Mercedes-Benz went from inventing the automobile, to becoming one of the world's most desired makers of luxury cars. It's one of those brands that means something deep, even for folks who are not that into cars. For a long time now, the absolute peak of the Mercedes-Benz lineup has always been the S-Class.

Although it wasn't always called the S-Class, it represented the gem of the automaker's lineup. The engineers and designers didn't spare a single penny, and the word on the street has always been: that cool feature that your car has now, it probably first appeared on a Mercedes S-Class. Later on, Mercedes-Benz offered a coupe version of the S-Class. In the '90s, to distinguish it, they gave it a new name: CL-Class. The second generation CL-Class arrived in 1999.

1999-2006 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class

7.80 / 10
Key Features
  • V8 and V12 power
  • RWD
  • Up to 603 hp and 738 lb-ft of torque
Specifications
  • Model: CL-Class
  • Engine/Motor: Various
  • Horsepower: 302-603 hp
  • Torque: 339-738 lb/ft
  • Drivetrain: Longitudinal front-engine, RWD
  • Transmission: 5-speed automatic / 7-speed automatic
  • MSRP: $92,495 (base when new, without inflation)
Pros
  • Earth-moving powertrains
  • Gorgeous styling
  • Opulent luxury
Cons
  • Reliability concerns
  • Expensive maintenance
  • Old technology

The CL-Class Was Mercedes' Flagship Coupe In The 2000s

Mercedes CL C215 Front Right Quarter Brilliant Silver Metallic Cornering
Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes-Benz introduced the second generation CL-Class for the 1999 model year in North America. As you might expect, it continued to share its architecture with the S-Class. Being the second generation, it switched to the W220 S-Class platform, while the previous generation car used the underpinnings from the rather special W140 S-Class. While people love to bash and hate on the W220 S-Class, the CL-Class made it rather difficult for people to hate on it, and that's for a variety of different reasons.

One of the major reasons is the design. While people widely and harshly criticize the W220 S-Class for its rounded design and some of its more awkward curves, the C215 CL-Class took a completely different approach to styling. While it did also adopt rounder styling elements, especially compared to the W140, you could definitely say that the CL was a beautiful car to behold. One of its best characteristics is undoubtedly the side profile. The metal part of the roof wraps around the entire greenhouse area, and the rear window curves downwards on the sides and meets the roof, similar to a lot of smartphone screens nowadays.

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The length combined with the two-door body style definitely made the C215 CL-Class a striking car to behold. Elsewhere, the styling traits were typical Mercedes-Benz of the time, with the (much better looking) double-circle headlights, the more aggressive front fascia, and full LED taillights.

The C215 CL-Class only came in a coupe body style, and Mercedes never offered a convertible variant. It came in only one trim level, as well as a variety of powertrain configurations. Its main competitors included the BMW 6 Series, the Maserati Coupe and Spider, the Lexus SC, and in some aspects, the Bentley Continental GT, as well as the popular-among-celebrities Azure, and the Porsche 911 as well. Production of the C215 CL-Class took place at Mercedes' facility in Sindelfingen until February 2006. After that, the C216 CL-Class took its place in the lineup.

Burly V8 And V12 Engines Powered The C215 CL-Class Mercedes

The C215 CL-Class was exclusively available with V8 or V12 powertrains. Being that it was the flagship luxury coupe in Mercedes' lineup, they decided they wouldn't allow anything less than that. The base model was the CL 500, which used a 5.0-liter M113 naturally-aspirated V8 developing 302 hp and 339 lb-ft of torque. This might sound like a good amount of power, but the CL was pretty large and heavy, so 0-60 happened in 6.5 seconds. Not a bad figure, but not very brisk either. One above the CL 500 is where things started to get interesting.

The CL 600 initially used a 5.8-liter M137 naturally-aspirated V12 developing 362 hp and 391 lb-ft of torque. This improved the 0-60 time to 6.1 seconds. However, the CL 600 after the 2002 model year is when things really started to heat up. The 2002 onwards CL 600 swapped out the 5.8-liter V12 for a 5.5-liter M275 twin-turbo V12. Power went way up to 493 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque, which dropped almost a second and a half from the 0-60 time, making it 4.8 seconds.

