2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG: Grand Canyon Road Trip
January 8, 2014
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.
James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 58,693 miles