2013 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4MATIC Road Test & Review: Introduction

2013 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4MATIC Road Test & Review: Introduction

A danger inherent to this profession is the possibility of getting “hooked”. Like the best drug dealers, whose mantra is “Never get high on your own supply”; we do well to comply. Unfortunately, in the rarefied strata of our area of expertise, the temptations are great and we have to constantly remind ourselves test cars eventually go away.

Every now and then though, a car comes along that’s so good, we let our guards down just a little bit, and that’s when it happens. Like a socially inept choirboy experiencing a strip club for the first time, we wind up thoroughly enamored, having been seduced by the charms of a ride that won’t ever be our bride.

And so it was with considerably regret, we returned “our” Mercedes-Benz CL550 4MATIC test car after its evaluation period.

May we have moment of silence while the separation anxiety subsides please?

Thank you.

2013 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4MATIC Road Test & Review: Models & Prices

Delivering everything we love about the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, but in a more concisely sized package, the Mercedes-Benz CL is basically the big Benz in a two-door body. That it is also fitted with all-wheel drive (4MATIC in Mercedes-speak) just might well make the CL the world’s most versatile personal luxury automobile.

Offered in four iterations—of which our V8-powered CL550 4MATIC tester is the base model—the Mercedes-Benz CL-Class coupe features a choice of four engines. Scaling the CL hierarchy, the next model up from the 550 is the CL63 AMG, which boasts a 5.5-liter direct injected, twin-turbocharged V8 producing 536 horsepower and 590 ft-lbs of torque.

The next model up is the 5.5-liter twin-turbocharged CL600. This twelve-cylinder marvel of Swabian engineering delivers 510 horsepower and 612 ft-lbs of torque. The top model in the CL lineup is the CL65 AMG. It’s been speculated the earth’s rotation slows just a bit when somebody gives one of these things full throttle heading west. (The earth rotates west to east—which is why the sun rises in the east and sets in the west—but we digress…) The CL65 AMG’s engine places an incredible 621 horsepower and 738 ft-lbs of torque at its driver’s disposal.

For 2013, CL550 4MATIC pricing starts at $115,300, while the CL63 AMG starts at $153,000. The 2013 Mercedes-Benz CL600 starts at $160,300, while the top of the line CL65AMG will demand an expenditure of some $213,200 should you desire to acquire its charms to own.

2013 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4MATIC Road Test & Review: Design

With its gracefully flowing lines and powerful stance emitting an aura of class, exclusivity and capability, the presence of a Mercedes CL affects onlookers intensely. The refined flow of its arcing lines is complimented wonderfully by its pillarless profile (a Mercedes-Benz coupe styling tradition by the way).

The Benz accrues nods of respect, rather than slack-jawed stares.

Yeah, Ferraris, Lamborghinis and those other swoopy exotic sports cars turn heads, but they do so because of their sheer audacity. The CL turns heads because of its quiet air of power and style. Frankly, anybody with enough money can go out and get one of those flying Italian doorstops to demonstrate their net worth.

Meanwhile, showing up in a Mercedes-Benz CL does exactly the same thing—while making the statement; “I’m a connoisseur.”

2013 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4MATIC Road Test & Review: Comfort & Cargo

Of course, given the 115-large starting price, you gotta expect this ride to come hooked up right and tight—with nothing light.

And, it most definitely does.

Those fortunate enough to travel in a CL550 will be treated to an experience almost beyond description. The beautifully crafted accommodations simultaneously inspire respect while inducing relaxation. Rather than merely sitting in this car, you actually luxuriate. The front seats are very nearly infinitely adjustable in every direction imaginable. Heated and cooled, they massage and even automatically stiffen their side bolsters to hold you in place when the car goes around a turn.

Every comfort, convenience and safety feature currently available for a passenger car can be had with this Mercedes. Night vision with pedestrian detection, blind spot detection, lane departure warning, voice activation for audio, navigation, and communications, an automatic opening and closing trunk, self-closing doors, the list goes on and on and on. In addition to all its other attributes, the Mercedes-Benz CL550 4MATIC is, quite simply put, the state of the art luxury coupe.

Of course, saying all of these things are in evidence is one thing. Seeing the way they are all incorporated is something else altogether. The board feet of gleaming hand matched wood trim endow the cabin with a richness other models can only aspire to. Look closely and you’ll the see the wood grain flows continuously from piece to piece and matches perfectly. The leathers used are soft, supple and rich in color. The switchgear is substantial, logically placed, and easy to use. The doors are heavy and solid feeling, yet perfectly balanced. When you interact with this car, you can tell the people who designed it and the people who built it gave some thought and consideration to their endeavors.

Further, the interior is quite spacious, with sufficient legroom at all four seating positions. Headroom is decent in the back seat as well. Getting into the back seat, while not as easy as accessing the secondary seating locations in a four-door sedan, is readily accomplished for a coupe. In the 12-cylinder models, the rear seats are adjustable eight ways—while offering both heating and ventilation. The trunk is good for 13.5 cubic feet of cargo.

2013 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4MATIC Road Test & Review: Features & Controls

Seriously, we can’t say enough about how well equipped this Mercedes is.

Even the basic CL gets an adaptive air suspension system with keeps the car perfectly flat during directional changes. Active bi-xenon headlights swivel with the steering wheel and automatically adjust their intensity and their throw to avoid blinding oncoming drivers. The daytime running lights use energy-efficient LEDs. Also featured as standard equipment are a sunroof, a power rear window sunshade, keyless entry and start, and the power-operated trunk can be closed from inside the car at the touch of a button. Yes, there are also front and rear parking sensors.

