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The paragon of luxury coupés

Because it is a large, comfortable and seriously elegant four-seater passenger car that wears a discreet badge proclaiming its environmental friendliness, the last thing you would expect is for it to blast off like the Endeavour thundering skywards from the Kennedy Space Centre.
There's plenty of power under the hood.
And that's precisely what the achingly beautiful Mercedes-Benz CL 500 coupé does - it takes off with so much velocity that it will leave lots of other owners of fast cars wanting to give away their expensive toys.

I'm not kidding. This magnificent and completely mad V8 racer, superbly camouflaged as The Chairman's Car, is less than a tick slower off the mark than the fabulous Audi R8 Quattro coupé and it beats the Aston Martin DBS which clocks 4.98 seconds compared to the Merc's 4.9 seconds.

It also chews all BMW Z4 cars, the BMW 535 automatic, all the Beemer M3's, all 14 models in the Jaguar fleet, except for the two flagship XK's, all the Lotus Elise and Exige two-seater sports cars, all Maserati versions on sale in this country, all the Nissan 370 coupés and also two of the three Porsche Boxsters.

Got a couple of million to spare?

Not that 0-100km/h is the benchmark the average motorist attaches too much weight to but if you have even a hint of petrol fumes in your veins you will know that this is what gives cars like these bragging rights.

It's also one of the first questions petrol-heads, anoraks, caps and hoodies fire at owners of fast cars long before they even ask about price.

Seeing that the issue of filthy lucre has been raised we might as well get that painful bit over with: A mere R1.618 900 is what you will need to fork out to be able to park this pride of German engineering in your driveway.

For that you get a fine-tuned chunk of 4.6 litre V8 under the cars long, sleek bonnet that vrooms out 320kW and 700Nm which is probably enough to haul the Blue Train through the Karoo.

Certainly not the sort of car for Mister Average Joe or for Oom Gert's Sunday morning drive to church...

But just forgetting the Merc's awesome power output for a minute or two it is worth looking at some of this überwagen's many other appealing features.

For a start Merc's award-winning BlueEFFICIENCY engine design gives this big car good environmental status, with claimed fuel consumption down to 9.5 litres per 100 km and emissions slashed to 224 grams per kilometre, a cut of 23 compared to the predecessor model.

This car's array of cutting-edge camera and radar-based assistance systems such as Active Lane Assist and Active Blind Spot Assist systems, Active Body Control (ABC) with crosswind stabilisation and the Direct-Steer system are just the opening bid in what could mean many hours spent studying the car's manual.

Die-hard fans might need a tissue or two

I drove this car for a week and didn't progress beyond using 75% of its high-tech kit!

However, the one thing we got plenty of was many an admiring glance because it's the sort of car that nobody can look at just once and walk on by.

Low, sleek, broad and sharply chiselled it has a huge presence even when idling at the traffic lights. One die-hard Mercedes-Benz fan told me this was the most beautiful four-seater the marque has ever produced. He was so emotional I thought he was going to burst into tears...

Not difficult to understand why when you take in its long sloping bonnet, V-shaped radiator grille, curving headlamps and the shapely front bumper with three gaping air intakes and snazzy chrome strip plus the chrome encased LED daylight running lights.

Talking of which, the one area where Mercedes probably scores better than German rivals BMW and Audi is when it lights up.

It will dazzle you with its looks, but not its lights

Adaptive High Beam Assist is standard and very clever: It's a camera-based system that recognises oncoming vehicles or vehicles ahead with their lights on, and then controls the headlamps to ensure the best possible beam range without dazzling other road users.

Grown men might weep on seeing the CL500's lines.
Taking it another step further its Night View Assist PLUS system features special infra-red camera for pedestrian detection: as soon as the system detects pedestrians on the road ahead, they are highlighted additionally in the display, in order to catch the driver's attention better.

For the new-generation CL-Class, Mercedes-Benz has also improved the long and medium-range radar used by Brake Assist (BAS PLUS) and DISTRONIC PLUS proximity cruise control.

