1996's Mercedes CL was, in effect, an ultra-ultra-luxury, coupe version of its S Class saloon. The ultimate in modern technology doesn't come cheap and the CL was correspondingly more expensive, leaving critics wondering what its place could be in the market. However this is good news for buyers of used CLs, as depreciation is not a strong enough word to describe what happened to prices once the cars left forecourts.
The Mercedes CL was introduced in three variants – a CL420 with 279bhp, the CL500 with 320bhp and a mighty V12, the CL600 with 394bhp. By 2000 the S-class had been revamped and the CL thankfully followed suit, resulting in three much improved models, the CL500 and 600, plus a special edition CL55 AMG.
Minimal cosmetic surgery in 2002 was joined by more significant adjustments under the bonnet, endowing the CL600 and the CL55 AMG with 500bhp, thanks to a new supercharger for the latter. Soon after, an immense 600bhp CL65 AMG was launched.
2007 saw another new generation Mercedes CL, one which by now had settled nicely into the hard-earned market niche painstakingly carved out by the previous models. More time spent in design studios resulted in a sleeker yet more muscular looking car, with a choice of two powerplants; the CL500 with a 4.7 litre V8 and the CL600 with a 5.5 litre twin turbocharged V12. An AMG special edition soon followed in the shape of the 6.2 litre V8 equipped CL63.
2010 refreshments added even more futuristic convenience features to an already well-loaded car and upgraded the engines, with the CL500 now benefiting from Mercedes' BlueEFFICIENCY technology, while the CL63 was treated to a tighter 5.5 litre twin turbo unit. The line-up was also boosted that year by a range-topping CL65 AMG V12 with 630bhp.
Bang for your buck
The first generation Mercedes-Benz CL was, on the surface, a rather poorly thought-out and rushed addition to the S-class, crammed full of bells and whistles and almost too clever for its own good, but rather bulky and lacking attention to detail in styling terms. Later models became progressively more attractive but, realistically, no-one bought the CL for its looks – this car is all about the technology.
Think Star Trek: power-close doors and boot, electronically served seatbelt feeds, 12-way adjustable memory seats with lumbar support, height and reach adjustable steering wheel, double-glazed windows and an 11-speaker CD stereo system by Bose. Standard features like a suede, leather and walnut-trimmed interior, ABC suspension hydraulics, climate control, trip computer, satellite navigation and heated seats are joined by an embarrassing array of optional extras – and each successive model gets more and more innovative.
Later editions boast Mercedes' COMAND communications control system, bi-xenon headlights, one-touch gearshift, TELE-AID (to call the emergency services automatically if the car's computer senses a crash!), keyless entry and start and DISTRONIC, which works with cruise control to maintain distance from the car in front.
Basically, pretty much any comfort or convenience feature you can think of is included either as standard or an option with the CL.
What you'll pay
This is where the CL became famous. With an obscenely inflated price tag to begin with which then dropped like a stone from day one, the CL sold in modest numbers and now represents one of the best used bargains out there. From over £100,000 new, you can now buy a second generation 2000-2005 model for between £5,000-£11,000. Post revamp, 2007 models are available at £22,000 – which is a big hike but still a lot of car for the money. 2010 and later models are faring a little better, from about £35,000.
What to check
With so many bells and whistles, there's a lot that can go wrong so check everything carefully. Mechanically, however, the CL is sound.
Consumables and parts are reasonable. A pair of front brake pads comes in at £70, rears at £35, a starter motor at £330 and a replacement headlight £215.
How it drives
All that technology isn't confined to comfort features – any generation of the CL drives like nothing else out there. It's utterly flat through corners, speedy from the lights and torquey enough to pull a train. The body control is as calm and elegant as Queen Elizabeth II and, despite the beefy units under the bonnet, the CL is almost silent even at high speed. Active Body Control, ESP, brake assist, ABS and a full spectrum of the best Mercedes can provide in engineering give you as nimble a ride as a BMW 3 series without compromising driver experience. It's almost obscenely impressive.