Mercedes CL600

From Race to Road

Text: Charis Whitcombe
Photo: DaimlerChrysler

Let’s start with the engine. The Mercedes CL600, which goes on sale this autumn, has a newly-developed, 5.5-litre, 12-cylinder bi-turbo powerplant – the same engine as the top of the range S-Class, the new S600L.

In addition to twin turbos, the engine benefits from various other bits of technical wizardry, such as two water-cooled charge-air coolers and AC dual ignition with – and I quote Mercedes on this one - „continuous ionic current diagnosis for optimum ignition functionality”. Forget the verbose description for a moment and concentrate on the results: the engine generates 493bhp at 5,000rpm and – even more staggeringly – develops a maximum torque of 800Nm (590lb ft) from a lowly 1,800rpm. This exceeds the power output of the previous Mercedes 12-cylinder engine by around 36 per cent. As to the torque, it’s up by a forcible 51 per cent.

But at over two tonnes, the redesigned CL-Class coupe is far from being a lightweight sports car, so how do these engine figures translate into performance? Rather well, it seems. It takes just 4.8 seconds to propel the car from standstill to 62.5 mph (whereas its predecessor took 6.1 seconds). The maximum speed is electronically limited to 155 mph - but what would it do without being limited? Probably around 190mph.

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...and Refinement

Since the car is a Mercedes, it comes as no great surprise that the massively powerful engine comes wrapped in a car of great refinement and luxury. But, unlike the engine, other details of the 2003 model are not that different from its predecessor.

Inside the car, the centre console has redesigned switches and a larger colour display (now 6.5 inches) for the standard COMAND unit with its integral radio, navigation system and CD player. Otherwise, things are pretty much the same. The CL600’s body, too, has been only subtly updated, the most striking features being the twin headlamps with their clear-lens design, and a restyled front bumper to give the car a more „powerful” presence.

While the CL-Class coupes currently have Active Body Control (ABC) as standard, there will be an additional development for the 2003 model year. ABC adjusts the suspension settings to the current driving situation to minimise body movement when accelerating, cornering or braking. In the new CL-Class coupes, including the CL600, the total weight of the vehicle will be constantly monitored, so that the ABC system is largely unaffected by the vehicle’s load.


The CL600 will be appearing in UK Mercedes-Benz showroom from 1st October, with a price tag of £90,720. Since the standard fittings are wildly generous, you’re unlikely to spend much more on optional extras. Examples from the list of standard equipment include 18” alloy wheels, a Bose Sound System, massaging backrest on the front seat, electric rear roller blind, Nappa leather, garage door opener, Nokia 6310i mobile phone, pneumatic rear headrest, wood and leather trimmed steering wheel and gearshift and – believe it or not – a TV tuner.

The CL600, along with other 2003 model year CL-Class coupes, will also have more safety features than its predecessors. The two-stage passenger airbag, windowbags and sidebags, seat belt tensioners, belt force limiters and automatic child-seat recognition, will all be retained. In addition, however, the new models will have two front-mounted satellite sensors to detect, at an early stage, the severity of an accident. This allows an appropriate degree of inflation for the two-stage passenger airbag. What’s more, the satellite sensors apparently allow the seat belt tensioners to be triggered earlier.

In another new safety feature, the passenger will automatically be weighed by means of a measuring foil in the seat cushion. The purpose of this rather alarming personal assessment is to make sure that the two-stage passenger airbag is triggered according to the weight of the passenger, as well as the severity of the accident. Hmmm. OK.

The Facts

Engine: 5.5-litre, all-aluminium V12; 3 valves per cylinder; twin turbos and water-cooled intercoolers
Power: 493bhp at 5,000rpm
Torque: 800Nm (590lb ft) at 1,800rpm
Transmission: 5-speed automatic transmission with Tipfunction and Speedtronic cruise control, rear-wheel drive
Suspension: Front: four-link active
Rear: independent, multi-link active
Brakes: Front: 345mm ventilated discs
Rear: 315mm ventilated discs
Steering: Rack and pinion
Wheels: Front: 8J x 18in
Rear: 9J x 18in
Dimensions: 4,993mm long; 1,857mm wide; 1,398mm high; 2,885mm wheelbase.
Fuel tank capacity: 88 litres.
Weight: 2,075kg
Official performance figures: 00-100kph(62.5mph): 4.8sec
Top speed - 155mph
Combined fuel consumption – 19.2mpg
Price and availability: From £90,720 on the road in UK. Available 1st October.


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Mercedes CL600 Mercedes CL600 Mercedes CL600