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Mercedes CL500 (2001)

SEE ALSO: Mercedes Buyer's Guide

by Brendan Hagin and Mikele Schappell-Hagin


     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 89,650
     Price As Tested                                    $ 92,560
     Engine Type              SOHC 24-valve 5.0 Liter V8 w/SMFI*
     Engine Size                                 303 cid/4966 cc
     Horsepower                                   302 @ 5600 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                          339 @ 2700-4250 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  113.6"/73.1"/196.6"
     Transmission          Five-speed automatic with Touch Shift
     Curb Weight                                     4290 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  23.3 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                          225/55ZR17 all-season
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
     Drive Train                   Front-engine/rear-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                        Four-passenger/two-door
     Domestic Content                                        N/A
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.28


     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            16/23/20
     0-60 MPH                                        6.0 seconds
     1/4 (E.T.)                                   14.5 @ 100 mph
     Top-speed                  (Electronically limited) 155 mph
                 * Sequential multi-port fuel injection

BRENDAN - At a time when auto prices seem to be highly inflated on "average" cars, one comes along that just seems to deserve its price tag. The new 2001 Mercedes CL500 coupe starts at $89,000 but it's well worth it if the buyer is in that discretionary income category. Advanced technologies and brute power make the CL500 a joy to drive and one of the best riding autos I've ever tested. Under its hood there is a jewel of a 5.0-liter V8 engine that screams like a banshee at speed, but also purrs like a kitten in its cruise mode. Its five-speed automatic with Touch Shift manual mode makes it a blast to drive and it gives the driver the option to run through the gears or let it shift for itself.

MIKELE - It was the final design of Mercedes designer Bruno Sacco before he retired and it's the only pillarless hardtop in production anywhere. I think it's a masterpiece of simple but elegant automotive design. Having all that room to fling your arms out the open windows takes me back to a time where Muscle Car "hardtops" were all the rage in high school and the windows were always rolled down. Its sleek lines and cool Euro-design made me a target for wide eyes and admiration around San Francisco but it's a sophisticated town and most urbanites know what these cars cost. Ella and Roxie would have loved sitting in the back seat, but the leather seating and walnut wood trim is just too nice for a layer of dog hair. Maybe if the CL had a special dog seat cover accessory we could have given them a spin. We spoil our dogs but we drew the line here. The dash was striking, with wood and leather all around, and climate controls that are easy to use. The aerial in rear window let me to go through a car wash without worrying about lowering the antenna, but don't tell the Mercedes P.R people we didn't wash it by hand.

BRENDAN - The ten-speaker sound system and six-disc CD changer provided cool tunes at all times which made life almost bearable in downtown traffic. The audio controls are part of the CL500's Cockpit Management and Navigation Display. This unit incorporates maps and Tele Aid, a system that can call local police services, perform emergency door unlocking, do remote diagnosis of problems and automatically blow the whistle on a car thief. The automatic-dimming rear view mirror and driver's exterior mirror were nice features, especially when another car with Xenon headlamps came up behind me. Although I hate seeing those super-blue flame-throwers coming at me from the opposite direction, I loved the extra visibility they provide in our foggy weather. Safety is always a big thing for me and the CL500 has the works. It has rear side- curtain airbags, along with driver's and passenger's front and side door airbags to form a super-safe cockpit. The passenger side features an automatic child seat recognition sensor that only works in conjunction with a Mercedes-Benz child seat fitted with a transponder. I'm sure the extra cost won't be a problem for buyers of this car, however.

MIKELE - I learned lots of technical stuff from the Mercedes press kit that was in the trunk. One of its many high-tech features is the Active Body Control device that uses microprocessors, sensors, and high-pressure hydraulics to make driving safer and more comfortable by adapting the springing of the car body to the actual driving situation. The system reduces body movements by half when starting from a rest, while cornering and during braking. It has even more technical "goodies" in its Electronic Stability Program which incorporates a sophisticated traction control system. This keeps the CL500 on the road when bad conditions come up and it even lowers engine power if it's needed. All this is tied in with its anti-lock braking system. I agree that the CL500 is a technical masterpiece, Brendan, but I loved just driving around in this beautiful brute. I had to drive it all over the Bay Area on my job and I knew in my heart that I could take anyone in a stoplight drag session. Fortunately, all the hot-rod kids who I encountered knew it and didn't want to face being "shut down" by a girl. Instead, I did some solo performance-cruising on some challenging byways.

BRENDAN - Mikele, the more you drive these fancy, high-powered cars, the more you sound like your Dad.