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Reader test: Mercedes-Benz CL500

2009-10-12 08:57

Rian Prinsloo

Launched at a time that many regard as the pinnacle of Mercedes-Benz build quality, the Type 140 S-Class wasn't universally liked.

While it was an engineering masterpiece at launch, many regarded it as too big and Germanic for its own good. The Coupe version appeared in 1992 with styling that could at best be described as uncomfortable.  It took allmost a decade for the C140 to "mature", looking more elegant now than ever.
There are a number of modern cars that claim to be "coupes" but this is the real deal. The side windows retract into the body work completely, with no pillars spoiling the effect. This provides pleasant wind in the hair motoring, with no leaking convertible roofs and a much safer fixed structure overhead. There is also a tilt and slide sunroof.
Even at 12 years, the interior is among the most comfortable to be found in any car, with decadent luxury the order of the day. The interior is trimmed in two-tone grey Exclusive Nappa leather which is soft and inviting. Even the dash and door cappings are trimmed in leather. The rest is tastefully genuine Burr Walnut veneer, chrome and deep pile carpet. Even the headlining is luxurious Alcantara suede that just adds to that feeling of wellbeing.  

Everything is electronically adjustable and the cabin feels almost bulletproof. The side windows are double glazed, ensuring whisper levels of NVH, and the interior is roomy enough for four adults to be relatively comfortable.  

Rear legroom is at a slight premium considering the size of the car, but this is two door remember! Both doors and the bootlid feature pneumatic closing aids that pull them shut over the last couple of millimetres.

There is electronic climate control with a carbon filter for filtering out bad smells and dust and the like, and even a car telephone!  The 12-speaker custom Bose sound system was specifically designed with the acoustics of the interior in mind, ensuring amazing sound quality and clarity. 
Suspending all this lavishness is the same suspension as found in the W140 S500 saloon.  This means comfortable handling, the car seemingly shrinking in size with familiarity, making placing the car on the road rather easy.  The ride is set up for comfort in mind, with enthusiastic cornering rewarded with lots of grip but also lots of predictable understeer. Somehow this doesn't bother you at all, as you relax, your pulse rate slows, and you start to soak up the scenery and the beautifully trimmed interior.
The 5l V8 engine is mated to an electronically controlled five-speed automatic transmission, ensuring smooth progress indeed! Credited with 235kW and 470Nm, performance is effortless.  The smooth power delivery is actually quite addictive, with the big engine making a mockery of the car's weight (mass is more than two tonne)!  

Cruising at the national limit, the engine turns around at roughly 2 100 r/min.  This, together with efficient engine technology, ensures cruising economy in the 10.5 to 11l/100km region. In town, expect to get between 17 and 20l/100km. Ouch!!
All in all, satisfaction actually does remain long after the price has been forgotten with this old Merc!

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