Above the CL 500 and CL 600 were all the AMG variants. The initial run of the CL 55 AMG used a 5.4-liter version of the M113 V8, developing 355 hp and 391 lb-ft of torque, the same torque figure as the pre-2002 CL 600. 0-60 took around six seconds. After 2002, Mercedes added a supercharger to the 5.4 V8, which increased power to 493 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque, and dropped the 0-60 time to 4.8 seconds.

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The kings of the CL-Class lineup were undoubtedly the V12-powered AMG versions. Confusingly, at one point during the CL's run, there was a CL 63 AMG which used a V12 powertrain. Specifically, it was a 6.3-liter M137 naturally-aspirated V12 putting out 438 hp and 457 lb-ft of torque. Eventually, this variant became the CL 65 AMG, which is the variant of the CL-Class that everyone always talks about whenever the topic is this generation of CL-Class. The 65 AMG uses a 6.0-liter M275 twin-turbo V12 putting out a massive 603 hp and 738 lb-ft of torque, which allowed for a 0-60 time of just 4.4 seconds, which is impressive even by today's standards.

Every version of the C215 CL-Class was RWD, and they all had an electronically limited top speed of 155 mph. By most counts, the CL 65 AMG can do well over 200 mph without the limiter. Every CL also came standard with Active Body Control, a hydropneumatic suspension system that was even more advanced than air suspension. Power went to the wheels through either a five-speed automatic transmission, or a seven-speed automatic transmission.

There Are Tons Of Features And Opulent Luxury Inside The Mercedes CL-Class

Mercedes CL C215 Interior Center Stone Upholstery
Mercedes-Benz

The interior of the CL-Class had a lot in common with the W220 S-Class. This meant, above anything else, incredible attention to detail, nothing but the highest quality materials, and features that were unheard of for 1999 and the early 2000s. Behind the four-spoke steering wheel, there was the futuristic (for the time) electroluminescent gauge cluster, which would be practically invisible until the car was running. The speedometer also featured the iconic floating needle.

The center control stack featured one of the earliest varieties of an infotainment system, which was different depending on which year CL-Class you had. It also housed the climate controls, and the shifter also featured an optional starter button. Unlike most cars in the early 2000s that had push button start, the system in the CL was keyless.

The interior surfaces were either leather or wood, with very few cheaper plastics, or any plastics for that matter. The very top of the dashboard also had a little diagram showing how close the parking sensors were to whatever was in front of you. This was before the days before parking sensor displays lived inside the infotainment system. An identical diagram also showed how close the rear parking sensors were to an obstacle.

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Being related to the S-Class of its day, the CL was available with a ton of luxury and convenience features, most of which the world had never seen before. This included Distronic, which is what Mercedes-Benz used to call adaptive cruise control back in the day. Linguatronic voice control was also available, as well as a Bose sound system, automatic soft-close doors, and so much more.

As far as reliability on the CL-Class goes, there are some things to remember. No matter what powertrain you're looking at, and regardless of the M113 V8's bulletproofness, always look for a used CL-Class with a full, comprehensive, detailed service history and maintenance records. As so many people have said, the most expensive car in the world is a cheap AMG Mercedes.

This one is especially one to look out for, as it came from the notorious era of Mercedes-Benz where electronics took over everything, and the budget to over-engineer components went down significantly to cut costs. Also be mindful that maintenance on these cars is very expensive, so even if you get a good deal on one, keep that in mind. The CL-Class seats four passengers, and even though it has only two doors, everyone can roll down their window and enjoy the breeze. The trunk offers up 12.3 cubic feet of space.

C215 CL-Class Models Are Very Cheap, But Be Aware

Mercedes CL65 AMG C215 Front Right Quarter Brilliant Silver Metallic
Mercedes-Benz

The C215 Mercedes CL-Class is extremely cheap on the used market. Classic.com values the CL 500 at around $12,600, the CL 600 at around $16,500, and the CL 55 AMG at around $19,500. That means the car has retained barely 10% of its value, and you can get one for less money than even some of the cheapest new cars on sale. However, if you can, spend a little more on a CL, and if you can put up with the maintenance, this is one of the best examples of a dying breed of luxury automobiles.