Roadshow Video Reviews
2009 Mercedes-Benz CL550The technology in this audacious coupe succeeds more on quantity than quality.
>>Pretty thing, aint' it? Great big old status symbol on wheels. That's the CL - CL550 in this case. Let's check the tech. ^M00:00:09 [ Music ] ^M00:00:13 >>Now in case you haven't noticed from the outside, this is Mercedes' big 2-door coupe. Pillarless hard top. When those windows are down, spectacular, the view around this car. But now let's get to the technology inside. Two 8 inch high res screens. Now you spotted one, right there in the middle, but there's one over here too - that speedometer is a video representation. Hit the button over here on the left and the speedo becomes a night view assist screen, spotting things that your eye can't really pick up in the dark. Very cool, very scary to me. I can't look at that and look at the road and make that adjustment. Maybe it's just me, but I find it a distracting, fabulous gimmick. Now back to the other screen. You see I'm playing a video right now. It is a DVD and CD changer down here - this 6 disk is built in. No HD radio, which is odd for a car of this price class. You do have weather band - the Germans are big on that kind of thing. There's an iPod adaptor available - it's ala cart - you see we have it installed right here - it's one of those pigtails that goes into a jack in the glove box. And in terms of sound, it comes out of a Harman Kardon Logic 7 system, 600 some odd watts of power and 11 speakers around the cabin. Related to all that media is the hands free technology. Now Mercedes loves to do all these little DTMF keypads right here. I'm a big button fan, so I kind of like that, but in terms of actually integrating your phone, you could go a number of ways: straight Bluetooth, where you keep the phone in your pocket, or, you can go with a cradle, right here, hard wired, so you get power and a connection to an external antenna. Or they have another cradle that's both: it's a Bluetooth and cradle connection, depending on what phone you're using. I tried all day, but couldn't get my BlackBerry Bold to pair with this Bluetooth rig. The compatible phone list is kind of short . Now of course on a ride at this price level, navigation is standard and there it is. Looks great on that big screen. We also have live traffic here, I think they're using the Clear Channel FM signals, the Total Traffic Network. Unfortunately, the system is kind of stupid - there's no dynamic rerouting around traffic problems. Now when it comes time to enter a destination, you can obviously wheel over here to that menu and click your way down and select your letters like so. Or you can go to voice command button, but this is kind of a strange one. Check it out. Enter destination. >>Please spell a California street name. >> V-A-N-N-E-S-S. Notice I had to spell everything. Many of the better nav systems today you just use natural language and just say the word and it figures it out. This one, you're going letter by letter. That's fine, if you know how to spell that oddball street you're driving to. By the way, this head unit is hard drive based, with 20 gigabytes of space, but you can't rip or copy media to it - it's just there for the car's use. Now we have a package on this car that brings us a whole variety of parking technologies, including, we've got the rear view camera right there, which has a variety of guidance lines, but notice, they don't move or point your trajectory - they're pretty standard that way. But we do have a parking assist system, that gives you an overview, of how to get into a parallel parking spot, without actually moving the wheel for you. One of my favorite goodies in this car is the fact that we have dynamic, multi-contour seats. I can both pump up the various sides and lumbar supports, but what's really crazy is, dynamic seat mode, which tells the seat how aggressively to auto grip me, or the passenger, in turns and curves. Whenever you've got laterals on the car, it's a little unnerving at first, then you learn to love it. Now this is the entry level CL, but that's relative. The 550 has a 5.5 liter V8, with 382 horsepower and a lovely 391 foot pound of torque. Zero to 60 happens in 5.4 seconds. On the other hand, the mpg is an old school 14-21 ouch. Your only transmission choice is Mercedes' excellent 7-speed automatic with paddle shifters. You'll be using those, as this gear box tends to be reticent to rev unless you prod it. Suspension is adaptive, it's their airmatic rig and it's standard, which has both comfort and sports settings. Underway, the whole package feels heavy, in a good, sort of "I'm rich, you're not" kind of way. Our '09 CL550 has a new Mercedes blind spot detection technology, standard. You get a warning in the side view mirror if somebody's in your blind spot, but the car will not steer you out of danger like some other systems. $110,000 is the price of admission. That includes destination and also a $1,300 gas guzzler tax -yeah, it's one of those. Now, options. Hands free phone is anywhere between 3 and 500 dollars, depending which of those three kits I mentioned, that you choose. Premium package two is $3,400. That's going to get you night vision going that way, rear view camera going that way and those huggy seats right here in the middle. And for $2,900 bucks, you get the Distronic package: that's the adaptive cruise going this way - where's my striped shirt - also you get the blind spot assist here and that parking guidance thing on the screen.