Whether driving at slow or high speeds, we loved the silky smooth and linear rush of power, blessing any driver with sub 5-second 0-60 times. Strangely, a slow-speed 1 – 2 transmission shift exposed a minor problem of this otherwise sophisticated car: a noticeable lag and then abrupt engagement into second gear. Shift transitions between the other gears of the 7-speed auto are velvety smooth. After we reported the behavior, Mercedes-Benz service was able to fix the rough 1 – 2 gear engagement with a minor fix.
The CL550 is well sealed and exudes structural integrity, and is so devoid of outside noise you feel like you’re in a vacated Sistine Chapel. Switch gears, stalks, and buttons all have a high quality feel to them, with zero free play and responsive tactile feel. We were disappointed that a squeak emanated from the driver side door when driving over rough or uneven pavement – unacceptable for a $127,000 car with less than 3,500 miles on it.
The Palladium Silver color of our test car is beautiful, but unfortunately allows the Mercedes to blend in with the sea of silver sedans found in most parking lots. The front end looks quite aggressive, with its blunt nose and pronounced grill, while the long-overhang of the rear is better suited on a limo – the proportions just don’t match. We did love the flared rear fenders, which add an aggressive detail to the sleek body.
Lacking B-pillars, the views to the side are unobstructed, but even if you missed the car in your blind spot, the active blind spot warning system will beep when changing lanes. When there’s no car there, the system is silent. We have to say of all the features on this technology-laden vehicle, this simple feature and its functionality was most helpful.
Upon sitting in the CL550, we were impressed by the soft, perforated leather seats that coddled our frames. Classic Mercedes-Benz design puts seat adjustment controls on the door above the window switches, making them easy to see, instead of being on the side of the seats where you would normally grasp blindly for the corresponding switch.
If you appreciate clean lines and design, you will appreciate the simplicity of the center stack, which is devoid of the myriad of buttons and knobs found on other luxury brands. Instead, you see a single row of buttons, an 8-inch LCD display, and beautifully finished wood panels and trim. We found the COMAND interface simple and intuitive to use, allowing us to easily configure vehicle settings.
This Mercedes has a lot to offer, but so do the cars from Lexus, BMW and Audi, albeit at a slightly lower price (though none are coupes). But differences of $10-20k are not that big when considering these vehicles, and if we had to choose, we’d prefer the Mercedes, with its cleaner and more manageable center stack, elegant interior and fine craftsmanship.
What a great car: quiet, powerful, comfortable, and sporty (if needed). With all-wheel drive, we could arrive in style for a backyard party in the summer, or make the weekend trip to the house at Squaw Valley during the winter. And from the driver’s seat, we experienced pure pleasure driving the CL, regardless of speed, length of trip, or type of road.
2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4MATIC Specs
|Official website for Mercedes-Benz cars, hybrids, and SUVs – www.mbusa.com|
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