2008 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class Performance
This performance review was written when the 2008 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class was new.
The Mercedes-Benz CL provides a refined driving experience with plenty of punch for sporty maneuvers. With a choice of four high-end engines, the CL certainly doesn't lack power.
Another major plus is the number of standard performance features, including an adaptive transmission, programmable suspension, electronic stability control and steering wheel-mounted shift buttons.
Acceleration and Power
The base CL550 comes with a 5.5-liter V8 engine that makes 382 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 391 pound-feet of torque at 2,800 to 4,800 rpm. Reviews say that even this base powerplant is more than adequate. Kelley Blue Book calls it "a demon of an engine" and reports a 0-to-60 time of 5.4 seconds. Cars.com adds that the V8 "effortlessly builds speed, and before long you're doing 70 mph. The smooth, fluid power delivery is accompanied by a deep, but muted, exhaust note that's always in the background."
The CL600 features a 5.5-liter twin-turbo V12 engine that makes 510 horsepower at 5,000 rpm and 612 pound-feet of torque at 1,800 to 3,500 rpm. Reviews generally say that you can't go wrong with either this or the base engine. "Either way, performance is impressive, with the CL550 hitting 60 mph in 5.5 seconds and the CL600 doing the same in just 4.5 seconds," says Edmunds.
But all that power may take a toll at the pump, especially since CL models requires premium fuel. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the base CL550 is expected to net 14 miles per gallon in the city and 21 mpg on the highway. The CL600 should achieve 11/17 city/highway.
The CL550 comes with seven-speed automatic transmissions, while the CL600 gets a five-speed. All models get special driver-adaptive technology. Touch Shift allows the driver to manually shift using steering wheel paddles, while Comfort Mode upshifts at lower rpm for driving on slippery surfaces.
Cars.com says the shifting on the seven-speed automatic is "almost imperceptible and the transmission willingly kicks down under hard acceleration." Kelley Blue Book adds, "Even at high speeds the car glides as smoothly as a Venetian gondola, the transmission traveling seamlessly through its seven gears." No reviews mention the five-speed.
Handling and Braking
The CL's driving dynamics are excellent. In fact, Kelley Blue Book calls it "one of the best combinations of ride and handling we've ever experienced." Reviews attribute the excellent ride feel to the CL's COMAND system, which allows the driver to pre-set preferences and tailor the car to their driving style.
The CL features a four-link front suspension and multilink independent rear suspension. It also comes standard with Active Body Control (ABC), an active suspension system that Mercedes says "continually adjusts each wheel's suspension to counteract vibration, pitch, dive, squat, and roll. ABC also provides automatic all-wheel level control, driver-selectable ride height, and automatic lowering at higher speed."
The ABC system gets high praise, with Kelley Blue Book commenting, "The active body control suspension is especially effective, hydraulically adjusting all four wheels depending upon driving situations." When ABC is put to use in the CL63 AMG model, the calls it "amazing" and adds that drivers "can just toss this car into a major sweeping turn at speeds that would utterly unseat another big car, and the system computes optimum pressures at all four corners, adjusts, and the car simply arcs through the turn, flat and true, right up to the adhesion limits of its 20-inch Z-rated sport tires."
However, test drivers also have a few criticisms. Cars.com says the ABC system can "keep the CL550 fairly flat during cornering, but it's clear this coupe is less comfortable being driven aggressively than the Jaguar XK or Mercedes' SL550 retractable-hardtop roadster, which also has ABC. Most bumps in the road are well damped, even though you can hear the car's wheels coming in contact with them." Edmunds adds that on twisty roads, "ABC's ability to keep the vehicle planted becomes a bit of a double-edged sword. Because ABC is capable of reducing body roll to virtually nil, it's hard to tell when you're getting close to the limits."
The CL features rack-and-pinion steering with vehicle-speed-sensitive power assist. Cars.com says that the CL550 "steers with a light touch; it's rather easy to turn the wheel with one finger, which befits the car's luxury-touring character. It's a bit too vague for my tastes, though; more precise response would be appreciated." The dual-circuit power-assist four-wheel disc brakes get better reviews. Edmunds says they are "faultless, as they provide plenty of bite with little fade." Likewise, Cars.com says the CL550's brake pedal has "a natural, progressive feel, and the strong brakes bring this 2.25 ton coupe to a halt without drama."