Review: 2007 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class

Mercedes-Benz redesigns its largest coupe for 2007 with fresh styling, more power and an array of new high-tech features.

by Jim Gorzelany
ForbesAutos.com

The posh Mercedes-Benz CL-Class coupe gets a major redesign for the 2007 model year and will launch in the fourth quarter of 2006. It features fresh styling and mechanical updates as well as sophisticated new features first introduced on its sedan counterpart, the all-new 2007 S-Class.

The base engine is larger, a 5.5-liter V8, which prompts a name change to Mercedes-Benz CL550 from the previous CL500. The new V8 generates an impressive 86 hp more than the 5.0-liter engine it replaces, for a total of 388 hp. Mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission with manual gear selection via a steering-column-mounted lever, this engine enables the CL550 to reach 60 mph from a standing start in around 5.4 seconds, according to Mercedes-Benz. That’s nearly a full second faster than the 2006 model’s zero-to-60-mph time.

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An even more powerful CL600 version will follow later in the model year. It will pack a twin-turbocharged V12 that scorches the pavement with 512 hp. Mercedes-Benz says it can reach 60 mph in about 4.6 seconds.

While EPA fuel-economy ratings were not issued as of publication time, these engines obtain 16 mpg city/24 mpg highway in the S550 sedan and 12 mpg city/19 mpg highway in the S600 sedan. Both run on premium fuel and are assessed the federal gas-guzzler tax. We expect similar numbers for the coupes.

The CL”s styling is refreshed and refined for 2007, with touches like a wide, louvered chrome grille, sharply tapered rear roofline and pillarless side windows that hark back to classic Mercedes-Benz coupes. The leather and wood-trimmed interior has been updated and can be ordered in five different color schemes.

The Mercedes-Benz CL600″s cabin is even more opulent, with unique leather and wood treatments and an Alcantara leather roof liner. Standard on the CL600 and optional on the base model are adjustable multicontour heated and ventilated massaging leather seats with nine self-inflating/adjusting air cushions for the ultimate in comfort.

The coupe gets the S-Class sedan”s new user-interface system that minimizes dashboard switches and buttons in favor of a center-console-mounted controller that manipulates menus on an LCD monitor. Redundant controls for certain functions are found on the steering wheel and console. Most luxury-car manufacturers are implementing such multimedia control systems in the pursuit of streamlined and simplified ergonomics, but they generally tend to swap one level of complexity for another and aren’t proving to simplify the user experience.

The 2007 Mercedes-Benz CL has a computer-controlled Active Body Roll suspension system similar to that of the preceding model. It’s designed to keep this heavy vehicle stable through high-speed maneuvers, particularly during sharp turns. Based on our experience with the prior model, we expect the system to be almost supernatural in its ability to negate body roll “” the tendency of a vehicle to pitch from side to side through turns. So much so that you might even find yourself getting a little woozy taking multiple turns aggressively, at least until your equilibrium adjusts to what is essentially bending the laws of physics.

The suspension system lowers the car slightly at higher speeds to reduce aerodynamic drag and improve stability. Myriad other chassis-control systems further enhance the car”s performance and handling characteristics, including the usual stability and traction control systems that are a boon to driver safety.

As does the S-Class sedan, the CL showcases cutting-edge technology. For example, a new Intelligent Light System includes five different headlamp functions that are optimized for varying situations and weather conditions. These include a “country road” mode that focuses the high-intensity beams on the driver”s side of the road to avoid blinding oncoming traffic, as well as a “motorway” mode, for when oncoming traffic isn’t an issue, that illuminates the entire road ahead in a uniform cone of light. The system also includes adaptive headlamps that pivot in conjunction with the car”s steering angle to help illuminate the road around curves at night.

For even better visibility in darkness, an optional Night View Assist function essentially extends the driver”s range of vision without having to turn on the high beams: Two infrared headlamps illuminate the road, while an infrared camera records the reflected image of the road ahead and displays it on a small screen mounted on the instrument panel.

A new Brake Assist Plus feature measures the distance between the vehicle and the traffic ahead and will automatically apply the ideal amount of braking assistance when you”re coming to a stop if it calculates that the closing speed is too high. If the car”s Pre-Safe collision avoidance system senses a collision is imminent and unavoidable, it will automatically retract the seat belts, move the passenger”s seat so that the seatbelts and airbags will have maximum effect and inflate the air cushions in the multicontour seats (if so equipped) to envelop and support the car”s occupants.

An innovative Distronic Plus proximity-control system is optional and takes so-called adaptive cruise control to a higher level of sophistication and functionality. Using radar, the system not only keeps the car at a desired speed and distance from the vehicle ahead, but it does so even if the vehicle comes to a full stop, such as in a traffic jam on the highway or in stop-and-go highway traffic.

A rearview camera is available to help make parallel parking even easier. Also available is a sophisticated parking-guidance system that automatically measures the length of a parking space and indicates whether there is sufficient space for the vehicle to fit. If the space is suitable, the system provides a graphic representation that indicates the required steering angle and the proper path into the parking space when the reverse gear is engaged.

Did You Know “¦

The 2007 Mercedes-Benz CL represents the seventh generation of Mercedes’ largest coupe, which originated with the still-sought-after 1952 300 S. As of the end of the 2006 model year, Mercedes-Benz has built more than 187,000 big luxury coupes.

The Mercedes-Benz CL-Class debuted as a 1998 model and has always been based on the more full-size S Class sedan. The coupe was redesigned for 2000, dispensing with its creased lines in favor of round edges and curves, as well as getting updated mechanicals, improved performance and added features.

Is the Mercedes-Benz CL-Class for You?

Buy this Vehicle if: You want a large, plush and fast coupe that’s more luxurious than sporty; fuel economy isn’t a concern; you like the new S-Class sedan but want something sexier.
Keep Looking if: You care about fuel economy; you need the convenience of four doors; you’d rather have a sportier and more exotic two-door.
Who Fits? A plush and coddling interior holds four adults, though the rear seat will likely be cramped for larger occupants.
Options Worth Splurging on: Self-adjustable heated and cooled multicontour seats; Distronic Plus adaptive cruise control.
Closest Competitors: BMW 650i/M6, Jaguar XK and 2006 Maserati Coupé

 

2007 Mercedes CL-Class Gallery: