Michael Booth with the Mercedes CL500

Every ageing playboy needs a slick set of wheels, but does the Mercedes CL500 really say what you think it does?

Would suit: Retired footballers
Price: £79,652
Performance: 155mph, 0-62 mph 5.5secs
Combined fuel consumption: 23.3 mpg
Contact: 0800 181 361

Deep down, I quite fancy myself as a CL500 owner. I know, I know, you see me more as a raw, unbridled, "young Brando" type but still, a CL Merc is an irresistible indulgence, a tantalising fantasy of how one's automotive third age might pan out. It is a "summer on the Cap, nights at the baccarat tables, lunch on the terrace at Alain Ducasse" kind of car, and I could definitely see myself living that life (if we ignore for a moment the impediments of a wife, two children, a mortgage and no fixed income).

It is, then, a car for the care-free, high- rolling, international roué. Or is it, as is the case of the two examples round my way, the wheels of choice for the Lebanese restaurant-chain owner with a penchant for Eastern European ladies, or the IT-software entrepreneur who has just upgraded from a 3-series coupé and paved over his front garden to park it?

A CL can be all these things to all these – admittedly not especially appealing – men. So what is it that lures them to a CL instead of, say, a 911, an Aston or a Bentley?

CL buyers won't be after a sports car, that is for sure, which rules out the first two. The CL500 cossets and wafts, but is of little use if you want to out-run an Elise (and part of me can't help thinking that, for £80k, a car ought to be able to do both). Brake suddenly and the body pitches forwards; floor the throttle and there is a pause as the considerable molecular weight that surrounds you gathers itself to muster forward propulsion. Imagine pushing a wheelbarrow full of jelly and you'll get the idea. That said, it is colossally fast (heaven knows what the CL600 must be like), and, personally, I would always trade a little body control for a nice ride. Still, it's better just to point the CL towards a motorway, slip into cruise control, put on a little Wagner and have someone wake you up when you get to Wigan (though what a CL would be doing in Wigan is a moot point).

The Bentley is a closer rival, but its rear seats are preposterously cramped and, of course, there is the small matter of the extra £40k you'll need to buy one. Mercedes owners aren't so rich that things like value for money don't matter.

Something CL owners clearly do share is a pathological urge to exhibit the success they have achieved in life. (Bitter? Me?) And what better way is there than spending between £80,000 (for the V8) and £107,000 (for the V12 version) on an S-class with two fewer doors?

They also know quality when they see it. Refreshingly for a premium German car, there's no ruched leather. Mercedes has instead gone for the Hercule Poirot look, with piano wood and chrome trim and an Art Deco-ish clock in the centre of the dash. It is a lovely place to be and, matched with that phenomenal ride, helps to make any journey as relaxing as floating in amniotic fluid (I have a good memory), all except for the incessant beeping noises. I've no idea what I was doing wrong – it wasn't my seatbelt, or that I had the fog lights on. Perhaps it was just that the CL could tell I wasn't the right sort to take its wheel, either that or it was a Slovakian prostitute alert. *

It's a classic: Mercedes 60

Ever wondered why poshed-up Jaguars are called Daimlers, even though Gottlieb Daimler built Mercedes? We have to go back to the Mercedes 60 of 1903. Built by Daimler (he of the world's first internal combustion engine) and Wilhelm Maybach (he of those super-limos, much loved by Saudi royalty), the 60 was a high-performance, two-seater that lacked a roof, doors or any discernible body work, but it excelled in the nascent world of motor sports. It was developed at the behest, and with the cash, of industrialist Emil Jellinek, who had a daughter – Mercedes. As Daimler had licensed his name to UK dealers, Jellinek insisted the 60 carry her name in France. Due to other complicated licensing deals, her name was used across Europe for all Daimler cars built from 1908. In 1924, Daimler aligned with Karl Benz to build Mercedes-Benz cars, while the UK Daimler licence was bought by Jaguar, in 1960.

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