG. The epic power, the hushed cabin, the serene ride and supportive seats of this Autobahn-bred luxury coupe proved its worth on the type of journey for which we bought the CL65 in the first place.
Fast-forward to two weeks ago when I was planning to visit another of America's national parks: Crater Lake.
I thought about bringing the Ram so I could rent some mountain bikes during our stay in Bend, Ore., and easily transport them to a trail. Our new Jeep Cherokee also seemed like an Oregonian sort of car. Or perhaps I could take the Macan since nobody has driven it anywhere far flung yet. In the end, though, the CL65 was calling to me. Due to its mechanical woes, which now seem behind it, the Benz hadn't been road tripped in a while, plus Mike Magrath had just installed a new USB input (more on that later).
Most of my fellow editors were surprised and perhaps a little impressed that I was making the nearly 1,800-mile round trip in the old girl despite those aforementioned mechanical woes. Visions of being broken down in the middle of remote northern California with no cell service surely danced in their heads - and I'd be lying if I said I didn't have the same thoughts. But alas, I reminded myself that we did indeed buy the CL65 to take on such long journeys and I was one of the people lobbying for the car. Time to put up or shut up.
As Captain Benjamin Sisko once said (and I'm sure others), "fortune favors the bold." Besides, what could possibly go wrong?
One should never underestimate the sheer size of California. Oregon may be a neighboring state, but from my house in Los Angeles, it's a 660-mile journey that takes at least 10 hours. And that's just to get to the border.
In other words, my wife and I were going to be in the car for a long time. Well, as long as it kept running, which when it comes to the 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG, was not a foregone conclusion.
My wife and I departed due north on a Sunday afternoon, opting to forego the interminable, truck-clogged slog of Interstate 5 through the Central Valley. Instead, we opted for Highway 99, a route that would add about 20 minutes, but would prove to be far friendlier to my psyche, as there are more turns to keep things interesting, more places to stop, more stretches of three lanes and seemingly fewer insane and/or inept drivers.
This, paired with the CL65's many long-haul talents, made our first, six-hour leg to Sacramento feel like a quick trip to grandma's house.
The next day's drive up the far more pleasant stretch of Interstate 5 from Sacramento to Grant's Pass, Oregon, was essentially the same story — albeit with more interesting scenery.
From Redding, California, northward, the 5 meanders its way through the southern Cascades and past stunning scenery, including the imposing Mt. Shasta that was shrouded in clouds like an eerie landmark along Frodo's path in Lord of the Rings. Photo op stops in the nearby town of Weed and at the Welcome to Oregon sign were obligatory.
It was along this stretch in the Cascades where the CL65's Active Body Control displayed its talents beyond providing a serene ride. With an abundance of long, high-speed sweepers, ABC did its thing, keeping the car flat as Fresno through corners despite the ample speeds I was carrying.
I did engage ABC Sport mode once or twice, but found its effects to be negligible in terms of road holding, body roll and even ride quality. There's certainly less of a difference than you'll find in current AMG Mercedes with adjustable suspensions.
Plus, despite many pre-journey prognostications from my colleagues, ABC didn't relieve itself of hydraulic fluid or blow a $900 part that needed to be flown in from Affalterbach in a carbon fiber box protected by a gentleman named Hans. Nor did the bi-turbo V12 require a new spark plug or 12. All in all, things were going swimmingly.
Of course, we would be hitting Crater Lake the next day and I had already been told there was something wrong with the parking brake. Perhaps swimmingly wasn't the best choice of words.
It is absolutely worth the drive to Crater Lake. Like with most national parks, the term awe-inspiring gains new meaning when you first experience the majestic views and connection with nature it provides.
Before getting too Ken Burns about it, though, I'm going to let the photos below provide the encouragement to visit Crater Lake. And if you can do it in a 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG, I highly recommend that, too. For, even after we left the park and spent the rest of our week in and around the wonderful town of Bend, Oregon, the CL65 proved itself to be every bit as enjoyable, cosseting and reliable as it had been since we set out for Los Angeles.
That's right, absolutely nothing went wrong with the car despite everyone's worst fears, conventional wisdom and my admittedly false foreshadowing in the previous two parts of this series. The CL quite simply kept going as if it had just left the factory and as if none of its mechanical issues had ever happened. OK, so the keyless entry acted up once and I accidentally knocked out the overly complicated cupholder (it went right back in), but beyond that, nada.
