Mercedes-Benz CL-Class

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Mercedes CL500 BlueEfficiency

Road Test

Mercedes-Benz CL-Class CL500 driven

Driven November 2010

Additional Info

When a car gets some mid-life mods, the changes are often microscopic. A new foglight, a few more horsepower. Perhaps a thinner aerial. Sometimes you wonder why they bother at all.

Things are different with this CL500. Mercedes has given the designers some cash to play with, and in turn they've redone everything from the windscreen forward. Completely new body panels, a new bonnet, a new SLS-esque grille, new headlights. Around the back, they removed the reversing lights from the main cluster and put them beside the number plate. Then the engineers got some money, and came up with a completely new engine.

So it's out with the normally aspirated 5.5-litre V8 and in with a new 4.7-litre twin-turbo. It's still a V8, but a much less thirsty one and - excellently - also more powerful. Torque jumps from 390lb ft to a heavyweight 515, while power goes from 388bhp to 435.

The new engine seems to suit the flagship Merc's character better than the outgoing motor, thanks mainly to the turbos - you never have to rev it too hard to access the good stuff. Power arrives smoothly, and it's deceptively fast, with a 0-62mph time of 4.9 seconds. Despite this, it never rips down the road. Instead, it graces it, soaring along straight bits and swooning through corners.

But it always feels big. Maximum-attack cornering reveals its sheer size - it uses a modified S-Class chassis. Roll is limited by Active Ride Control, which comes as standard, and alters the springs according to the severity of the bumps and dips you're tackling. But, despite that tech, the CL is best enjoyed sedately. Think of it as Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony of the car world - happy and relaxed, but with some dramatic interludes to stop you nodding off.

If you're up for something more head-bangy, then there's always the CL63 AMG. Confusingly, it also gets a new turboed engine - 5.5-litres down from 6.2, plus a multi-plate Speedshift 'MCT' gearbox, like the one in our E63 AMG lifer, that feels way more playful than the 500's torque-converter. It roars and bellows and blusters its way down the road, using every one of its 571bhp (up from 517 in the old engine) and riding along on an explosive turbo rush.

But back to the 500. At £89,425, it doesn't have many obvious rivals. Apart from maybe the Bentley Continental GT, which - at around 30 grand more - is a natural price-match for the hotter AMG. But don't let that deceive you. The 500 is still fast and smooth and luxurious enough to take on the suave Brit.

Dan Read

On your drive for: £2,205pcm
0-62mph in 4.9secs, max speed 155mph, 29.0mpg
4663cc, V8, RWD, 435bhp, 515lb ft, 2070kg, 224g/km CO2

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