THERE won’t be a huge number of you out there pondering putting in an order for an £80-£100,000-plus company car – perhaps just once every three years when the chairman wants a new model.
But in today’s luxury-obsessed world it’s a price category more heavily populated by cars than ever before. And inevitably, it is company money which will be paying for many of them. For those privileged few Mercedes-Benz hopes that a good number might be tempted by the new CL-class coupe.
Based on the excellent S-class saloon, the CL has long been the flagship of the Mercedes-Benz range (ignoring the limited-run McLaren SLR supercar). The new model is no different, with the big four-seater coupe being the most indulgent and technologically advanced model in the current Mercedes-Benz line-up.
But it needs to be, what with the ‘entry-level’ CL500 coming in at a starting price of £79,550.
It features the 5.5-litre V8 engine that’s put to such good use throughout the Mercedes-Benz range – and 388bhp it is 82bhp more powerful than the old 5.0-litre unit. Torque also improves by 15% over its predecessor. Despite this, fuel economy improves to 23.3mpg. Emissions also improve, but it is still in the highest benefit-in-kind tax band.
Around 50% of all sales are to corporate customers, and the CL500 should take the majority.
But for those in the minority who want the ultimate, there’s always the CL600.
The V12 model weighs in at around £27,000 more than its V8 relative, and like it the engine grows in power over the outgoing model.
The increases are more modest, growing from 500bhp to 517bhp and 590lb-ft to 612lb-ft. Again, it manages to produce this extra output without a penalty in fuel economy and emissions.
Even so, its 19.8mpg combined figure means the CL600 is still going to give the fuel card a work- out. Mercedes-Benz says that even in this diesel age it won’t be offering a CDI version.
Indeed, the only additional engine to join the two we sampled will be the naturally-aspirated 6.2-litre V8, called the CL63 AMG.
Prices for this super coupe haven’t been announced, but if the previous model is an example the AMG version will be priced similarly to its CL600 relative.
That AMG will undoubtedly gain some aggressive styling, but even in standard form the CL is an imposing looker.
Blending elements of both the S-class and CLS four-door coupe, the CL looks great, though we’d avoid the pearlescent white of the car in the pictures – this shade may be popular on cars like the Volkswagen Golf GTI, but on luxury cars the only place it is likely to find favour is in the oil-rich states of the Middle East.
Where the CL really excels is in technological advancement. It features all the latest developments in Mercedes-Benz’s extensive safety armoury, including the Pre-safe accident mitigation system and the new Pre-safe Brake, which automatically brakes when you get too close to the car you’re following. It’s due to be included in the S-class soon.
Don’t expect to see many CLs around, though, as even though it is the biggest-selling luxury coupe with its predecessor managing 46,800 sales around the world between 1999 and this year, that’s small fry compared to the 61,500 worldwide sales the S-class has achieved in the past eight months.
The UK remains a small market for the CL, with just a few hundred models sold each year. Exclusivity matters, but it comes with a rather large price tag.
Behind the wheel
NEITHER CL is slow, despite their size and weight. The CL500 goes from 0-62mph in just 5.4 seconds, while the CL600 reduces that to 4.6 seconds. The enormous grunt of the V12 precludes the use of the fast-shifting seven-speed automatic of the CL500, though with the V12’s huge peak torque available from 1,900rpm the five-speed automatic is no handicap.
Both models ride on the latest generation ABC (Active Body Control) system, reducing roll and pitch considerably compared to its predecessor.
The result is impressive – the CL does a good job of balancing the sort of cosseting ride you’d want from a luxury GT with tight body control when you up the pace.
The steering is over-light and lacks real feel, and the brake pedal does tend to go a bit soft after you’ve been enjoying the CL’s surprising back road ability. Only its scale slows you down. The CL is a big car, and feels it on narrow roads.
Despite the enormous complexity of the numerous driver and safety aids the CL retains its appeal as a driving machine.
It’s just a shame the interior is so close to the S-class. This wasn’t a problem in the old CL, but this new version faces some very upmarket competition in the shape of the Bentley Continental GT – a car with a more bespoke interior.
ALTHOUGH it offers less room and costs more money than the S-class on which it is based, the CL comes filled with equipment that’s not available on the S-class, all wrapped up in a more appealing coupe shape. It’s far more exclusive and also a more convincing driver’s car too.
|Max power (bhp/rpm):||388/6,000||517/5,000|
|Max torque (lb-ft/rpm):||391/2,800||612/1,900|
|Max speed (mph):||155 (limited)||155 (limited)|
|Fuel consumption (mpg):||23.3 (provisional)||19.8 (provisional)|
|CO2 emissions (g/km):||288 (provisional)||340 (provisional)|