At this point, I'm starting to think the CL just doesn't like being driven by people other than myself. All of its problems have occurred in someone else's care, ergo, it's all their fault. My beloved, er, the CL65 is perfect.
Stay tuned for one more road trip post including fuel economy data for August and various facts and figures from the trip.
As I reported in Part 3 of my Oregon Road Trip story, our 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG made it to Crater Lake and Bend, Oregon, and back to Los Angeles without incident. It once again proved to be one of the best road trip cars for two people, period, and there's nothing in our fleet I would've been happier taking. In fact, there are few cars in the history of the long term fleet I would've preferred taking.
Below is my trip by the numbers as well as the fuel economy update for August, which for all intents and purposes, basically consisted of fills during the trip.
Oregon Road Trip By the Numbers:
Total miles: 1,921.3 miles
Total hours in-car: 31 hours, 38 minutes
Average Speed: 59 mph
Gallons Used: 105.273
Fuel Economy: 18.25 mpg
Best Tank: 19.5 mpg
Fuel Economy Update for August
Worst Fill MPG: 9.5 mpg
Best Fill MPG: 19.6 mpg
Average Lifetime MPG: 14.5 mpg
EPA MPG Rating: 13 Combined (11 City/18 Highway)
Best Range: 408.7 miles
Current Odometer: 68,290 miles
In August, the CL65 crossed the 10,000-mile mark during our ownership and thanks to nearly 2,000 highway miles, increased its fuel economy by 0.4 mpg up to 14.5.
I sadly failed to beat Mike Magrath's range and fuel economy record established with the very first fill during his drive back from Mercedes-Benz of Reno, but I did manage to put more gas into the car in one fill than anyone else. So, there's that.
The seats in our long-term 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG do it all. They have three memory profiles, tons of adjustment options, a massage function and heated and cooled seat backs.
It's the cooled seats I'm taking issue with. They're just not cool.
I had the driver seat on the highest cooled-seat setting this past weekend and I couldn't feel a thing. I couldn't even feel warm air blowing. I turned the radio off and could hear a fan blowing when I powered on the cooled seats. Something was churning under the seat; it just wasn't making its way through the vents.
I slid into the passenger seat to test if things were any different. I felt a slight breeze on the highest setting, but it wasn't obvious. The driver's side has definitely lost its cool while the passenger side is struggling to keep what little cool it has left.
Whatever repairs we need to get the CL65's seats in working order, I can only imagine that they will be expensive, given how pricey all our other repairs have been. This car will only be with us a few more months, so I doubt that the seats are worth fixing.
The navigation system in our long-term 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG is nearly 10 years old. If you count the development time, it's probably even older. In technology terms, this is ancient history.
To put this in perspective, here's some of the tech from a decade ago. In 2005 Windows XP was going strong on PC, iPod video was all the rage, and I was proudly sporting a matte black Motorola RAZR phone.
So it wasn't a surprise to me to see how outdated the CL65's navigation system has become, but it is interesting to see how tech has changed over the years.
For starters, the maps in our car are outdated. I can probably find a DVD with current map data, but it really isn't worth it given how slow and terrible the interface is. The screen itself is positioned really low in the center stack. You can't see any street names unless you are zoomed in to the closest view. It takes forever to input an address with the directional pad. I was impressed however, that the navigation directions appear in the instrument cluster. This is common now, but pretty rare back in 2005.
Rather than deal with all this, I used my iPhone for navigation. I used Siri to navigate to a friend's house, with all the directions programmed before I set foot in the car. The CL65's cupholder sits high enough that it was actually easier to see the phone than the car's nav screen.
Despite seeing how obsolete old nav systems can get, I'm still a big proponent of factory- installed navigation, rather than smartphone-based nav. I like the integration in the car and the better quality of the signal (satellite vs. cell towers). And of course, using in-car nav is far less distracting. Most people don't buy mounts for their phones, so they often have to glance down to the cupholder to take a look at the map.
The exception to my preference will be when we start seeing cars equipped with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. These have the potential to bring us the best of both worlds and ensure that navigation data and hardware never go out of date. The first few cars with Apple CarPlay will hit dealerships before the end of the year. Time will tell if they live up to the hype.
Where do you stand on this? Factory navigation or smartphone?
Our long-term 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG is just a few miles short of hitting the 70K mark, thanks to a couple of recent road trips. James Riswick took the big Merc to Oregon and back in August, racking up nearly 2,000 miles. Scott Jacobs drove it from Los Angeles to Napa Valley and back, putting another 1,000-ish miles on the odometer. That brings the CL's 10-month mileage total to 12,954 miles. So what do all these highway miles equate to when the CL65 visits the pump?
