2005 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG: The CD Player Changed My Mind
March 26, 2014
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.
Travis Langness, Associate Editor @ 61,207 miles