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Mercedes-Benz 2011 (CL550) car review

The Mercedes-Benz 2011 four-passenger CL550 coupe I tested from the automaker’s CL-Class line is a throwback to the grand Mercedes coupes of decades ago.

That was when Mercedes engineers were given a pretty free hand to design the automaker’s large sedan and coupe models, complete with thick double-pane side glass.

Those big powerful cars thus were superlative and majestic. Although heavy, they were fast and had no serious competition in America, where they were overqualified for most U.S. driving — and for most U.S. drivers, who were accustomed to soft U.S. luxury cars.

The new CL550 coupe is the entry model in Mercedes’ CL-Class coupe line. It’s a two-door version of the sumptuous Mercedes S-Class sedan and thus has all the luxury and high-tech items found in S-class four-door models, along with perhaps excessive electronic sophistication.Mercedes-Benz 2011 (CL550) car review 1

The CL looks rakish and has an imposing presence. Styling revisions for 2011 include a new grille and air intakes.

CL-Class models start at $113,150 and advance to $209,300.

As with the old, big Mercedes coupes, the CL550 is no lightweight at approximately 4,600 pounds. But it’s agile, even if the easily activated firmer “sport” driving mode isn’t selected. The CL550 has Mercedes’ nicely engineered all-wheel drive, although other models have rear-wheel drive.

Steering is accurate and almost too quick for highway lane changes. The car rides smoothly and tackles curves like a big sports car. And the brakes quickly and surely bring things to a halt, although the car’s weight can be felt.Mercedes-Benz 2011 (CL550) car review 2

The CL-Class has new turbocharged V-8s. The CL550 I tested has Mercedes’ new twin-turbo 4.7-liter V-8, which produces 429 horsepower and a whopping 516 pound-feet of torque. That’s up from 382 horsepower for last year’s non-turbo 5.5-liter V-8. The new engine produces lower emissions and a claimed 10-15 percent increase in fuel economy.

Estimated fuel economy for the CL550 is 15 mpg in the city and 23 on highways. Premium fuel is required.

The CL550’s 429-horsepower V-8 makes it very fast and an easy high-speed cruiser. Also offered are CL-Class models with a 5.5-liter twin turbo V-8 with 536 horsepower, a 5.5-liter twin-turbo V-12 with 510 horsepower and an outrageous twin-turbo 6-liter V-12 with 621 horsepower and astounding 738 pound-feet of torque.Mercedes-Benz 2011 (CL550) car review 3

All CL-Class models are loaded with comfort and convenience features and advanced safety equipment.

The few accessory groups on my test CL550 were desirable but expensive, costing from $2,950 to $5,900. The bottom line price, including a delivery charge, thus rose to 127,870.

The CL550 I tested had a driver-adaptive, seven-speed automatic transmission with an easily used manual-shift control via paddles, but a five-speed automatic also is offered. My test car’s automatic shifted efficiently, but I could feel it changing gears a lot to keep the engine in the right power range during in-town driving.

Although large, with long, heavy doors, the CL550’s quiet interior has only four seats. The two comfortable ones in the rear are separated by a console and large armrest with  pop-out cupholders. Rear windows lower all the way. Front seats have a power back-forward feature to allow easier entry to the rear.Mercedes-Benz 2011 (CL550) car review 4

Although the CL is large, legroom for a 6-footer is tight behind a driver, although it’s OK behind the front passenger. There’s plenty of room up front in big, supportive seats.

Gauges are easy to read, but it takes some time to sort out all the controls, some of which are very small. Some control a variety of electronic functions and may leave you wondering if they’re really all necessary. I had to consult the thick owner’s manual more than once to find out how some things worked.

A deep front console bin holds lots of stuff, and doors have fairly deep storage pockets. But the small glove compartment is mainly occupied by the owner’s manual. And the lid for the twin front cupholders gets a little in the way of accessing them when open.

The large trunk has a low, wide opening, and its lid has an interior pull-down feature and is lined. A shallow covered storage area resides under the trunk floor.

Finding the hood’s interior release is a trial without the manual, but it raises smoothly on twin struts, revealing a complicated-looking engine compartment.

Mercedes Benz coupes always have been especially prized by the automaker, and it should be especially proud of the new CL550.

Dan Jedlicka has been an automotive journalist for more than 40 years. To read his new and vintage car reviews, visit: www.danjedlicka.com.

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