Click through to find out.
Worst Fill MPG: 9.5 mpg
Best Fill MPG: 19.6 mpg
Average Lifetime MPG: 14.6 mpg
EPA MPG Rating: 13 Combined (11 City/18 Highway)
Best Range: 408.7 miles
Current Odometer: 69,776 miles.
Eagle-eyed readers will notice the change from last month's lifetime rating of 14.5 mpg going up slightly to 14.6 mpg. Basically, not much has changed. The CL seems to be suited towards grand touring rather than city driving, so most of its mileage is accrued on long freeway stretches. With that in mind, it's not too surprising to see we're still beating the EPA combined fuel economy estimate by 1.6 mpg.
Our 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG is one major failure from being left under a tree. So it's with some excitement that I announce that our two-turboed monster has just cleared seventy thousand miles. And according to Wikipedia, the appropriate gift is platinum.
Seeing as how we bought it some spark plugs a few months ago, I figure we're good to go.
Oh, and it just leaked oil in my garage.
October wasn't a great month for our 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG. For a while, the mighty V12 sat dormant as airport transportation. It happens to cars near the end of their life here. For the rest of the month our AMG remained caged in L.A. traffic. No road trips. Only one late-night cruise. No major mechanical malfunctions, though!
Total mileage for October: 409
Worst Fill MPG: 9.5 mpg
Best Fill MPG: 19.6 mpg
Average Lifetime MPG: 14.5 mpg
EPA MPG Rating: 13 Combined (11 City/18 Highway)
Best Range: 408.7 miles
Current Odometer: 70,185 miles.
It never seems to drop below 74 degrees in southern California and I'm prone to break a sweat at around 65. As a result, I'm constantly maxing out the air conditioning in our long-term cars. And while our long-term 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG is nearly a decade old, the air conditioning still blows cold. Really cold.
I put the fans on max, drop the A/C down to 54 degrees (or "LO" — the setting below 54 on the readout) and the cabin cools to frigid temps almost immediately. The ventilated seats aren't working very well and the climate control vents could use some additional range adjustment, but when it comes to the core task of cooling the cabin, this air conditioning system has my passengers reaching for blankets in a hurry.
Not only is this system still going strong, it's more effective than several of the brand-new models in our fleet.
November wasn't a very busy month for our long-term 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG and it was mostly city miles for the big, silver Mercedes. Just 850 miles were added to the odometer over the last four weeks, and when it was all over, the CL's lifetime average mileage pretty much stayed the same.
Best and worst fills stayed the same, as did our longest range and the average lifetime MPG dropped from 14.5 to 14.4 mpg. The V12 may be thirsty, but it's also pretty consistent.
Worst Fill MPG: 9.5 mpg
Best Fill MPG: 19.6 mpg
Average Lifetime MPG: 14.4 mpg
EPA MPG Rating: 13 Combined (11 City/18 Highway)
Best Range: 408.7 miles
Current Odometer: 71,034 miles.
Once again, our long-term 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG is asking for a liter of oil. Since this is something we've come to expect in the CL65, there was already a quart (0.946 liters) of 0W-40 waiting in the trunk when the warning light came on. I bought a replacement quart but I also wondered how much oil the CL had gone through in the last eleven months.
Not including oil changes, the CL has burned about seven quarts of oil over 14,481 miles. The rate at which it burns oil seems to be related to driving style, with larger intervals happening when the CL goes on long, cruise-controlled road trips and shorter intervals coinciding with lots of city driving.
The CL65 can seemingly go thousands of highway miles without needing any oil, but if you've got a heavy foot and you spend a lot of time in stop-and-go traffic, it will ask for oil as often as every 500 miles.
Thanks to the Purist group, I've been to several great automotive events over the last few years. Most recently it was Tuners and Tea in our SLP Camaro, before that it was 86fest in our long-term Scion FR-S, and a while back it was Supercar Sunday in our SLS AMG.
The Purist group, as you might've guessed, is into cars. They're a community of drivers, tuners, car collectors, and automotive enthusiasts, and they recently hosted their biggest event of the year called the "Winter Drive." Planning to attend, I signed out our long-term 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG, expecting it would fit right in.
The stars of the show were cars like the new Huracan and Aventador, a wide-body Porsche GT3 and movie car replicas of the R34 Skyline GT-R and the Dodge Charger RT from The Fast and The Furious.
