2013 Mercedes-Benz CL600

2013 Mercedes-Benz CL600 2013 Mercedes-Benz CL600
Instrumented Test TESTED

The CL600 isn’t what you’d drive to an Occupy Wall Street protest—unless you were protesting the protesters. The iconic coupe is big, bold, and bodacious, a rolling reminiscence of more grandiose times. It hides its considerable bones in sheetmetal that sweeps and flows seductively. We can imagine Isadora Duncan’s scarf trailing out past the pillarless side windows, fluttering over the car’s lovely sculpted flanks precariously close to the 10-spoke, 20-inch rear wheels (a $1270 upcharge on this $177,785 chariot).

Big Is Beautiful

The four-seater is selfish and unapologetic in its largess. How large? This coupe version of Mercedes’ S-class flagship, nose to tail, spans within half a pinky’s length of a Cadillac Escalade and is broader of beam than a basic Toyota Tacoma yet offers less cabin space than does the Kia Cadenza. No matter, really, as what space exists looks, and feels, like money. Our test car was equipped with the $7050 Designo Espresso Edition package with a suede headliner, heated wood-and-leather steering wheel, and extra-buttery Sand leather upholstery. What few items weren’t covered in hand-stitched hides on the dash, doors and console were either piano black or freshly quarried granite, courtesy of the $2650 Designo Star Galaxy Stone trim package.

A full suite of standard electronic aids such as active blind-spot assist, active lane-keeping assist, Attention Assist, and more guide the driver and might come in handy for Lady Chatterley as she speeds to a noontime liaison. Our test car was also equipped with the $710 Splitview infotainment screen, which allows the driver to check, say, a navigation map while the front passenger watches Gone with the Wind or another favorite selection on the same screen—at the same time.

Wobbles and Wiggles

We were less impressed with the technology in the CL600’s active-body-control suspension. The ABC system did a fine job of damping body roll, dive, and squat, but there was too much side-to-side wiggle, head toss, and steering-column movement for our taste. Bumps sent little ripples and shimmies through the cabin—and we’re sure we had the car’s massaging seats turned off. Likewise, the CL600’s steering was fairy-godmother light and not especially communicative. And the car’s meaty ContiSportContact 2 tires had an annoying tendency to follow road grooves.

If the around-town driving revealed a few ruffled edges, our CL600 test car exceeded expectations at the test track. The big Benz circled our 300-foot skidpad at 0.88 g, besting the Bentley Continental GT W-12 coupe and coming within 0.01 g of the CL600’s AMG-tuned CL65 sibling. Likewise, the CL600’s as-tested 163-foot 70-to-0 braking performance outstopped the CL65’s by six feet.

We were particularly smitten with the CL600’s 510-hp twin-turbo V-12 engine. In an age of downsizing, the V-12 is a sensory delight which makes us all the more pleased that the company has told us it plans to be the last firm building 12-holers. Although a little touchy at tip-in, opening up the throttle on the CL600 is like flipping the switch on a nuclear reactor. The V-12 has a warp-engine sound and a turbine zeal that are way beyond the déclassé rumble of a mere V-8.

Turbine Fast

Even though our CL600 tipped the scales at a hefty 4791 pounds, the car shined in acceleration testing. The CL600’s 4.2-second 0-to-60 performance trumped Mercedes’ estimate by 0.3 second and, even more impressive, bettered the 111-hp more-powerful CL65 AMG’s 4.5-second time. (The two CLs legged through the quarter-mile in the same 12.6 seconds.) All of it, we might add, while looking fabulous.

Having outlived just about all of its big-coupe competitors, the Mercedes-Benz CL600 is a dowager princess crafted of sheetmetal and leather and attitude. And with the next-generation model arriving next year—when it will adopt S-class coupe nomenclature—we see no sign its reign will end anytime soon.