2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG: Road Trip Ramblings
June 18, 2014
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?
Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor @ 64,423 miles