Motoring: Smaller, cheaper, better than ever
And the technology in this new Mercedes moves it streets ahead of the coupe competition.
So, what's so special about the suspension? Active Body Control, that's what. Car-makers have played with the idea for years, but Mercedes now makes it real in the world's most techno-dense car. It's yours for pounds 70,680 as a 5.0-litre V8 or, for the ultimate sybaritism fix, pounds 91,760 as a 5.0- litre V12. Don't even think about the depreciation potential.
Active Body Control - let's make it easy, and call it ABC - distorts the laws of physics. It enables this hefty machine to take corners with the sparkiness of a sports car, yet smother bumps with the totality expected of a car this grand. We can thank vast computer power for this cleverness, plus hydraulics that can alter a wheel's position up to five times a second.
First, look at the rest of this study in automotive sculpture. The previous CL was a bloated slab of a car, not imposing but an imposition. It was bought not to reflect good taste, but to extend personalities. This one is smaller, lighter, curvier, just as the related S-class saloon is more svelte than its own stolid predecessor. And it's gorgeous.
Remarkably, it's also cheaper, despite being so techno-dense. That weight reduction comes from the materials used to build this big Benz: aluminium for the roof, bonnet and rear wings, plastic for the bootlid and front wings, and - remarkably - cast magnesium for the inner door shells. These long doors have double-jointed hinges; the doors move forward as they open, so they don't need to open as far before allowing the occupants in or out.
The CL also gives you, either as standard or optional, many features also found in the S-class and entirely alien to the experience of most of us. Keyless Go is a good one, a credit-card-size transmitter which lives in your pocket. It causes your CL to unlock as you touch the door- handle, and to start as you touch the gear selector. The seats have fan cooling and built-in back massage. Its all there - cruise control that slows you if there's a slower car coming up in front, a voice-activated phone, headlights which can switch on automatically, automatic monitoring of tyre pressures.
And the engines. The V12 delivers 367bhp in a creamy torrent, but if you're driving gently it switches off six cylinders for more economical running. You can barely hear the difference, because a V12 sounds much like a straight-six anyway.
But I have to tell you the V12 CL600 is largely pointless, given the price difference, although the cost includes items optional on the V8- powered CL500.
The V8 sounds more exciting, a view shared by Hans Multhaupt, vice- president of Mercedes passenger car development. Nor, at 306bhp, is it strapped for power. Mr Multhaupt says the performance is similar up to 125mph or so, and it's spectacular enough for most tastes. The V8's transmission is less abrupt during a vigorous getaway or when downshifting. Actually, it isn't abrupt at all. The CL500 rides more smoothly on the less aggressive- looking tyres with their deeper, more absorbent sidewalls, setting the seal on that remarkable ABC.
Which works like this: the springs and dampers are very soft and supple, but the point at which the springs attach to the CL's structure can be moved by electro-hydraulics up or down as rapidly as required to keep the car's body on the smooth and level. So the springs aren't called on to absorb big bumps and body movements, leaving them to cope with the smaller, higher-frequency disturbances their suppleness is optimised to absorb.
Sensors detect the forces acting on the body, and dictate what adjustments should be made at each wheel.
The result is a car which stays flat in corners, doesn't nose-dive under braking, responds cleanly to the steering with no sense of stodge and unwanted momentum, and feels about two-thirds of the size it really is. To complete the illusion, the CL could do with a quicker steering response, and Mercedes is looking into the possibility. Even now, though, it's extraordinary.
"There is no other car company in the world whose customers allow it to use such technology," says a proud Mr Multhaupt. "They want the best, and they drive us to create it." They should be happy now.
Model: Mercedes-Benz CL500
Price: pounds 70,680
Engine: 4,966cc, V8 cylinders, 24 valves, 306bhp at 5,600rpm
Transmission: five-speed auto-matic gearbox, rear-wheel drive
Performance: 155mph, 0-60 in 6.3sec, 16 to 21mpg
Aston Martin DB7: pounds 83,260. Handbuilt and exclusive - and you pay dearly for it. CL is technologically miles ahead.
Bentley Continental R: pounds 199,750. The CL600 V12 looks cheap next to this, and is a vastly better car.
BMW 840Ci: pounds 57,470. Cramped but fun to drive. Benz is better.
Ferrari 456M GTA: pounds 173,588. CL600 is a closer rival to the V12-engined 456M. Ferrari is less sophisticated, but exciting.
Jaguar XKR: pounds 60,105. Searing pace from supercharged V8. Lacks CL's near- perfection.
Life & Style blogs
Kylie Jenner challenge: Bizarre lip suction device inspired by Kardashian sister goes viral
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Coachella Festival 2015: from Kendall Jenner to Alexa Chung, stars and festival-goers parade their boho best
What do the emoji on Snapchat mean?
$375 'peasant dress' enrages the internet
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
- 1 Kylie Jenner challenge: Bizarre lip suction device inspired by Kardashian sister goes viral
- 2 Rarest Beanie Baby bought for just £10 at car boot sale could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
- 3 Katie Hopkins and The Sun editor are reported to police for incitement to racial hatred following migrant boat column
- 4 Bruce Forsyth backs assisted dying campaign: 'If I had Alzheimer's or dementia I would do something about it'
- 5 Giorgio Armani criticises the way some gay men dress saying 'a man has to be a man'
£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Office Administrator is requ...
£12000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion and growth of ...
£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer position with a...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Operations Leader is required to join a lea...