Looks like a bit of a beast. Is this another warp-enabled starship from AMG?
Yep. This is Mercedes’ big CL-class coupe fitted with AMG’s ballistic 6.0-litre V12 bi-turbo engine and a bunch of go-faster, look-smarter goodies. It’s also the flagship model in the AMG range, which makes it the quickest and costliest Mercedes this side of the SLR. And speaking of the McLaren-badged wunder-Merc, the SLR has just 14bhp more than the CL65 and is only 0.6sec quicker to 60mph. The CL undercuts the SLR by over £150,000 too. Interesting…
That’s massive performance then. But is it usable? Does it need wheelie bars?
Well, 612bhp is an ungentlemanly amount of power. Therefore the Merc’s ESP and traction control systems act like a platoon of border guards between the marauding engine and the quivering rear wheels. Credit to the AMG and Mercedes engineers though; the ESP and traction control systems work well. The car is insanely fast in a straight line and combined with a nicely resolved Active Body Control system handles its ungodly girth (2240kg) with a surprising amount of finesse.
You’re not trying to convince us that this is a proper driver’s car, are you?
Never. It’s too heavy, the steering is dead and no amount of electronic trickery can compensate for genuine feel. However, the CL65 is the closest you’ll get to Lear Jet levels of cross-country pace without needing an aircraft licence. It simply chews fast A-roads and motorways and spits you out at the other end feeling fresh and comfortable. It is a cruiser of the highest calibre; the seats cradle you softly while heating (or cooling) your botty, the radar-enabled Distronic Plus cruise control works brilliantly at maintaining speed and distance and the overall interior ambience is cutting-edge hi-fi slick. Only the embarrassingly tacky IWC-design analogue clock lets the cabin down.
A surprisingly likeable car then, despite its visual arrogance and earth-chomping engine?
Yes. The CL65 is a beguiling mix of unhinged hooliganism and private members club chic - but it’s not all roses. A car of this price, pace and engineering excellence is never going to disappoint the rational side of the brain – but if you want soul with your pace and engineering excellence, look elsewhere. The CL65 leaves you cold. It impresses rather than seduces, and even if you’ve just embarrassed a 911 Turbo owner, crossed a continent in less than a day or let the car drive for you for over 200 miles, you find it hard to fall for it. The CL65 is another one of those mighty achievements from Mercedes, but it lacks a Bentley’s heart or indeed an Aston Martin’s beauty.
Hang on a second though, forget all this talk of Bentley and Aston Martin; isn’t there an enemy within?
Yes. And this is where the argument for the CL65 really falls apart. For around £50,000 less you can have a CL63 AMG fitted with AMG’s genuinely brilliant naturally aspirated V8. The 63’s lighter engine means less overall mass, so the cheaper car pretty much matches the CL65’s power-to-weight ratio (it's only 0.2sec slower to 60mph). The CL63 AMG is also more agile, more responsive and more feelsome for those drivers who recognise such things. And as you’re reading this website, I’m guessing you do.
Still, Mercedes argues that some customers want, and will buy, the top-end CL-class coupe – even if it costs £150,000 – just because it is the top-of-the-range car. Badge one-upmanship was never the right reason to buy a car, so if you’re in the market for a CL and you don’t fancy the more characterful Bentley Continental GT or more beautiful Aston Martin DB9, buy the CL63. And a new BMW M3 with the change.