If anyone comments on the price, it’s better to express surprise at what £2,500 buys you. Even the most ardent critics of the car market’s current state can’t complain about two bags of sand and a monkey for a whole lot of Benz. And not just any Benz, either; we’re talking about the pinnacle of the range – well, apart from the fact that it has ‘just’ eight cylinders and not twelve. The only issue is this Mercedes-Benz CL500 has done some miles – nearly 200,000 of them – but come on, it’s a Mercedes. What could possibly go wrong?
Okay, quite a lot. This isn’t Mercedes in its heyday, as a supplier of cars as reliable as RSJs, true. My first thought when I saw the advert and this mileage and price was, ‘That can’t have an MOT’. I was wrong, it does, and a long one, too. My second thought was, ‘I bet that’s got an MOT history as checked as the flag that drops at the end of a Grand Prix’. Wrong again, Howell. I’ve just been online, pulled up its history and low and behold, ‘Pass’ is written in green many, many times. ‘Fail’ in the dreaded red ink pops up a few times, mind, but scanning through the list of faults described, the worst one I could see was a corroded brake pipe. Otherwise, it’s mainly a mixture of worn tires, blown bulbs and a dodgy windshield wiper rubber that caused the red ink to flow.
Not bad, that, considering the history goes back to 2006, when this CL500 had already covered 93,498 miles in just four years. And perhaps we’ve maligned Mercedes too much for its diminishing build quality, because from what I can see it’s faired extremely well cosmetically. Scrutinising the pictures describes a car that’s clean and tidy for its 20 years and 200k. All the tell-tales of high miles and lack of care are happily missing. The leather on the driver’s seat looks in remarkably good shape, as it does on the center armrest and steering wheel. There aren’t any worn surfaces on the commonly used switches, either, and I can only imagine this CL500 has been garaged for most of its life, because the woodwork isn’t faded or cracked. Behind the lustrous lacquer, the walnut is rich and burry.
My assumption about this car being tucked away in a garage is bolstered by the exterior condition, too. Was it Obsidian Black in those days? I think so, but whatever the paint shade it’s still shiny, with no obvious dings or scuffs. And the headlight lenses, which so often go milky under the harsh glare of the sun, look totally transparent. The more I look at this, the more it seems too good to be true. How can a car of this complexity, with this accumulation of years and miles, be so well preserved? The only issue I can see is the corrosion and curb damage on those lovely, five-spoke AMG wheels, and the misaligned exhaust tailpipes. None of which is exactly the stuff of nightmares, is it?
And then there’s the C215 CL as a whole. This is by far the best-looking CL there’s ever been. Sure, the bulky, Bruno Sacco-designed C140 had more gravitas, but only because it lacked elegance. The C215 also had Sacco’s influence in its form, but by this stage he’d swapped sharp angles and straight lines for swoops and curves. And he joined them all up beautifully to create an organic, flowing form, which is no mean feat for a car that’s 16 feet long and weighs around two tons. Yet there it is, looking lighter and sleeker than it has any right to, and just as beautiful today as it was two decades ago.
This was also the era when a top-of-the-line Mercedes brought new and wondrous toys to tease us with. The C215, along with the W220 S-Class on which it is based, pioneered radar-assisted cruise control, high- and low-beam xenon headlights and Active Body Control. You could also talk to it via the Linguatronic voice activation, and open the doors and start the engine all without a key. I know that’s quite the norm in 2023, but it was cutting-edge stuff when the C215 came out. So there you have it: the car that has it all. Good looks, good condition, a silky V8 with plenty of go, a heap of toys, and, for once, not just a sensible price tag but an astonishingly low one. If this isn’t worth a punt, I don’t know what is…
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