2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic
  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic
  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic front 3/4 view

  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic
  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic rear 3/4 view

  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic
  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic front 3/4 view

  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic
  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic rear 3/4 view

  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic
  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic side view

  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic
  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic front view

  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic
  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic rear view

  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic
  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic front detail

  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic
  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic headlight

  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic
  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic grille

  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic
  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic fog light

  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic
  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic wheel

  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic
  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic wheel detail

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  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic side mirror

  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic
  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic door handle

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  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic taillight

  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic
  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic logo

  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic
  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic badge

  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic
  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic badge

  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic
  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic rear fascia

  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic
  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic engine

  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic
  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic engine

  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic
  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic engine detail

  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic
  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic interior

  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic
  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic interior

  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic
  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic steering wheel

  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic
  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic front seats

  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic
  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic gauges

  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic
  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic speedometer

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  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic navigation system

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  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic multi-function contour seat settings

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  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic audio system

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  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic analog clock

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  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic CD player

  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic
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  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic center console controls

  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic
  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic rear seats

Twin Turbos Add Welcomed Personality


2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic - Click above for high-res image gallery

Some folks say there's no replacement for displacement. We'll agree that there's nothing quite like the roar of a big ol' naturally aspirated V8, but in modern times (and with new fuel efficiency laws taking hold), turbocharging points the way forward.

Nearly every automaker on the planet is scrambling to create turbocharged alternatives to larger-displacement engines, and over the past few years, not offering some sort of forced-induction mill has become quite the automotive faux pas.

Mercedes-Benz recently introduced a pair of twin-turbo V8s in its refreshed 2011 CL-Class, and while our lead feet immediately sprinted towards the bombastic CL63 AMG with its 5.5-liter hand-built heart, there's a lot to be said about the base CL550's all-new 4.6-liter setup. The once-sedate CL550 just got a massive flame lit under its tail, and the end result is a grand coupe that has more personality than ever before.

The Mercedes-Benz CL is a classically beautiful car. Jaguar may have nailed modern beauty with its XK, but the CL teems with gracious elegance – think of Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara descending a staircase in Gone With The Wind. Mercedes' designers have created a big coupe that truly has an "I have arrived" presence, and from all angles, the car is stunning to behold. We like the base CL550 because, while the CL63 AMG has plenty of aggressive design elements to its front fascia, the 550 focuses more on pure beauty of form while still looking powerful.

For 2011, Mercedes has largely left the CL's design alone from the new-for-2007 model, only adding small touches like a revised front fascia with new LED running lamps and some minor tweaks to the car's hind quarters. We still adore the pillarless greenhouse design, and our test car's $5,900 sport package – 19-inch AMG wheels, different front and rear bumpers, and side skirts – brings the presence of powerful elegance together.

2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic side view2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic front view2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic rear view

Entering the CL550, however, isn't exactly an elegant process. Because of the CL's frameless window design, the glass needs to roll down ever so slightly to free itself from its seal with the roofline, and this slight hesitation creates a clumsy experience when pulling the door handle. We've experienced similar systems on dozens of cars without issue, but the one on our CL was noticeably less smooth. Ms. Leigh may have made heads turn as she started to descend the staircase, but this lack of fluidity is the equivalent of stumbling over her dress on the first couple of steps.

Once inside, you're swaddled in the same level of comfort and refinement you expect in any top-notch Mercedes. The interior design hasn't changed for 2011, and that's just fine. The CL550's cabin continues to look tasteful and sophisticated, with expansive surfaces coated in the finest leather-clad, million-way adjustable seats for supreme comfort, and there are surprisingly capacious accommodations for two rear passengers. Small touches like the brushed-aluminum buttons, up/down toggle switches along the center stack and soft ambient lighting all give off this superb sense of luxury that you don't always get in the lower rung of Mercedes' interiors. It's not exactly Bentley Continental exclusivity in here, but spend five minutes inside the CL and you'll feel like you're worth a million bucks.