The event, at its core, was a toy drive for less fortunate children and the price of admission was a new, unwrapped toy. Naturally, lots of remote control cars and Hot Wheels cars were donated, but I went with some Nerf footballs and a matching Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head set instead.
While it wasn't exactly a pariah, the unmodified, decade-old CL65 AMG went mostly unnoticed at the show. The bi-turbo V12 may have drawn a crowd in its day, but compared to some of these rides, it was downright plain.
The CL65 got me to and from the show comfortably, quietly and with plenty of room in back for the toys but it just didn't turn heads. Even though it cost close to $200k when it was new and it can still punish a set of tires, the CL65 was never meant for this kind of attention.
Several pieces on our long-term 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG are showing their age. I noticed the pitted windshield first, then as my mother was admiring the CL's unbroken window line, I spotted the quarter-inch panel gap on the trunk lid. I opened and closed the trunk a few times, checking for obstructions, finding none and hoping that the panel gap was an anomaly. Even after several open-shut-open repetitions, the gap remained. "Ruh roh," I thought out loud, "this is gonna be 'spensive."
We already know that our CL65's trunk lid opens and closes with lightning speed, thanks to the hydraulics (i.e. witchcraft/magic) under the lid. We also know just how expensive it can be to repair the complicated hydraulic systems on this decade-old Merc. With those things in mind, I planned on investigating the panel gap myself and seeing if there was some adjustment I could tinker with myself to get the trunk lid aligned correctly.
I grabbed my tools and camera, headed for the garage to do some wrenching. Mysteriously, the trunk lid had fixed itself.
Maybe it just needed some time to settle, or maybe I had missed a bolt lodged in the trunk lid assembly (not likely) but it looks like the car-gods have taken some pity on us this time. Since there are just a few weeks left in our year-long test of the AMG, we'll try to relegate our shopping bags to the back seat.
It has been about 6,000 miles since our long-term 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG has seen any shop time. Since August our big Benz has been Camry reliable without any of the boring.
Still, this is a nine-year-old car, so you gotta expect some little things to crop up. And I mean little things.
Yesterday I discovered the outside trim on the CL's passenger seat had come loose. No big deal. I popped it back into place and went about my day. But I don't think it's really fixed.
I played CSI and have concluded that the trim coming loose was a result of it being kicked repeatedly during the ingress and egress of rear seat passengers, probably my kids, and I would be surprised it if doesn't happen again.
In the meantime, the twin-turbo V12-powered super luxury coupe continues to provide us with the peace of mind that can only come from extended periods of trouble-free motoring. And I probably just jinxed it.
Let's be clear: This was my fault.
As I was leaving for work in the morning I found our long-term 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG had a dead battery and it was my fault. The car had nothing to do with it.
The previous night the Benz carried a friend and me to an industry dinner at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Fun was had by all, and after my big juicy steak I retrieved the CL from the valet and drove us home.
What I did not realize was that the valet had switched the car's headlights from "auto" to "on."
About 9:00 p.m. I parked the car in my driveway, locked the doors, went inside, watched a little tube and went to bed. Of course the CL's lights were on all night, and in the morning its battery was flatlined.
At first I thought it was the battery in the keyfob, but quickly realized it was more than that. So we jump-started it off of a new Corvette Stingray, which like the Mercedes also has its battery in the trunk, and I drove to work.
Not a big deal, I just hope we don't have to buy another battery.
Before I worked here, I followed our old long-term Ferrari 308. You remember, the thing that started this whole "I could buy a reasonable car, or this crazy used sports car for the same price!" deal. I loved the idea and when I got on board, I vowed to do anything I could to support it and to add a used AMG to the fleet. In December of 2013, six years (and some really awesome used long-termers) later, we finally got a 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG.
Now, one year and 8 days after Takahashi and I raced a snow storm out of Reno, we recorded our 15,000th mile behind the wheel. That's 3,000 more than our "Everyday Supercar" NSX and only about 4,000 behind our CLA250 which was new and had satellite radio and never leaked green stuff on anyone's anything.
Clearly, a celebration was in order.
I knew the milestone was coming so I went for a car ride and planned ahead. I was only about 100 miles short when I hopped in the car so I made sure I'd clear the distance and be on PCH with all of the windows down and the sunroof open when it happened. And yeah, I bought a cake. For a car. You haven't? Guess you're not a real car guy...
