New Car MERCEDES-BENZ CL-CLASS 2010
 
bottom line
9.6
OUT OF 10
  • Simple, elegant instrument panel
  • High-speed stability
  • Comfortable, composed ride
  • Tech features for every concern
  • Multicontour seats provide optimum comfort and support
  • For its size, the interior feels small
  • Challenging backseat entry/exit
  • Screen-based interface needs simplifying
 

Don't be shocked when you go hunting for next year's model: For 2011, Mercedes-Benz is expected to change the name of the CL-Class to S-Class Coupe.
TheCarConnection.com's editors have driven several versions of the new Mercedes-Benz CL-Class in order to bring you their expert opinion here in this Bottom Line review. TheCarConnection.com has also researched road tests on the new Mercedes-Benz CL-Class to bring you some of the most useful information on how this luxury coupe measures up.

The 2010 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class offers subtle styling cues and bawdy performance to everyone-from the merely rich and famous to the extremely rich and famous. As in 2009, the CL-Class comes with a choice of one of four powertrains-two different V-8s or two different V-12s-harnessed to an automatic transmission and rear- or all-wheel drive. Carrying a base price of more than $110,000, the CL550 plays the poor country cousin to the truly exotic and rare $208,000 CL65 AMG.

It's a two-door with unparalleled road-covering capability, but the 2010 Benz CL-Class has a markedly anodyne style. The roofline's elegant but familiar; the CL's nose, a softly rounded collection of the usual Benz themes. And while the CL wore them first, the rear quarter lamps and panels resemble efforts far and wide, from Bentley to Acura. It's restrained exterior styling, for sure, but the CL's less arresting shape also means its suave good looks are apt to wear well in any season, for many seasons. The understated exterior may be a disappointment to some, but the interior of the 2010 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class is sure to impress. It takes a minimalist approach-with a monolithic center stack of controls paneled in behind a sheath of burled walnuts and thin lines of shiny dash switches. It's simple and uncluttered-something straight out of the German edition of Architectural Digest.

All 2010 CL-Class coupes perform with ferocious speed, but the elegant cruisers among them bare their knuckles a lot less than the fight-club-worthy AMG editions. The base CL coupe is the $110,400 CL550; it's powered by a jet-smooth 5.5-liter V-8 with 382 horsepower, teamed to an effortless seven-speed automatic and all-wheel drive. Above the CL550 is the $154,400 CL600, which rolls with a 5.5-liter V-12 tossing off 510 hp and 612 lb-ft of torque in near silence, and a five-speed automatic. Two AMG CL-Class coupes breathe far more life into the Coupe's chassis; there's a $145,200 CL63 with a 518-hp, 6.3-liter V-8 and a $207,170 CL65 with a 6.0-liter twin-turbo V-12, 604 hp, and 738 lb-ft of torque.

The CL550 and CL600 have ample strength across the powerband, but they're tuned to handle more benignly than their AMG kin. The non-AMG CL550 and CL600 are extraordinary grand tourers, with refined engine responses, a smooth ride, and remarkably precise handling despite their undeniable heft. The steering's just a tad slow and detached to be truly sporty, but the CL's responses are pretty balletic for its 4,500-pound-plus mass. That's thanks to the sophisticated Active Body Control (ABC) system, which controls ride height and suspension firmness and can adjust almost instantaneously for quick maneuvers. All CL coupes get a mechanical Direct Steer system that improves feel. The AMG editions turn up every sensory and performance dial, from engine sound to available grip. The CL63 AMG is edgier and more raucous-sounding in everything from its ride to its sharper handling response; the especially exclusive CL65 AMG can hustle and keep a visual lock on some exotic sports cars without sacrificing the ride comfort and quietness built into its body.

Fuel economy, by the way, is lousy at 14/21 mpg for the CL550 and 11/17 mpg for the CL65 AMG.

Despite its long wheelbase, seatbelt attendants that pull the safety devices out of the way, and power-forward seats that slide toward the wheel for easier entry and exit, the 2010 CL-Class isn't much suited for carrying four adults. The front seats are marvelous with or without the optional multicontour feature, and comfortable for even the longest drives. The backseats are very roomy for a coupe, but it's a tussle to get into them-although a center console and lots of wood will leave the humidor set happy once they're nestled in back there. On the road, the CL-Class coupes are exceptionally quiet and vibration-free, and finishes are rich and substantial, not bright and gaudy.

Neither NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) nor the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) has crash-tested the 2010 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class. Its high safety ratings from TheCarConnection.com are based on its structural similarity to the Mercedes S-Class sedan. Standard features include dual front, side, and curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; traction and stability control; and a trio of systems that use radar to detect imminent collisions. Brake Assist Plus will increase the level of pressure you apply to the brake pedal if it determines you're closing in on the car ahead too quickly. Pre-Safe will take other steps, such as tightening seatbelts and preparing the airbags, if it senses a collision is unavoidable. And like other active cruise control systems, Distronic Plus will maintain the speed of traffic ahead-and hold a safe distance from the car immediately in front. But it can also bring the CL to a complete stop in traffic, then start up again when the car ahead begins to move. This system also includes Blind Spot Assist, which monitors both blind spots and warns the driver whenever a turn signal is activated. The 2010 CL-Class also has standard ultrasonic parking sensors and a backup camera. New safety features include Attention Assist, which senses when drivers may be drowsy and signals them to take a break; night vision; adaptive headlamps; and a feature that helps the CL-Class stay in its intended lane by using gentle braking.

Standard equipment on the base 2010 Mercedes-Benz CL550 includes a hands-free calling system, a power rear sunshade, and a 600-watt audio system with memory card slot. Top features on the CL line include multicontour front seats with massage. All 2010 CL-Class coupes have an astounding list of standard features, including leather upholstery; power front seats; an AM/FM/CD changer with Sirius Satellite Radio; a DVD navigation system; and walnut trim. New for 2010 are ambient lighting; Bluetooth; a USB port, HD Radio, and a 4GB music hard drive for the audio system; streaming Zagat data for the navigation system; and on the CL600, new 18-inch wheels. A rear-seat entertainment system is a new option for 2010.

All CL coupes use a screen-driven operating system and a hand-operated controller for a variety of functions-from adjusting seat bolstering to setting radio stations. The technology alone would keep Steve Wozniak debugging away for weeks; the interface could use some love from Steve Jobs. By avoiding the potential clutter of buttons and switches, and instead integrating the controls into one system, Mercedes has buried some features and controls under layers of "logic." It can be easier to navigate than BMW's iDrive, and the technology's a marvel, but the learning curve is steep, and accessing all those features through buttons and wheel controls can grow tiring, quickly.



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