The updated MK3 model CL might be less visually exuberant than its rivals but it's a far more elegant proposition than the bland CL models of the past. The distinctive V-shaped radiator grille, more pronounced bonnet profiling and sculpted headlights distinguish the third generation facelifted design, though the dramatically curving roofline and prominently creased flanks that characterise this CL remain.
It's always been a big car but these CL models also provide the kind of useful space in the rear seats and boot that hasn't always been offered in previous generation variants. At 5,095mm from stem to stern and 1871mm wide, this is a serious piece of automotive real estate. The CL500 tips the scales at a formidable 2,070kg, with the V12-engined CL600 adding over 100kg to that.
The CL has been designed as a proper four seater and the additional length built into this car's wheelbase gives it decent rear seat provision for adults. It's the front seats that are the real showstoppers though. Opt for the CL600 and instead of just the usual heated sports seats, customers get what can only be described as the last word in automotive chairs. Pneumatic lumbar supports and four-way electric adjustment allow for a prefect driving position while active ventilation helps cool your back and posterior on hot days. The best part is the dynamic multicontour facility with massage function that gently mobilises your lumbar vertebrae to prevent lumbago setting in on long journeys.
It's not hard to see why the CL weighs as much as it does. It's absolutely stuffed with technology. The bi-xenon headlights not only swivel with the driver's steering inputs to better illuminate the road ahead but they have five lighting modes which are activated according to the driving and weather conditions. Adaptive High Beam Assist detects on-coming traffic at night and dips the full beam, while the optional Night View Assist function shows an infrared image of the road ahead on the dashboard screen, highlighting pedestrians. Active Lane Keeping Assist uses a camera to identify lane markings and warns if the CL leaves its lane unintentionally and Active Blind Sport assist warns of vehicles in the CL's blind spots.
The in-car entertainment provision on the CL is also quite something, with all of the functions marshalled by the COMAND control system. There's a Bluetooth phone system as standard and original buyers could upgrade to a Harmon Kardon surround sound stereo with DAB digital radio and a 7.2Gb hard disc music server. As part of the package, the Splitview screen allows different content to be viewed on the centre screen by driver and front passenger.
Insist on a full Mercedes dealer service history, given that the lengthy warranty - effectively for the life of the car - is dependent on proper servicing by an authorised agent. Check that all the accessories work and watch out for cosmetic damage which can be expensive to correct. Also look for the usual signs of wheel kerbing and poorly repaired accident damage. One of the biggest potential bills comes with failure of the Active Body Control, a system which distributes wheel loading around the chassis via air springs to counter pitch and squat as well as body roll. Check that the seven-speed automatic gearbox downshifts properly. The Alubeam paint finishes also require specialist care.
(approx. based on CL 500 model) Allow around £130 for a set of front brake pads and £95 for the rear and about £575 (excluding catalyst) for a factory exhaust system. A full clutch replacement would cost around £395, a radiator is about £345 whilst a starter motor can be up to £250. A new alternator would be in the region of £500.
Mercedes offered two 'mainstream' engines for the late MK3 model CL, badged the CL500 and the CL600. The CL600 didn't sell at all in the UK and was a special order only. The term 'entry-level' hardly seems appropriate for the CL500, which uses a 435bhp twin turbo V8 to get from A to B. The 4.7-litre engine features BlueDIRECT direct fuel injection technology and will launch past 62mph in 4.9s. The next step up is the unicorn that is the CL600 which relies on a 517bhp V12 twin turbo powerplant and has a 4.6s 0-62mph sprint. Believe it or not, some customers will want to go faster than this and Mercedes is happy to oblige with the CL AMG derivatives.
The CL has never counted tight twisty B-roads as its preferred habitat. Show the massive Merc the outside lane of an autobahn, however, and before you can say crikey, you'll be in Dusseldorf. Ensuring the CL maintains its composure in the face of all that power coursing through the wheels is a plethora of electronic systems. Active Body Control is an active suspension system that adapts to the prevailing driving conditions and works to counteract the effects of crosswinds, while Torque Vectoring Brake can selectively brake individual rear wheels to improve stability. There's also Direct Steer, a variable power steering system, and Direct Select, a reference to the CL500's 7-speed automatic transmission (the CL600 gets a five-speed automatic).
The CL 63 AMG ditched the much loved 6.3-litre V8 in favour of a 5.5-litre V8 engine that debuts the combination of spray-guided direct injection, twin-turbocharging and stop-start in an AMG product. Like other AMG engines, this one is assembled by hand and signed by the technician. The engine is teetering on the cutting edge with its aluminium crankcase, variable valve timing and high pressure turbocharging but it still has the old AMG thunder in its belly. The peak power and torque of 544bhp and 800Nm can be increased with the AMG Performance Pack to 571bhp and 900Nm of torque. Even in standard form, this vast coupe can pass 62mph in 4.5s and slam headlong into its 155mph speed limiter a short while later. With the Performance Pack, the sprint is fractionally quicker but a limiter is still required to rein the AMG in at 186mph. The CL 65? Its 604bhp V12 is actually slower around a test circuit than the V8 CL 63 and because of the massive 1,000Nm torque figure, they need a more agricultural five-speed auto to deploy the power. So what's the attraction? In short, it's the effortless straight line speed, the undemanding engine response and the sheer refinement.
Low key but high power, the Mercedes-Benz CL is a serious undertaking. The CL 500 is probably the most sensible choice, but it's hard to resist the fantastic AMG models, both of which offer their own method of delivering leviathan performance. Just because you can pay £60,000 for what was a £160,000 car doesn't mean that the running costs have been reduced commensurately though, and a CL out of warranty can generate some gargantuan bills. So, it's very much a case of 'caveat emptor' - 'let the buyer beware'. Look for well-looked after cars with extended warranties if possible.