There is something magical about the way the Mercedes-Benz CL550 turns asphalt into silk.
It’s an exceptional vehicle, with effortless performance, an incredible feeling of solidity, silence at speed and an impressive array of electronic wizardry.
“It is the most luxurious coupe, period,” said Jerrold Winful, Internet manager at New Country Motor Cars in Hartford.
Making this praise more amazing is that the CL550 is the base version of the CL model lineup.
For 2011, Mercedes-Benz has freshened the styling and added new engines through the lineup.
Our review CL550, on loan from Mercedes-Benz, is one of the recipients of a new engine. Gone is the 382-horsepower 5.5-liter V-8, replaced by a bi-turbo 4.6-liter 429-horsepower V-8. It works through a 7-speed automatic transmission, which shifts so smoothly you will quickly lose track of the gear. 4Matic all-wheel drive is standard.
The engine requires five seconds to reach 60 miles per hour from a full stop. To say that this run is accompanied by an unusually high level of refinement is an understatement.
There is one quibble worth noting. When first starting on a full-throttle acceleration run, the response isn’t quite instantaneous, though the surge of power that arrives a fraction of a second later is impressive.
The ride is solid, stable and devoid of harshness. Control over larger bumps is excellent.
Handling belies the supple suspension, which would normally suggest sloppy responses to a driver’s commands. Instead, this car is crisp and alert on secondary roads. Steering feel, agility, stability and predictability are all above reproach. While the CL550 may be large and heavy, its size and heft disappear in turns.
The front seats deliver first-class room and comfort. The rear seat, on the other hand, is a tight fit for average adults. While the front seats power forward to make access easier, entering and leaving the aft cabin still requires some flexibility.
The car includes an active cruise control that, when operating, would slow the car if the vehicle ahead slowed.
The night view assist sees beyond the range of the headlights and past oncoming headlights. It then displays a crisp black and white image of the road and obstacles ahead on a screen that takes the place of the speedometer. It is very good at picking out pedestrians, even those in dark clothing.
This car is not for most people. Based on the flagship S-Class sedan, this two-door hardtop manages to be fashionable and prestigious without giving up anything in the performance arena.
“Just about every amenity available on the S-Class sedan is standard,” Winful says of the CL coupes. He added that to avoid confusion, Mercedes-Benz is going to start calling this model the S-Coupe.
“Most customers know the car and its exclusivity,” Winful said. “We order these cars; we don’t typically keep them on the showroom floor.” Delivery of a custom order usually takes about three months.
Mercedes-Benz CL550 $113,150 plus $875 for destination charges
Engine: 4.6-liter bi-turbo with 429 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque. EPA 15 city/23 highway
Also consider: BMW 6-Series, Bentley Continental
Next week: Toyota Avalon