In the safety department the CL impresses with what Mercedes-speak calls its PRE-SAFE® Brake.

In short, if a driver is distracted and fails to recognise the imminent danger of a rear-end collision or the warning signal of an assistance system, this system can intervene and brake the vehicle independently.

You'll love the living quarters

If the driver fails to react even after automatic, partial braking action, the PRE-SAFE® Brake activates the maximum braking pressure around 0.6 seconds before what it now recognises as an unavoidable collision -- an emergency braking action that can significantly mitigate the severity of the impact.

ATTENTION ASSIST is another driver aid which gives a wake-up call if it senses that the driver's attention is waning.

But we can be here all day without even covering half the features that make this car unique, so let's have a quick look around the living quarters which are really right up there with the very best in automotive comfort and luxury.

What immediately blows one's socks of is the amazing attention
to detail and quality of finish in the cabin, from the four different kinds of wood, hand-finished and matched individually for colour and grain to the baby-soft leather seats which are as comfortable as a well-worn chair in the library of an old London Gentleman's Club.

Not that amazing stops there because the multi-function steering wheel is also wrapped in fancy-stitched leather, the glossy facia is silver and smartly shiny with as any knobs, dials and switches as one would expect to find in a Boeing cockpit.

All of this is gracefully basked in a choice of three ambient lighting moods, amber, white or ice blue.

'Ve haff COMAND'

When it comes down to the CL's on-board infotainment, be double-warned: it's great, but it takes hard work unless you have a Master's in really advanced multimedia technology
One expensive optional extra which the serious rich will no doubt want is the SPLITVIEW technology for the COMAND control and display system located in the centre console.

With this system in place this double display allows the driver and front passenger to view different contents simultaneously. For instance the driver can be using map-based navigation while the front passenger is watching a DVD.

admit it - it looks good from ANY angle.
Even without the costly extra option the standard COMAND control and display system has Bluetooth®, USB and SD card interfaces.

For musical entertainment COMAND APS provides a radio, a CD/DVD player with MP3 function, an equalizer with speed-dependent volume control and the MUSIC REGISTER with a 7.2 GB hard disc which stores around 2500 digital music files in MP3, AAC or WMA format.

The system recognises music files played on CD, DVD or from the MUSIC REGISTER using its stored Gracenote® database, and shows the title, album and performer in the colour display. Another new function, Music Search, enables drivers and passengers to search SD memory cards, USB sticks, CDs and DVDs for specific music titles and performers.

Everything looks to be in order, well... AN order

And if you don't want to fiddle, then simply bark an order and the smart CSL will oblige, thanks to a LINGUATRONIC voice system that controls the navigation, telephone and audio devices via "whole-word" input.

This means the driver no longer needs to spell out his commands but simply says the relevant words when entering a destination or choosing a radio station or a music title from the Music Register, or when calling up a name from the phone book.

On the subject of music, automotive sound systems don't get much better and classier than the concert class surround sound which fills the air of the CL's Platinum Class lounge as you cruise along Route 62 at sunset.

Cruising is what the CL does magnificently well. Showing off at the kerbside it's great at - and if you are really in a hurry very, very few cars will get you there as quickly and in such wrap-around safety, comfort and elegance as this particular Mercedes-Benz.

Footnote: Included in the CL 500's price are a six-year/120 000km maintenance contract and a two-years/unlimited km warranty.


Mercedes-Benz 2011 CL 500 4MATIC Fascination 2

Mercedes-Benz 2011 CL 500 4MATIC Fascination


About Henrie Geyser: motoring editor motoring editor Henrie Geyser () has worked as a journalist in Cape Town, London and Windhoek for the Argus Company (now Independent Newspapers) and spent 12 years at The Cape Argus in Cape Town. He then owned and ran a public relations consultancy for 13 years. He joined the online publishing industry through, where he worked for five years as news editor and editor. He now freelances for a variety of print and online publications, on the subjects of cars, food and travel, among others; and is a member of the South African Guild of Motoring Journalists.