Also on the comfort and convenience tip, are the CL Benz’s heated and ventilated 10-way power front seats with four-way adjustable lumbar and configuration memory. Leather upholsters the seats of course—the dash and door panels as well. Further enhancing the interior are ambient lighting, Bluetooth, the Mercedes-Benz mbrace emergency telematics system, the COMAND electronics interface, a navigation system, voice controls, and an 11-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system with a six-CD/DVD changer, HD radio, satellite radio and an iPod interface.

Even with all of that as standard fare, there are still some options to be had for the 550.

The MBZ Premium 2 package adds a rearview camera, and an infrared night vision display, along with massage and active bolsters for the front seats. The Driver Assistance package adds adaptive cruise control to free you from the vagaries of modulating speed in stop and go traffic, crash detection and an automated braking system if the car senses you’re about to hit something without applying the brakes. The blind-spot warning system and lane-departure warning system also minimize the potential for accidents.

If you want your 550 to look more aggressive, you can get the Sport Package’s 19-inch AMG wheels and the AMG aerodynamic sport body styling kit. Going Sport Package Plus One can attain an even more aggressive appearance. This option gets you a set of 20-inch AMG wheels wearing very sticky high-performance tires to improve handling even more, and of course, the AMG sport body styling kit.

2013 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4MATIC Road Test & Review: Engine/Fuel Economy

As we mentioned before, the 2013 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4MATIC uses a twin-turbocharged 4.7-liter V8, which produces an impressive 429 horsepower. But that’s nothing compared to its torque output of 516 pound-feet at 1800 rpm.

Remember, torque gets you moving and the CL550 4MATIC is good for a zero to 60 of 4.8 seconds. Remarkably, even with all this performance potential, the engine is the very epitome of the word smooth in operation. A seven-speed automatic transmission with a manual shift mode via steering wheel paddles conducts power to all four wheels.

Fuel economy is rated at 15-mpg city, 24-highway, and 18 combined.

The all-wheel drive system is very compact and adds very little weight to the car over its rear-drive counterparts. Under normal circumstances, the majority of the engine’s output is routed to the rear wheels to preserve the classic rear-drive feel so desirable in a high performance car like this one. In slippery situations, torque can be transferred to the front wheels in as great a quantity as required. The system can also send the engine’s entire output to one wheel—if the other three lack traction.

2013 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4MATIC Road Test & Review: Driving Impressions

Outrageously prodigious at elevated speeds, the CL550 actually lowers itself on the highway to improve its aerodynamics and handling. Around town, the Benz flows graciously with minimal effort on the part of the driver. And, like all Mercedes-Benz product, the CL550 4MATIC possesses a preternaturally small turning circle. Turn the steering wheel full lock in either direction and the front wheels articulate practically perpendicularly to the car.

On winding back roads, switch the transmission and suspension to sport mode, pilot the Benz smoothly, and you’ll find yourself tearing through curves at speeds that will leave you absolutely dumbfounded—thanks to the CL550’s remarkable balance and the grip supplied by its all-wheel drive system. Acceleration off the apexes is strong, turbo lag is non-existent, and the thrust feels absolutely endless.

Top speed is limited to 130 miles per hour.

Underway, all of the mechanical components work as if friction does not apply to this car at all. The steering, transmission, and engine all function effortlessly and smoothly. If there is a more highly polished feeling car out there, we’d love to be introduced to it.

Quiet, powerful, smooth, confidence inspiring, grand, gracious, delightful, jeez, we’re running out of adjectives here…

2013 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4MATIC Road Test & Review: Safety/Ratings

If you’re among those in the category of being capable of dropping this kind of coin for a ride, you know its manufacturers are going to do everything they can to keep you alive to buy another one.

Seriously, they really are.

Thus, the Mercedes-Benz CL safety kit includesstability and traction control to keep all that power channeled and under control. Antilock brakes are, of course, part of the package. The braking system also incorporates brake drying to keep the discs as water-free as possible when driving in the wet.

Inside the car, active front head restraints, front and rear side airbags, side curtain airbags, and a driver knee airbag are in place to come between you and the hard surfaces in the car in the event of a collision. If an incident proves unavoidable, Mercedes-Benz mbrace emergency telematics will summon emergency personnel to your location.

Optional safety related gear for V8 models includes a rearview camera, infrared night vision display, pre-crash detection and automated braking, blind-spot warning, and lane-departure warning. The V12 CLs get all of the above as standard fare.

Neither NHTSA nor the IIHS have crash rated the 2013 Mercedes-Benz CL.

2013 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4MATIC Road Test & Review: Final Thoughts

Long story short, the Mercedes-Benz CL550 4MATIC is nothing less than a world-class, state of the art, luxurious high performance sports coupe.

It delivers the grace and craftsmanship of the finest mega-dollar rides, the electronic accoutrements of a technogeek’s wet dream, the speed and power of the most highly capable sports cars, and legs long enough to see you through a five hundred mile Interstate drive, easily capable of going five hundred more.

And here’s the truly amazing part—there are three even more powerful engines available for this magnificent automobile.

If you’ve ever wondered why the people in these cars always look so smug—now you know.

2013 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4MATIC Road Test & Review: Pros & Cons


• It has everything you’ll ever want in an automobile.


• You gotta be rich to own one.

By Lyndon Bell