Used car buying guide: Mercedes-Benz CL | Autocar

You call that a coupe? The CL is the true definition of the term – and can be had for sensible money

There’s something deliciously decadent about a large, powerful and uber-luxurious two-door coupé, especially if it’s one that’s based on a four-door saloon. After all, it summarises what a coupé is – literally a carriage cut short – and it says to the world that the owner (or at least the original owner) had enough money to spend a little more on a little less, merely in the name of style.

So, meet the gorgeous Mercedes-Benz CL, a shorter and lower S-Class and a haut-de-gamme grandtourer with a huge amount of technology and unimpeachable road presence.

Three generations were made from 1996 to 2014, and we’re focusing on the last of them, introduced in 2006. 

In the metal, the C216 is dramatic as its devilishly handsome C215 predecessor was, with a curved roofline and creased flanks that seem to spit the appropriate amount of shrapnel and yet ooze style even at a standstill. It looked even better after a neat facelift in 2010.

You could choose between a 383bhp 5.5-litre twin-turbocharged V8 (badged CL 500) or a 510bhp twin-turbocharged 5.5-litre V12 (CL 600) or, in the CL 63 AMG, a 518bhp 5.5-litre V8 that was assembled by hand and signed by a Mercedes technician. The AMG Performance Pack increases this to 563bhp for a 0-62mph time of 4.4sec and a limited top speed of 186mph.

There was also a CL 65 AMG with a 604bhp V12 for effortless straight-line speed, undemanding engine response and unmatched refinement. A 4.7-litre V8 replaced the 5.5-litre V8 in the 2010 facelift.

You will still be hard-pressed to find something more imperious than the CL. The ride is, for the most part, soft and pillowy, while the handling is surprisingly agile, thanks in no small part to its hydraulic Active Body Control system, which helped to keep it all on an even keel.

There was also Direct Steer, a variable power-steering system, and Direct Select, a reference to the CL 500’s seven-speed automatic transmission (the CL 600 made do with a five-speed automatic).

The CL was loaded with so much technology that it was amazing that it could move at all. Figure in swivelling bi-xenon headlights with five different levels of lighting and LED technology and LED foglights, as well as blindspot monitoring, driver attention monitoring, lane keeping assistance, night vision assistance and active body control. 

Inside was an interior so opulent that you could probably live in it. It was a proper four-seater; and in the CL 600, you got heated sports front seats with pneumatic lumbar supports, a massage function and four-way electric adjustment, complete with active ventilation that cools your back on hot days.

The in-car entertainment utilised Mercedes’ Comand system. Buyers could upgrade to a Harman Kardon surround-sound system with a DAB radio. There was also a split- view screen as part of the package that allowed different content to be viewed on the centre screen by the driver and the front passenger.

In short, then, it’s massive, a little heavy, was very costly new and it’s not at all in keeping with the spirit of 2022. But by gum, it’s a great car to look at and to drive or even to ride in and, bought at the sort of prices that it now commands, severely tempting. Chivers, pass me my chequebook, please, and fetch my driving gloves…

What we said then – 28 February 2007

“Massive presence, a silken ride and an opulent interior. All that goes into making the S-Class so fabulous is present in abundance here too. The CL cuts it as a bold statement of wealth. The spread of power from the 4.7-litre V8 is outstanding, and it corners with a composure you’d scarcely credit for such a large car. It’s hard not to be seduced by the performance of the AMG pairing, with the CL 63’s V8 offering incredible performance.”

How to get one in your garage

An expert’s view – Anton Montalbano, TM motors: “The CL is incredibly comfortable and smooth to drive, as you would expect. With regards to what to look out for, the early M273 V8s suffer from worn idler wheels – a costly engine-out repair job – and the V12s can suffer from misfires caused by the two ignition coils, which are more than £1000 each. Also look out for suspension issues; the shocks and pump are also very expensive to replace, and remember these cars are getting older now. The multi- contour seats often fail, normally due to air leaks. Finally, there are audio issues; amplifiers can fail and are very expensive to replace or repair.”

Electrics Unsurprisingly, the CL suffers from some of the same electrical problems as the S-Class. Electrical problems are more common and repairs can easily run into four figures. Among the more common issues are failed amps, broken inflating seat bolsters and keyless entry refusing to work. Use a trickle charger to keep the battery topped up if you’re due to not use the car for a long time, because aflatbatterycanplayhavocwith electrical systems. A drained battery will result in ECU error codes.

Engine The water pump and alternator can failafterthebeltsthatdrivethem become worn. Check for wear and tear and listen for any noises from the alternator. Both of these can cause a lot of damage to the engine and expensive repair work if left. There have also been problems with premature wear of the timing chain sprocket for the balancer shaft.

Gearbox Some owners have complained about the automatic gearbox not changing down or refusing to go into reverse. Get an expert to check the software.

Suspension There have been reports of issues with the pulsation dampers. These can fail, and even replaced units can give a distinctly firmer ride. Mercedes dealers have often had to resetthe ABC system. The pump for this system often leaks, too.

Bodywork Some cars have had their drain lines blocked, which can result in water leaking into the footwells. The ECU is also sited here, so this water can cause electrical problems. Check that the carpets are dry, because the rubber grommet in the drain airbox can fail and create a blockage. If not addressed quickly, this can not only flood the footwell but also wreck components such as the heater. Corrosion is a common issue, so check the sills and wheel arches carefully. Check the car thoroughly and, if in any doubt, pay for a professional inspection.

Also worth knowing 

An outstanding maintenance record and evidence that the car has been well cared for are vital if you’re going to minimise the chances of potentially expensive problems. Check that every single gadget still works and the service regime has been adhered to. This includes changing the oil in the gearbox every 40,000 miles and making sure it shifts smoothly.

On your test drive, pay attention to the suspension, particularly that it keeps the car flat when cornering. If not, a new pump could be required.

The Comand sat-nav allows you to enter only a four-digit postcode, but this can be upgraded to seven-digit functionality by a Mercedes dealer.

How much to spend

£8000-£12,999 Early and high-mileage cars mostly with in excess of 100,000 miles on the clock for sale privately. Take an expert with you to inspect these cars.

£13,000-£19,999 Generally cars with a lower mileage and some bought from specialist dealers with a good history. Check the engine and suspension carefully.

£20,000 and above Models in showroom condition with a full history and a low mileage, often sold by a knowledgeable specialist. 

One we found – 2009 Mercedes-Benz CL 500, 73k miles, £9000: This immaculate four-owner, full- service-history CL 500 comes with a year’s MOT as well as many extras, including ventilated front seats, a DAB radio, a heated steering wheel, a Harman Kardon stereo and 18in five- spoke alloys. Looks cool in silver, too.

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