At the last milestone, we'd racked up $5,992.41 in maintenance costs and now, 5,000 miles later, we've recorded $5,992.41 in maintenance costs. That brings our cost per mile (excluding the cost of fuel, the car and the inevitable plummet in resale value) from $0.59 to $0.39.
After fixing the stuff we expected to fix, the Merc's been rolling along nicely, confirming exactly why we thought this V12 coupe was so special to begin with. And now it's time to sell it.
When it comes to cars, I'm drawn to shiny parts and I don't mind manual labor. So when I signed out our long-term 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG and noticed a few parts that needed attention, I decided to get out a can of elbow grease (along with some metal polish) and give the AMG-stamped hardware a new lease on life.
After I washed the car, gave it a wipe-down with quick-detailer and polished the wheels, I went to work on the exhaust tips. A little bit of soot on the inside of the tip, but nothing some time and pressure couldn't get out. Or so I thought.
After about 20 minutes of rubbing and dirtying two rags, I gave up. The tips were nice and shiny on top, but there wasn't much I could do to clean the inner lip of that exhaust tip. It's possible that I could've had better results if I spent more time polishing and used harsher abrasives, but this is about all the time I was willing to commit to such a small portion of the car.
Every time I drive towards a rising or setting sun in our long-term 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG, my vision is blurred by some serious pitting in the windshield. Those little specs act like water spots that have dried on the glass, intensifying the sun's reflection, limiting forward visibility. They aren't just in the lower left corner there either, they're spread across the entire windshield.
I've replaced windshields on my personal cars that weren't nearly as damaged, and while this one isn't even close to dangerous, I wanted to see what the cost of replacing it was. Try to guess before you read on.
First, I checked a dozen of my favorite online parts stores. Every site that carried the part was out of stock. So, I called a few local Mercedes-Benz dealerships and glass-installers next to check on their prices. Both the dealerships and glass-shops would need to order the windshield, but it was a part they carried.
The dealer price was for the glass was $1,152 with another $499 for labor ($1,651 plus tax for you math majors). I also called the folks at Safelite to see what they could do for us. They've done good work for us in the past, repairing a crack in the windshield of our long-term SLS and replacing the windshield in our old long-term Jeep Wrangler. Safelite's price to replace the CL65's windshield was considerably less: $1,047.79 plus tax for parts and labor.
For comparison, the Wrangler's windshield replacement cost $458.65. Why so much more for the CL65? For starters, it's a larger, thicker piece of glass. It's also got a heated area where the wipers "park" along with solar coating and a rain/light sensor.
With just a little time left in our fleet, there's little chance that we'll replace this part on the CL65 but if it were my personal car, I'd start putting money aside to fix it. What would you do?
Stop me if you've heard this one. Our 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG hitched a ride to the Mercedes-Benz dealership on the back of a flatbed trailer. Here is what happened...
Things began harmless enough. The brake pad service light recently illuminated and, since our test of the CL65 was coming to a close, we debated whether to replace them or leave the fix for the next owner.
Meanwhile, we drove to a favorite spot of ours to take pictures for the sales ad. That was when we noticed the lower-left corner of the instrument panel, a check-engine light.
We continued as planned, parked and climbed out to take pictures. That was when we noticed a pool of fluid collecting on the ground beneath the engine compartment. We promptly hopped back in the car to drive the short distance home. It was then that our old friend the Active Body Control (ABC) warning light spoke up. This is the part where Mad Libs would ask for a four-letter word befitting a truck driver.
When we know more, you will know more.
- 1.Brake pads
- 2.Active Body Control (ABC) fault
- 3.Check engine light
The day after our CL's flatbed arrival, the dealership sent us this $16,000 estimate for repairs. Take the jump to see what happened next...
Rather than call to ask why our CL65 was there, the service team at W.I. Simonson Mercedes-Benz first performed a once-over of the car. The above estimate was the impact on our wallet, were we to okay everything it thought needed attention. This was somewhat expected, as we knew this routine from the last time we brought the CL65 here for service. But this was the largest number we've seen on that bottom line before.
Step 1, once we caught our breath, was to review the estimate. Step 2 was to decline the unnecessary repairs and focus on the actual reasons we brought the car in for service. Three systems displayed faults and those were what we wanted fixed. After 18 days in the shop, here is what we learned.
Brake pads: The estimate recommended new pads and rotors, front and rear. The cost was $3,100. We asked a few questions of our advisor and learned that, "the sensor was triggered by the rear." So we replaced only the rear pads for $402.
