Mercedes CL 600

What does it feel like to swap your old jalopy for a super car? Andrew Dewson traded in his battered L-reg Micra for a £112,000 Mercedes and drove 1,500 miles around Scotland to find out

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Indy Lifestyle Online

The Micra has served me well. In the last eight years I have covered more than 100,000 miles in it, and it has never let me down.

OK, only one speaker works; one wing mirror has gone; the passenger-side window handle won't stay put and it's got more dents in it than a stock car driven by Paris Hilton after a night on the sauce. But when it came to driving most of the way around Scotland with my heavily pregnant wife in the passenger seat, the Micra was never going to cut the mustard.

Taking delivery of a new Mercedes CL 600 was a slightly surreal experience as it was delivered to my flat in Holloway Road, north London. Not the sort of place they usually deliver to, I expect. The boys from Mureli grocer's came around the back to have a gawp, as did Peter from the dry cleaners. I've never been so popular. The car looks awesome – mostly. As the Mercedes Benz's flagship car, so it should. But like the whole package, its looks are a little confused, as if it is a car that doesn't know what it wants to be.

From the front it's a beefed-up, muscle-bound bully, but the view from the back could easily be mistaken for a Rover. Not that I'm down on Rovers, fine cars in comparison to the Micra, but if you're spending the best part of the deposit required to buy a Belgravia townhouse on a car, you don't want it to be confused with a Rover.

Packing our stuff away for a week's holiday brings another disappointment. About an eighth of the boot space is taken up with the refrigerator that you access from between the rear seats, meaning the boot is c-shaped. As a result, I can't get my golf clubs and our big suitcase in without taking my woods out. A minor gripe but the gimmicky fridge makes a major dent in the boot space. Anyone considering buying a CL should save themselves £800, buy a decent cool box and keep a sensible shaped, and sized, boot. However, minor gripes aside, on the road the Mercedes CL is outstanding. The five-and-a-half-litre V12 engine produces a terrifying 517 BHP and apparently does 0-60 in 4.6 seconds. Not that my passenger allowed me to put that claim to the test, but I always thought that 0-60 is for boy-racers anyway.

The real test of power is moving from 60-100mph, getting out of the way of any Sunday drivers in the middle lane. One touch on the accelerator and you're miles away. You can almost make out the gaping jaws in the rear view mirror.

Typically for Mercedes (so I'm told), safety features high on the car's spec. The cruise control includes "distronic" distance control, automatically adjusting the speed of the car to take into account the braking distance from the car in front. There are also 24 airbags in the CL 600. I was tempted to crash it just to see what 24 exploding airbags would look like – the world's most expensive bouncy castle probably – but for some unfathomable reason my wife was less keen on that idea.

The cockpit (that's what Mercedes calls it, and it's not hard to see why) is incredibly comfortable and luxurious, making the car ridiculously easy to drive even for a non-petrolhead and technophobe like myself. The technical highlight is a tough one to pick out – but turning the dashboard into an infa-red television screen at night is perhaps the pick of the bunch, although it does make night driving rather too much like a computer game for my liking.

For someone who normally drives a car worth substantially less than the cost of the refrigerator in this car, driving something with power, prestige and looks was a great experience. But there were other small complaints. Some of the electronics seemed reluctant to work; the back seats do not have enough room for two adults on a lengthy journey and some of the extras are gimmicks that shouldn't tempt anyone who is more interested in a driving experience rather than showing off to their mates.

It also drinks fuel – over £400 worth to cover 1,500 miles. But then again, if you can afford to spend that much on the car in the first place, guzzling fuel shouldn't be an issue. I wonder if Ken Livingstone should be thinking about taxing cars like the CL more than the Chelsea tractors, most of which presumably squeeze far more out of a gallon of fuel.

While there is no doubt that the CL 600 is an amazing piece of engineering – fast, quiet, comfortable and safe – I can't help wondering what I would do with a £112,000 car budget. If you want a comparable super-fast car, you could buy yourself a BMW M5 with enough spare change to acquire a lifetime of brownie points by treating the other half to a 3 Series convertible. You could even make me an offer on the Micra.

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