Frank S. Washington, Sat, 21 Jan 2012 12:50:53 PST
DETROIT - Slick; real slick.
That's the characteristic that comes to mind when I think of my week-long test drive of the 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550.
In the weeks preceding my test drive of Mercedes-Benz's full-size coupe, I had test driven a couple of luxury cars that were in the price stratosphere of the $114,000 CL 550. Each had its own personality.
As I've said, when you get to $50K or $60K and up for a vehicle what separates them are style and the application of technology. It's a matter of what do you like. At these types of price points, quality, performance and good design are givens.
I had the CL550 4Matic, for the uninitiated CL is the designation for Mercedes' legendary full-size coupe. This car is the platform for the German automaker's most recent technology.
In this case, my CL550 had a bunch of creature comforts like body control with crosswind stabilization, adaptive front air bags, adaptive high beams, adaptive brake lights, attention assist, power door closing and the really long list of equipment continued.
But what grabbed my attention was the new "base" engine in the three model lineup. It was a 4.6 liter dual turbocharged V8 that was rated at 429 horsepower and 516 pounds-feet of torque in my test car. The biturbo (that's Mercedes-speak for dual) was mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission. The 2011 CL550 can now get to 60 mph from a standing start in 4.8 seconds.
In other words, Mercedes-Benz has reduced the displacement of the engine from the previous model while increasing horsepower, lowering fuel consumption and lowering tail pipe emissions as well.
The technology has been branded BlueDIRECT by Mercedes-Benz. According to the German luxury vehicle manufacturer, "the package includes, among other things, energy-efficient control of alternator, fuel pump, air-conditioning compressor and power-assisted steering system, as well as the ECO start/stop function. It also features the use of low rolling resistance tires and the energy-optimized Active Body Control system." I expect to see BlueDIRECT make its way through the Mercedes-Benz lineup.
The CL550 was unbelievably smooth. Other than a guttural low decibel growl from the engine there was no hint of the power that lay under the hood. Handling of course was great and the air suspension operated with near perfection.
My car was equipped with 4Matic, Mercedes' all-wheel-drive suspension. The streets here were covered by small patches of ice from a recent heavy wet snow. The wheels on my test car didn't' slip once that I noticed.
Mercedes-Benz has been refining its all-wheel-drive system since 1903. The current generation splits the torque between front and rear 45-55, in other words power is being put through all four wheels all of the time.
The system has the capability of shifting torque between the front and rear wheels as needed. We often think of all-wheel-drive as an all-weather feature; but an all the time all-wheel-drive system makes handling on dry pavement even better.
With option packages that included active blind side assist, active lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, AMG 19-inch sport wheels, bodystyling, front seats with massage, heated and cooled front seats, night vision, rearview camera, side skirts, and a heated steering wheel the total for my test vehicle was $127,565 and I had no complaints.