ABC fault: A hose burst. Two lines leave the ABC pump, which doubles as the power steering pump. One goes to the control valve block which then distributes fluid to the four corners of the system. That blew the last time. The second line runs to an intentional dead-end, which acts as a damper for the system. That blew this time. A replacement was order and installed for $1,920.
Check-engine light: Our car had 10 stored engine codes when it arrived at the dealer. This list translated to: All cylinders were misfiring except 11 and 12. I am starting to think engine codes should include $ in them, like restaurant ratings: $ = you'll make it, $$ = postpone vacation another month, $$$ = leave the key and run. We asked that the tech spend time diagnosing the problem rather than throw parts at it, which is sometimes the dealer's troubleshooting approach. His time cost us $907. He determined that the spark plugs were to blame so we swapped all 24 plugs (2 per cylinder) for $1,157.
The plugs from cylinders 1-10 (above) were 72,000-miles old and exhibit what would be considered normal wear. It made sense to change them, especially since the maintenance manual suggested it around 60,000 miles. But there was a surprise.
On the left is an example of one of the normally worn plugs. On the right are the plugs from cylinder 12. They look similar. However the residents from #12 are aged only 6,400 miles. Surprise! A closer look by the tech located valve stem seal leaks in #12 that appeared to be the cause. There were similar but less pronounced leaks in #11. The cost to replace all valve stem seals was quoted at a rate of roughly four semesters at community college. We passed.
Our test is now officially complete and it's time to sell. This CL65 could be yours. Go ahead, make us an offer. Please?
Total Cost: $4,586.72
Total Days Out of Service: 18
It's time to turn our 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG into cash so we took a look at the market — and a look in our crystal ball — and came up with an asking price. Our True Market Value private party price for a CL in clean condition is $24,500. Checking various classified car sites there are several dozen of these coupes for sale nationwide with asking prices from about $20,000 to $50,000.
Before we could place the ads, though, we had one more cycle of repairs to go through. What impact did this have on our decision?
As you may have read in Mike Schmidt's post, we spent and unexpected $4,800 on repairs to the CL. When we got it back from the shop, we discussed price. There was one school of thought (me) that felt the recent repairs underlined the car's unreliability and weakened its value. There was another school of thought (Ron Montoya and several Benz enthusiasts) who felt it made it more attractive.
Let's face it, any CL65 AMG is a money pit. Still, that behemoth of an engine makes it attractive to some buyers and they will be willing to pay strong money for it. So you couldn't really say that a buyer would be put off by recent repairs. Instead, he/she might think, "Well, that's almost five grand I won't have to dump into it."
So, after around-the-clock negotiations, we defaulted to the higher asking price of $27,500. After all, we can always come down. But you really can't go up.
And as you can see in our eBayMotors ad, we've lowered the price after a week.
When our long-term tests are finished, CarMax is usually our go-to source for turning it back into cash. However, this time the CarMax appraisal fell short of our expectations when they offered only $15,000 for the 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG.
Our True Market Value® price and a review of classified ads, showed us that the CL65 AMG was worth about $25,000. It was time to face facts: We'd have to sell this car ourselves.
For a week, we listed the CL at $27,750 on eBayMotors and AutoTrader to see what would happen. Nothing. We then dropped it to $24,900. After about two weeks we got a call from a guy in Las Vegas. He had owned a CL and wanted ours. He also had about 50 million questions about repairs and the condition of this and that part. Every email we got from him speculated about which part would fail next and concluded with, "and that's $1,000 easy."
The strategy for most potential buyers seemed to be, if I can get it cheap enough, I can afford the repairs that I know are coming. So these shoppers lurked in the background, watching the price drop on ads. Finally, the price hit the sweet spot and the calls started coming in.
At about the three-week mark, we got an offer of $20,000 through eBay from a car guy in Irvine. We called him to confirm that he was a real person (an earlier "sale" on eBay came from a scammer in Mexico) and learned that he, too, had owned a CL. He promised to arrive within two hours with the money. We met him at a bank and quickly concluded the deal.
Each selling experience is unique because each car — and car owner — is different. People shopping for the CL were obviously not buying a daily driver. They were collectors who trolled for CLs every once in a while just to see what popped up. Consequently, it took weeks for them to come out of the woodwork, make inquiries, and finally pull the trigger.
Our take-away from this experience is to be patient and remain hopeful because, after all, it only takes one buyer to make a sale.
