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2003 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class Review
Luxurious cruising coupe combines comfort and power.
Reviewed by Automotive on
Based on Mercedes’ upscale S-Class sedan line, the 2003 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class is a collection of luxurious two-door grand touring coupes. Like the full-size S-Class, the CL-Class boasts a blend of prestige, comfort, and long-distance performance. Due to the coupe’s smaller size and sportier shape, however, passenger seating has been reduced from five to four.
For 2003, the CL-Class includes three trim levels: a base CL500, performance-oriented CL55 AMG, and ultra-luxurious CL600.
Engines: 5.0-liter V-8, 5.5-liter V-8, 5.5-liter twin-turbo V-12
Transmissions: five-speed shiftable automatic
Models: Mercedes-Benz CL500, Mercedes-Benz CL55 AMG, Mercedes-Benz CL600
The 2003 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class lineup has been updated with more powerful engines and minor style revisions such as new lights, redesigned controls, and a larger LCD screen for the standard COMAND system.
2003 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class coupes feature the S-Class’ classically elegant design, but add a shorter wheelbase and unique details such as sleekly curved side windows. The CL500 and CL600 both come with 17-inch alloy wheels, xenon HID headlamps with heaters and washers, foglights, a front air dam, variable intermittent rain-sensing windshield wipers, a power glass sunroof, a rear defogger, and a power glass sunshade. The CL55 AMG adds 18-inch wheels, Y-rated performance tires, a stiffer suspension, and special trim. A CL2 Sport Package adds the AMG’s signature features to the CL500 and CL600.
Like their S-Class siblings, 2003 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class models boast an ultra-luxurious interior outfitted in leather and wood trim. However, the CL-Class replaces the full-size line’s rear bench seat with two rear bucket seats, reducing standard seating to four occupants.
Standard equipment on the CL500 and CL55 AMG includes leather upholstery, 14-way adjustable front seats with multiple heating settings, driver’s-seat lumbar support, memory settings for three drivers, a folding center armrest with storage compartment, a tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel with audio controls, power locks, one-touch power windows, power heated mirrors, a reverse-tilt passenger mirror, a power back-seat easy-entry feature, cruise control, retained accessory power, a universal remote transmitter, dual-zone climate control, an active charcoal air filter, a trip computer, an external temperature display, a TeleAid telecommunications service, phone wiring, a satellite-based navigation system, and an eight-speaker Bose audio system with in-dash CD player and trunk-located CD changer. The top-level CL600 adds premium Nappa leather upholstery and either chestnut or burled walnut interior trim.
A CL3 Comfort Package upgrades the CL500’s interior with reclining power-adjustable front seats with heating and massage features, height adjustment, lumbar adjustment, and thigh support. CL-Class models can be upgraded with three special edition packages: the Silver Edition, Espresso Edition, or Cashmere Edition. Each package adds unique trim and multi-coat metallic paint. The CL500 and CL55 AMG can also be updated with many of the CL600’s features. Individual options on all models include parking sensors, a heated steering wheel, a hands-free phone, a remote start system, and custom upholstery.
In terms of space, front occupants receive 36.9 inches of headroom and 42.1 inches of legroom, while rear passengers are given 36.8 inches of headroom and just 30.8 inches of legroom. Cargo capacity is 12.3 cubic feet.
Performance & Handling
The 2003 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class offers three engines. The base CL500 comes equipped with a 5.0-liter V-8 producing 302 horsepower and 339 lb-ft of torque; the CL55 AMG gets a supercharged 5.5-liter V-8 offering 493 horses and 516 lb-ft; and the CL600 is fitted with a twin-turbocharged, 5.5-liter V-12 churning out 493 hp and a whopping 590 lb-ft of torque. Each engine is paired to a five-speed automatic transmission with manual shifting ability.
According to Mercedes, the CL500 can reach 60 mph in 6.1 seconds. Speed is limited at 155 mph. An active suspension system keeps cars level during hard braking and cornering and almost completely eliminates body lean. With their powerful engines, sharp handling, and smooth ride, CL-Class models offers the same renowned cruising characteristics as the S-Class, just in a slightly smaller package. As might be expected with so much power, gas mileage suffers during short distances, particularly with the V-12. But buyers willing to pay the high price tag for the CL’s exquisite style and performance may not mind having to pony up a bit more at the pump.
2003 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class models come standard with front and rear head airbags, dual front and rear side-mounted airbags, antilock brakes, emergency braking assist, electronic brake force distribution, self-leveling headlamps, stability control, and traction control.
EPA Fuel Economy
Mercedes-Benz CL600: 12/17 mpg city/highway
Mercedes-Benz CL55 AMG: 13/20 mpg city/highway
- Elegant design
- Comfortable cabin
- Luxurious amenities
- High-tech features
You Won't Like
- Prohibitive price tag
- Poor gas mileage
- Cramped back seat
Luxurious cruising coupe combines comfort and power.
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