Electronic gadgetry in late-model Mercedes has recently taken its toll-the latest J.D. Power numbers finds Mercedes lagging behind such stalwart marques as Hyundai and Mercury


When Mercedes-Benz set out to build the finest sports coupe in the world they came up with the CL500 and its V12-powered sibling, the CL600. Beautifully designed, meticulously constructed, breathtakingly fast, and technology-laden, the CL-Class became the inspirational goal for drivers seeking the optimum in luxury and performance. That would be enough for most manufacturers, but Mercedes-Benz gave the CL500 to AMG for its tender ministrations and a genuine supercar-wrapped in ample and luxurious surroundings-came into being.
Prodigious power is an AMG trademark and the 5,439-cc Mercedes-Benz V8 was completely rebuilt to cope with an intercooled supercharger, which boosted horsepower to 493 at 6,100 rpm and 516 lb-ft of torque available anywhere from 2,750 rpm to 4,000 rpm. To make the driving experience both convenient and sporting, AMG enhanced the electronically controlled five-speed automatic's control with "Touch Shift," allowing manual gear changes with the shift lever or steering wheel-mounted switches.
The chassis incorporates a full range of electronic handling aids including Electronic Stability Program, Automatic Slip Control and Active Body Control, which counteracts body roll in cornering as well as squat and dive under acceleration and braking. Braking wasn't overlooked, as the CL55 AMG has dual-circuit discs with eight-piston calipers on the front and four-piston calipers on the rear, with electronic proportioning to compensate for different load and driving conditions.
It's one heck of a way to get from zero to 60 miles per hour in 4.6 seconds.
The CL55 AMG on offer here is the "Designo Espresso" edition, a special color/trim package which includes Mocha Black Metallic paint, Light Brown Napa leather interior trim, cabinet-maker finished and assembled Brown Poplar interior wood trim and Designo Espresso floor mats. It has accumulated only 17,200 miles from new and is equipped with 18-inch alloy wheels, new Pirelli P-Zero tires, a sunroof and xenon headlamps. Replacement cost as presented is nearly $130,000.
There is a waiting list for a new CL55 AMG but there is no wait needed to own this fine and virtually new example.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:2002 Mercedes-Benz CL55 AMG
Years Produced:2001-2005
Number Produced:still in production
Original List Price:$99,500
SCM Valuation:$70,000-$75,000
Tune Up Cost:$2,800
Engine Number Location:passenger side block, below head
Club Info:Mercedes-Benz Club of America, 1907 Lelaray St., Colorado Springs, CO 80909-2872
Alternatives:2004 BMW 645 Ci coupe, 2003-2004 Jaguar XKR coupe, 1997-2001 Ferrari 550 Maranello
Investment Grade:D+

This 2002 Mercedes-Benz CL55 AMG sold for $70,400, including buyer’s premium, at RM’s Amelia Island sale, held on March 13, 2004.
With its nearly-500 horsepower and gaggle of electronic driving aids, the CL55 AMG is an impressive performance car by any yardstick, and can easily munch a Porsche 911 or BMW 6-series in a stoplight sprint. But tipping the scales at 4,000 pounds and change, this coupe counterpart to Mercedes top-of-the-line S-Class is a big, heavy car that’s answering a question few ask-and most cannot afford.
Inconspicuous on the road, but very conspicuous in its performance, feel and amenities, the CL55 targeted a thin niche when it was introduced in 2001 with a list price of about $100,000. Mercedes has since brought forth the 604-horsepower CL65 AMG, meaning the CL55 is yesterday’s news and depreciation is in full bleed.
Of course, this is the sort of car that’s usually found in the garages of professional athletes, corporate executives, and other well-to-dos, and these people either know what they’re getting into with regards to depreciation or don’t seem to care. It’s always interesting to see a high-end, late model car sell at auction and be able to immediately quantify the staggering sums a buyer loses in those first three years of ownership. We’ll peg it here at a conservative $30,000.
What that means for the wage-slave with a better-than-average job is that perhaps a used CL55 might seem like a great bargain. After all, as the auction company points out, to walk into a Mercedes dealer and drive out in a 2005 model would cost nearly $130,000, so paying $70k for the 2002 CL55 pictured here would actually be saving $60,000. Heck, in a year or two you could buy a second CL55 with the difference.
Or perhaps you might want to save your “change” to pay the inevitable shop bills. While costs can be somewhat subjective based on the extent of the repair needed, oil changes are in the $185 range, and you can expect a new set of spark plugs to run $850. Service and repair on the supercharger can easily cost about $4,000, and a brake overhaul will be $1,200. And if you ever need to get the automatic transmission rebuilt, figure on $4,600.
While Mercedes are well known through out the world for their reliability, the addition of considerable amounts of electronic gadgetry in late-model cars has recently taken its toll on the typical number of service visits. Take a look at the latest J.D. Power numbers and you’ll find Mercedes lags behind such stalwart marques as Hyundai and Mercury.
It’s no wonder, as among the features of the CL are a most unique set of door hinges that open similarly to that of a Boeing 747. Unlike the typical car, where a hinge pivots at a central fulcrum, these hinges actually allow the entire door to pop out of its mounting point and then pivot. To add further convenience and complexity, the door closure system is semi-automatic. A light touch in pulling the door closed is all that’s necessary, as an electronic servo motor pulls the door completely shut and then raises the window into a sealed position.
Of course, complicated electro-mechanical systems are just inviting things to go wrong. When they inevitably do, if you’re still under the Mercedes’ 50,000-miles-from-new warranty, they’re a mere inconvenience. Once you’re out of warranty, all bets are off. (Just imagine what the guy who priced the $185 oil change will charge you to fix that trick door hinge.) Service histories show problematic areas on these cars include the audio system (which can only be serviced by Mercedes-Benz and is not easily or typically replaced by aftermarket units because of its placement and integration with the navigation system), electronic seat controls, electronic suspension controls and engine tuning. And of course, when anything does go south, your only real option is to call the Mercedes hotline to have the vehicle flat-bedded to the nearest dealership.
So, where does that leave us with the CL55 AMG pictured here? With only 17,200 miles, the potential disaster of an out-of-warranty tranny grenading is not an issue. And for that reason, I’ll call this well documented example a good value. Of course, as the miles continue to run up and the warranty lapses, repairs and service will become more frequent just as the car’s value continues to plummet. In about five years, no one will even remember what the “Designo Espresso” edition was, and then this CL55 AMG’s new owner will have just another used car, one that will be very expensive to keep right.
(Historical and descriptive information courtesy of the auction company.)u

Comments are closed.