What We Got
New, the 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG sold for $180,000. If there was a luxury option or accessory available on a Mercedes-Benz, it was on this car. Yet the real excitement was its 6.0-liter turbo V12. The engine generated 604 horsepower and 738 pound-feet of torque and was the pinnacle of AMG technology in 2005. Even its five-speed automatic transmission was heralded in the day.
Flip the calendar eight years.
There we stood in a Reno, Nevada, used-car dealership. In front of us was the same CL65 that turned heads in its prime. Horsepower, exclusivity, mechanical complexity: It was all there. A sticker on the window read 56,000 miles and $34,000. We made one last mental calculation of the potential cost to maintain a car that multiple sources warned was significant, and then we pulled the trigger.
"On the first run, with traction control on and going straight from brake to full throttle, this nine-year-old car did zero to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds. The rush of power is alarming, yet utterly smooth. If there ever was a deceptively fast car, it's this CL65." — Mike Monticello
"Yes, that's 674 lb-ft of torque and 528 horsepower to the wheels. Factoring in driveline loss, it's safe to say this thing is still plenty perky despite its near-double-digit age and almost sixty-thousand miles on the clock." — Jason Kavanagh
"I managed to thoroughly trounce that on only our second tank of gas, letting the needle dip into the red and flirting with single-digit range remaining. The CL went 408.7 miles and drank 20.871 gallons of premium for an EPA-besting 19.6 mpg run at a pretty decent clip." — Mike Magrath
"I sadly failed to beat Mike Magrath's range and fuel economy record established with the very first fill during his drive back from Mercedes-Benz of Reno, but I did manage to put more gas into the car in one fill than anyone else. So, there's that." — James Riswick
"It was along this stretch in the Cascades where the CL65's Active Body Control displayed its talents beyond providing a serene ride. With an abundance of long, high-speed sweepers, ABC did its thing, keeping the car flat as Fresno through corners despite the ample speeds I was carrying." — James Riswick
"Our CL65's cabin is extremely quiet. Regardless of highway speed or bustling city noise, there is almost no impact on the interior. The radio can be played at a lower volume, conversations can be heard easily and commutes are less grating as a result." — Travis Langness
"[The cupholders] are needlessly complex and aren't very good at holding anything larger than a can of soda." — Erin Riches
"You can open the trunk automatically by pressing the button twice on the key fob. But watch this video to see how quickly the trunk closes when you press the button on the trunk lid. I had to jump back out of the way." — Donna DeRosa
"After approximately nine years and 60,000 miles of use, the interior of our 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG still looks great and is holding up well. Sure, there are a few cosmetic marks and scuffs, and we're living with the instrument panel buzz because getting rid of it would cost $1,275 to fix. But the interior's overall construction is still tight. Nothing is warping or fading. And when I've driven the CL65 AMG down the highway and around town, I don't ever recall hearing any consistent panel rattles or squeaks." — Brent Romans
"Pillarless coupes like our CL65 are a rare breed these days.... Ditching the B-pillar makes for a very open-feeling cabin.... This is one of my favorite features of the CL65." — Ronald Montoya
Audio and Technology
"We bought one of these Mercedes Bluetooth Module Cradle Adapters on eBay, pre-owned, for $249. It took me all of two minutes to set up.... As long as no one looks inside the secondary under-armrest bin, they'd never guess our 2005 Mercedes CL65 didn't leave the factory without Bluetooth." — James Riswick
"The seats in our CL65 do it all. They have three memory profiles, tons of adjustment options, a massage function and heated and cooled seatbacks. It's the cooled seats I'm taking issue with. They're just not cool." — Ron Montoya
"The battery was completely dead.... So we hooked up jumper cables from the Versa to the CL.... After shopping, I came out of the Whole Foods parking lot with my groceries only to find the CL65 dead again.... With both... hooked up, the CL65 finally started.... I'd need to get a new battery." — Brent Romans
"I am starting to think engine codes should include $ in them, like restaurant ratings: $ = you'll make it, $$ = postpone vacation another month, $$$ = leave the key and run." — Mike Schmidt
"The engine revs low, like an old-school big-block pushrod engine. But, no, this is an SOHC mill, albeit still with only two valves per cylinder.... Still, what a torque monster. It's too bad it's backed by such a mushy, syrupy automatic gearbox that saps out any snappiness this engine might have." — Jason Kavanagh
"The trip from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara was my first long drive in the big CL65. Around town the ride can smack at bumps, but on the open highway the CL65 is in its element. Pavement imperfections are smothered over with aplomb; the slow steering settles into a surprisingly appropriate groove; it is as unfazed by crosswinds as a Brinks truck. And the torque. Sweet mother of holy schnikes, the torque! The rate at which the speedo needle blazes across the face of the gauge is simply astonishing." — Jason Kavanagh
Maintenance & Repairs
We purchased a CL65 with 56,000 miles. At 60,000 miles significant factory parts were scheduled for replacement. So it can be argued that most of the work performed during our test was of the routine variety. Just not to the degree we expected. A year with the AMG cost us $11,551 and 41 days in the shop. Here is a summary:
Add oil warning light
Add 1 quart of oil.
