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Kelley Blue Book ® - 2003 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class Overview

Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com 2003 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class Overview

The Grand Daddy of Luxury Coupes

When you hear the word coupe your mind probably conjures up the image of a sporty little two seater or 2+2, small in stature and barely big enough for two people. Well, once you see the Mercedes CL500, you're definition of "coupe" may be changed forever—as may your desire to ever own anything less than this stunning two-door cruiser. For the record, the CL designation refers to the car's body style while the number that follows represents the engine. Thus the CL500 is powered by a 5.0-liter V8, while the ultra-performance CL600 gets a monster twin turbocharged V12. For the sake of the working-class, we chose the less expensive CL500 for our test; its comfortable blend of power and price (a mere $92,000 vs. $125,000 for the CL600) made it seem the proper choice. There is also one other thoroughbred in the CL stable: the CL55 AMG, a high-performance specialty car produced in limited numbers by the German automobile tuner AMG.

If you know Mercedes cars well, you might think of the CL500 as a coupe version of the S500 sedan, and to some extent you would be correct. The two cars do share many of the same engine and suspension components, as well as interior appointments. But the CL500 is also very much its own car, with shapely lines and a breathtaking new grille and headlamp treatment that gives the CL500 an aggressive, exotic appearance; the theme is followed to completion as your eye moves rearward over the pinched C-pillar and elongated taillights. It may sound clich to say, but the CL500 really does appear to be in motion even when resting quietly curbside. The CL500 is one of those rare luxury cars that can still draw longing stares of admiration without imparting an image of being pompous or pretentious; for many self-made business people, this is exactly the image they wish their car to project.

Driving the CL500 is an exercise in pure joy. Though it is a big car, the engineers at Mercedes have done an excellent job of building a suspension and steering setup that makes this hefty coupe quite manageable and actually fun to drive. Of course, the heart and soul of the CL500 is its engine and the awesome straight-line acceleration it provides. With over 300 horsepower on tap, the silky-smooth 5.0-liter V8 sings its sweet, effortless song while never failing to move you when you ask it. Mercedes claims a 0-60-mph time of 6.1 seconds and after a few bursts from a dead stop, we completely agree with their assessment. The CL500's transmission handles all the demands made by your right foot with little complaint and will even cede it duties to you via its five-speed Touch Shift clutchless manual mode.

When you're merely in the mood to cruise effortlessly to your final destination, you'll find that the CL500 is equally adept in the role of boulevard cruiser. Slip inside and you you'll find one of the most cleanly styled, sophisticated interiors every drawn. There is no clutter inside the CL500 cabin; instead, there is an atmosphere of complete tranquility, as though you were sitting in the lounge of a fine designer home. You'll find the prerequisite leather and wood surrounding you wherever you look while the seat beneath you cradles, cushions and even cools every part of you backside. Pop in a CD and your ears will be serenaded by a premium Bose audio system that sounds so good you won't want to leave the car until the music is finished.

From the driver's seat, you'll find the CL500's controls are clear and easy to understand and operate. The only complicated functions reside with the COMMAND onboard navigation screen that also serves as the display for the Bose audio, and the Distronic cruise control that maintains a safe distance between you and the traffic ahead. It is wise to consult the manual or have your Mercedes dealer give you a thorough lesson in the operation of these two features; once you have learned how to operate both, they become almost second nature and you'll find yourself memorizing most of the commands. It is somewhat puzzling why luxury manufactures all seem to believe that a simple set of knobs and switches to control such functions and heating and audio somehow denigrates the luxury car experience. But as this is the current trend for all high-line cars, we give the CL500 good marks for the semi-intuitive nature of their system.

Among the many standard features the CL500 has to offer are side-curtain airbags that span the length of the interior, remote keyless entry, power windows and door locks, GPS satellite navigation, Electronic Stability Program (ESP), traction control, ABS, bi-xenon headlamps, dual-zone climate control and 24-hour roadside assistance.

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