Welcome to Depreciation Appreciation! Every month, your pals at autoTRADER.ca dig up an instance of how depreciation can make for an extraordinary used-car deal.
The Mercedes-Benz CL-Class: a rare and exclusive full-size grand tourer that’s been part of the scene for several decades and generations.
The CL designation refers to “Coupe Luxury”. Think S-Class Coupe, and you’re in the ballpark. In fact, the CL-Class rode a modified S-Class platform.
Once priced stratospherically, many of these models are now available at compelling pricing in the used market. Best of all, you won’t see four of them in the parking lot every time you visit the mall.
The CL-Class is one of the lowest-selling Mercedes models by sales volume – meaning a second-hand CL-Class will get you into an ultra-rare Benz for a reasonable price. Of course, you’ll have to shop patiently, as used selection is somewhat limited.
We’ll focus on the second and third generation of these machines, below – namely, the C215 (available from 1999 to 2006) and the following third-generation C216 (available from 2006 to 2014).
The C215 CL-Class wore the signature Mercedes quad-lamp fascia popular in that era, and features a shape that ties in elements of both the S- and SL-Class models. Available engines included a selection of 8- and 12-cylinder units, depending on the model.
The CL55 AMG ran a 5.4L supercharged V8, standard CL500 models got a naturally aspirated 5.0-litre unit, and some models ran a 5.8-litre, twin-turbo V12. These were called the CL65 AMG and they’re immensely rare, with Wikipedia reporting that fewer than 200 were built.
All copies of the CL-Class were four seaters, and all had an automatic transmission. Look for horsepower in the 300 to 600 range, depending on the model selected. The C215-generation (1999–2006) CL-Class is easy to find with 400–500 horsepower for reasonable money.
If you’ve got more budget to play with, the third-generation C216 (2006–2014) stepped things up. Even more elegant and swoopy, this model packed in more features, efficiency, performance, and tech. Many models were available with AWD, and while the premise of the vehicle was the same, standard power and performance were even higher.
Output from standard models was rated beyond 400 horsepower from a 4.7-litre V8, with the V12 powered CL600 packing a 5.5-litre twin-turbo V12, good for 510 horses. The popular CL 63 AMG ran a 5.5-litre twin-turbo V8, good for over 530 horsepower, and the mighty CL65, with its 6.0-litre twin-turbo V12, turned things up to 621 horses.
Expect a feature content list fitting of a luxury flagship, including navigation, radar cruise, hydraulic suspension, climate-controlled leather, xenon lighting, and more.
Approximate New Value
An early copy of the C215-generation CL-Class commanded no fewer than 122,000 Canadian loons, with that entry price climbing over the years and special-edition models jacking the asking price even further. A 2006 CL 600, for instance, was – at minimum – a $194,000 car. The ultra-rare CL65 AMG from this generation, meanwhile, rang in at a cool quarter-million.
The newer C216-generation CL-Class followed the trend – with a starting price of around $130,000 and special sub-models cranking that figure up well into the 200’s.
For much of the life of these two generations of CL, it was safe to call this one a $150,000 car.
Approximate Used Value
Today, you can find a highly reasonable used copy of this machine for a relative steal. Here’s a unit from 2003, with 66,500 km, on offer from under $19,000. You could spend more on a Honda Civic.
Here’s a nine-year-old CL550, with AWD and a 5.5-litre V8, for under $26,000 with reasonable mileage. This unit, a 2012 with a tick more than 100,000 kilometres of use, has an asking price of under $35,000. This very low mileage unit is classy and clean, and can be yours for under $32,000.
At around $50,000, you’ll find a CL like this fully loaded 2010 CL63 AMG, with under 40,000 kilometres on the dial. Our final example? This very low-mileage 2012 CL63 AMG with Performance Package has barely completed break-in, and is offered at $77,000 – somewhere in the vicinity of half of its original asking price.
Remember, too, that many of these machines have been meticulously cared for, dealer serviced, and never used in the winter.
Test Drive Tips
As good a deal as these machines appear as used buys, the asking price is not the end of the story when it comes to your investment. The Mercedes-Benz CL-Class was originally a six-figure luxury vehicle and has operational costs to match, regardless of its current market price. At minimum, shoppers are advised to put several thousand dollars aside for an initial inspection, tune-up, and updating of all servicing requirements that may be running due.
Tires, brakes, suspension components, lighting components, and other serviceable components will be pricey to fix, replace, or repair, if needed. Do your homework, read our test drive tips below in full, and have a contingency fund aside at all times, just in case, for maximum confidence.
Opting in for any and all available extended warranty coverage available is also a great idea: cars like this one are appealing for many reasons, but being cheap to run and maintain aren’t among them.
Whether or not a Check Engine light or some system warning message is present in the instrument cluster, be sure to have the vehicle you’re considering subjected to a full diagnostic scan by a technician at a Mercedes dealer. Some potentially pricey issues within the electronics and sensor network will cause a warning light to come on, and others won’t. A diagnostic scan is cheap, fast, and can reveal a multitude of issues that might have nasty plans for your wallet and go undetected without such a pre-purchase scan.
For reduced likelihood of headaches down the line, shoppers are advised to confirm that the model they’re considering hasn’t been modified by a past owner, and that the battery and charging system are in excellent shape. Ditch and replace the battery at the first sign of reduced performance, as low battery output can cause a multitude of annoying problems with on-board electronics.
Triple-check all electronic controls, including all door- and steering-wheel mounted switches.
Note that issues with fussy shifting, failure to upshift through all gears, or hard shifting, could be related to an issue with the valve-body on the seven-speed automatic transmission. This issue seems more common on earlier models from this generation, and shoppers can protect themselves from expensive repairs by seeking out a model with extended warranty coverage, and by having a dealer check the unit’s transmission for signs of trouble.
Finally, note that religiously consistent maintenance and dealer servicing are absolutely key to the long and trouble-free life of the CL, so budget accordingly.
With exclusive looks and performance for highly reasonable money, a second-hand Mercedes CL makes a great choice for the shopper after a spacious, comfortable, and high-performing coupe experience. For best results, seek out a model with full service records, and plan to budget for any and all extended warranty coverage available.