Replace burst hose between pump and valve block.
Add oil warning light
Add 1 quart of oil.
Could not duplicate. Stored misfire code but no engine light. Car started and ran at dealer.
Replace 4 ABC system damping spheres.
Add oil warning light
Add 1 quart of oil.
DIY bulb replacement.
Add oil warning light
Add 1 quart of oil.
DIY battery replacement.
Add oil warning light
Add 1 quart of oil.
B-Service: replace engine oil and filter, air filter, rear diff service, safety inspections.
Replace Michelin Pilot Sport AS/3 in size 275/35R19
Replace right side ignition coil pack, spark plugs in cylinders 11 and 12, replace worn ABC pump bracket
DIY paint and install of new cover
Add oil warning light
Add 1 quart of oil.
Replace rear brake pads, replace burst hose between pump and dead-end, replace 24 spark plugs
Along the way, we gathered various quotes for low-priority items that we declined to repair. The first three on this list we brought to the dealer's attention, but the remainder were supplied to us without asking:
A/C aspirator motor making noise
Trunk struts no longer working
Mystery whirring noise from ABC pump bracket
Declined here, replaced gratis (above) at 65,631
Replace cracking rear flex disc
Replace rear tire
Replace front/rear pads and rotors
Replace fuel filter
Replace engine air filter
Replace leaking turbo seals
No recalls were issued during our test.
Fuel Economy and Resale Value
Observed Fuel Economy:
EPA estimates for the CL65 were 13 mpg combined (11 city/18 highway). We averaged 14.3 mpg after 16,000 miles of testing. The best single tank was 19.6 mpg and the best range 408 miles.
Resale and Depreciation:
We purchased our 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG for $34,000. At the conclusion of our test it had 72,048 miles and according to Edmunds private-party TMV®, was worth $25,000.
We learned the CL65 market was saturated with crickets. For a week we offered it for $27,500 on autotrader.com, ebaymotors.com, benzworld.org and mbca.org. Chirp. We dropped it to $24,900. Chirp, chirp. Our requisite stop at CarMax garnered a $15,000 offer, which we declined. After three weeks a buyer offered $20,000 and we agreed. For those keeping score, that's 41 percent depreciation from our purchase price. Compared to other used long-termers we have purchased in the past, the Mercedes' numbers aren't great. Our 1985 Ferrari 308 and 1985 Porsche 911, both sold for more than we bought them for. The CL65 is still not the king of depreciation, however, as the value of our 2002 BMW M3 dropped 43 percent during its term of service.
Pros: Immensely powerful engine, quiet cabin, surprisingly capable handling for its size, great seats, classic design, affordable buy-in for a V12-powered car.
Cons: Ownership costs escalate quickly; even the most high-tech systems from 2005 feel archaic in 2015.
Bottom Line: Yes, you can buy a Mercedes-Benz with a hand-built V12 engine for less than the price of an average midsize SUV, but be prepared to spend the cost of a subcompact hatchback to keep it running in peak condition.
|Total Body Repair Costs:||None|
|Total Routine Maintenance Costs:||$11,551.13 (over 12 months)|
|Additional Maintenance Costs:||None|
|Non-Warranty Repairs:||See chart|
|Scheduled Dealer Visits:||1|
|Unscheduled Dealer Visits:||7|
|Days Out of Service:||41|
|Breakdowns Stranding Driver:||7|
|Best Fuel Economy:||19.6 mpg|
|Worst Fuel Economy:||9.0 mpg|
|Average Fuel Economy:||14.3 mpg|
|True Market Value at service end:||$24,500 (private-party sale)|
|What it Sold for:||$20,000|
|Depreciation:||$14,000 (41% of paid price)|
|Final Odometer Reading:||72,048 miles|
Edmunds purchased this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.