The CL is a definitely a niche choice, as its huge dimensions, impractical 2+2 seating layout and high running costs are unlikely to meet many drivers’ requirements. But for those with nearly £100,000 to spend on a luxurious GT, the CL500 is just as brilliant a cruiser as its sporting siblings. Then again, if performance is your priority, the CL63, complete with AMG’s latest bi-turbo engine, isn’t much more expensive, especially once you’ve specced a few options.
High-performance AMG versions of the Mercedes CL might steal the limelight, but the sole car in the range not to wear the famous badge has also got a new engine. We’re first to try it on UK roads.
The CL has always been an oddball choice – it’s essentially an S-Class-based two-door coupé with limited rear seat space. But alongside a mild facelift, which includes LED running lights and a host of safety kit, the CL500 is the first model to get Merc’s new direct-injection 4.7-litre petrol V8.
With 429bhp and 700Nm of torque, the twin-turbo unit has 46bhp and 170Nm more than the 5.5-litre V8 it replaces. However, it also promises 23 per cent better economy, at 29.4mpg, and a 61g/km cut in CO2 to 227g/km.
The engine makes light work of the CL’s two-tonne-plus weight, offering thumping acceleration regardless of the speed you’re driving at. It’s deceptively quiet, but rumbles satisfyingly under acceleration. The standard seven-speed auto is extremely smooth, too, moving from gear to gear almost imperceptibly. Meanwhile, the slick stop-start system is one of the best we’ve tried.
There’s a sport mode which uses more revs, as well as a firmer suspension setting for the adaptive dampers. But the CL can’t hide its weight in bends and the sport program makes the ride crashy around town. In everyday use, the default ‘comfort’ settings are more in keeping with its excellent cruising ability.