From behind the wheel, the CL's size is amplified, and we'll admit, it's intimidating at first. Still, it only takes a few feet of driving to figure out the car's dimensions and general visibility is good from all angles. Of course, there are seemingly thousands of cameras and sensors that will inevitably cause sirens to sound and lights to flash if the car ever detects that you might be doing something wrong.

2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic interior2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic front seats2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic gauges2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic keypad

The biggest change for the 2011 CL550 is the implementation of the automaker's new 4.6-liter twin-turbocharged V8. (Yes, it would make sense for Merc to change the car's name to CL460, but let's not get into that. This is the same company that put "6.3" badges on all of its 6.2-liter V8-powered AMG cars, after all.) This smaller-displacement, forced-induction powerplant cranks out a healthy 429 horsepower at 5,250 RPM, and more importantly, 516 pound-feet of torque at 3,500 RPM. Compared to the old naturally aspirated 5.5-liter V8, the new engine is good for increases of 47 hp and a whopping 125 lb-ft.

This is the engine we've wanted all along in the CL, and we can't wait for it to quickly spread throughout the remaining 550-badged Benzes.

This new base engine has 51 more foot-pounds than the old 6.2-liter AMG engine, and thus, it helps the 2011 CL550 dash to 60 miles per hour in just 4.8 seconds. That's impressive for a 4,619-pound luxury barge that sends power to all four wheels. A standard 2,978-pound Porsche Boxster S isn't even that quick.

2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic engine

There's a nice, throaty exhaust note that roars from the dual exhaust pipes when you're pressing hard into the throttle on takeoff, but our one complaint about the power delivery is that the seven-speed automatic transmission is far too relaxed about firing off shifts, even in Sport mode. We wish the cogswapper were a bit more forceful about grabbing each gear by its horns, rather than simply letting them fall into place. The drive-adaptive tranny has an Eco mode for those who want to attempt to drive the CL550 efficiently, and in 90 percent of all cruising-through-town cases, it's silky smooth. Be on your best behavior and you'll muster up 23 miles per gallon on the highway – sounds good, but don't be surprised if your actual mileage numbers are closer to the EPA's 15 mpg city rating.

Straight-line power is fantastic and all, but the CL550 really starts to show its big bones when you enter a corner. Mercedes has fitted the CL with its new Direct-Steer speed-sensitive steering system, and while it's great for long, swooping curves down tree-lined, two-lane country roads, the amount of body roll is alarming when trying to take a sharp right-hander faster than the suggested speed sign recommends. Even so, if you decide to try to get the CL frisky, the now-standard 4Matic all-wheel drive will keep the big coupe firmly planted to the road.

2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic rear 3/4 view2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic headlight2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic wheel detail2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic badge

Every other part of the CL550's dynamics – namely, the brakes and the throttle response – are more honed for this sort of country-cruising grand touring rather than serious performance. That's fine, because the 550 handles these tasks beautifully – it's perfectly poised for relaxed afternoon drives and effortless long-distance hauls. The CL550 is more appropriately suited for a waltz than the CL63, the latter of which would be more at home acting as a bouncer in a mosh pit.

With a starting price of $113,150 – or $127,565, as tested – you'd be right to expect this sort of performance from the CL550. Our biggest complaint about the old model was that, while it never failed at being a smooth, comfortable land yacht, it lacked any sort of personality that one might want for occasionally spirited drives. The new model addresses that issue and fixes it with pure brilliance. Good riddance to the naturally aspirated 5.5-liter V8 – this is the CL550 we've always wanted.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 23 Comments
      Jay
      • 4 Years Ago
      I owned the CL 550 when the current body style first arrived in 2007. While I appreciated its beauty, I felt like I was too young to appreciate its somnambulant driving experience. I lusted after the CL63 when it came upon the scene, but never got a chance to pull the trigger on owning one. After test driving the car reviewed here, I felt like it offered the best of both worlds- the sophistication of the "base" CL along with the excitement of the AMG version. I am fortunate to have a 2011 CL550 grace my garage. I suppose it helps that I have grown into the right age segment to appreciate this vehicle.
      NightFlight
      • 4 Years Ago
      Ewing is a bit off base with a lot of the complaints here. It sounds as if you walked into this review thinking the CL was a sports coupe, instead of the relaxed GT cruiser it is intended to be. You seem to be disappointed with the handling performance, but it wasn't ever intended to truly "dance". "he amount of body roll is alarming when trying to take a sharp right-hander faster than the suggested speed sign recommends" By the way, the body roll can be tamed by setting the vehicle into the "Sport" mode, it helps but doesn't completely mitigate all body roll. Regardless, do you think any owner of a CL is going to be hustling the vehicle to that degree. Earlier on you said it excels in long sweeping corners, something that it IS intended to do well. This entire paragraph is ridiculous and it is obvious that you are nitpicking: "Entering the CL550, however, isn't exactly an elegant process. Because of the CL's frameless window design, the glass needs to roll down ever so slightly to free itself from its seal with the roofline, and this slight hesitation creates a clumsy experience when pulling the door handle. We've experienced similar systems on dozens of cars without issue, but the one on our CL was noticeably less smooth. Ms. Leigh may have made heads turn as she started to descend the staircase, but this lack of fluidity is the equivalent of stumbling over her dress on the first couple of steps." The windows on the CL start to roll down as soon as you barely even pull the handle, before the door latch even thinks about releasing. Think about a brake pedal, and how the brake lights activate before you even breathe on the pedal, it is akin to that. I can see this possibly being a problem if you are trying to get in the vehicle quickly as if you are being chased by a serial killer, but this isn't a problem in everyday life in the least. Anyway, this is hands down one of my favorite vehicles ever. I'd kill to one day be able to own a CL65, that is truly my dream car. A friend of the family has a W221 S65 with Renntech package 3 and it is the epitome of a sleeper. I don't think there are too many vehicles that can challenge it on a highway roll, it is astonishing how quick it is.
      Darnell Robeson
      • 4 Years Ago
      Very beautiful car...effortless luxury and effortless speed...i love it
      car-spy-shots.blogsp
      • 4 Years Ago
      Disagree. I've seen many of them in person and it has a lot of road presence - like that of a 100,000 dollar+ car.
      JK
      • 4 Years Ago
      Does MB no longer offer Active Body Control on these, or was the tester just not optioned with it? I expect a car like this to have tons of body roll, but ABC has the ability to eliminate nearly all of it (almost to the point of being disconcerting).
      Aussie74
      • 4 Years Ago
      Actually if you were going to rename it based on engine capacity it would be a CL470 as this car is not a 4.6 liter but a 4.7 (4663cc) - you'd need to drop at least 14cc to make this a CL460, you twit. How is it you can work out the C63, and former models using that engine, actually uses a 6.2 (6208cc) - Brabus does the same thing with their supposed 6.3 liter (6233cc) M-B V12 - but not spot this as a 4.7??? As for the 6.2, remember when M-B told us it had to be called a 6.3 due to government regulations in Germany? What utter garbage, the Boxster S you mentioned uses a 3436cc engine and Porsche has never called it a 3.5, not even in Germany.
      Marc Hamady
      • 3 Years Ago
      The Mercedes S550 and the CL550 are my favorite Mercedes cars. However, if I had the money to buy either one, it would be the CL550 because it is more practical. Obviously, the short-wheel base version of the S-class isn't offered here in the U.S. The CL550 for sure would be a better daily driver than the S550. After all, I wasn't attracted by the S550 because it is the largest Mercedes sedan
      kcroc10077
      • 4 Years Ago
      " The Mercedes-Benz CL is a classically beautiful car."-----> I don't see it but style is subjective. To me its a mediocre looking coupe with a great engine. Nothing more. Nothing less. Mercedes hasn't been known for cutting edges design for a while now and this car follows that tradition.
        thealzabo
        • 4 Years Ago
        @kcroc10077
        "Mercedes hasn't been known for cutting edges design for a while now and this car follows that tradition." I don't know that they want to be cutting edge. Mercedes is old-money luxury, and they'd rather be classic than cutting edge. They're like a Mont Blanc pen or a Rolex - ostentation is not what their core customers desire.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @kcroc10077
        [blocked]
      CarCrazy24
      • 4 Years Ago
      still don't like the decision to call it the CL550...it's not even close anymore
      marcosc
      • 4 Years Ago
      Why bother with the grocery seats? no leg room, save the added waist of space and weight and keep it a two seater.
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