Buyers Guide Mercedes-Benz CL600 С215

Buyers Guide Mercedes-Benz CL600 С215

It’s time to throw caution to the wind and live a little and while a C215 CL600 will never, ever be even remotely sensible in any way, at this price point you’ll be able to find one that isn’t a complete basket case and we have, of course, opted for the full fat biturbo version.


C215 CL600 / ULTIMATE PERFORMANCE MERCEDES BUYING GUIDE


WHY YOU WANT ONE

We’re going to be honest, you have to be very, very brave to commit to a CL600 – if you are then there are a lot of reasons to want one. In fact, we can think of 14 of them and they’re all under the bonnet; it’s common knowledge that your typical luxury German flagship needs to have 12 cylinders but at the time of the C215, Mercedes’ engineers thought to themselves “But what if… turbos?” and proceeded to kick sand in the face of the company’s rivals with the resulting M275. This 5.5-litre biturbo beast puts out 500hp and a frankly terrifying 590lb ft of torque and that makes for a 0-62 time of 4.8 seconds, which is incredibly impressive for a two-tonne car. It’s the torque that is most impressive here, though, and the way it launches the vast CL towards the horizon with absolutely no effort is nothing short of breathtaking.

You might be wondering why this isn’t a CL55 and that’s a valid question – firstly, the M113K V8 is going to pop up a couple of times and we don’t want it to oversaturate this guide; secondly, this is the only time we’re going to be going quite this crazy; and, thirdly, the CL600 might actually be the better car. The C215 is no sports car, even in AMG guise, and you could argue (with good reason) that the smoother, quieter, more discreet and more refined 600 is the way to go when it comes to a car like this. There’s some serious tuning potential with this engine, too, making it very easy to turn a fast car into a very fast car. There’s more to the C215 than just that monster powerplant, mind, and the V12 comes wrapped in a seriously stylish body that is ageing as gracefully as you could ever have hoped, and while the cabin is starting to feel its age a little it remains incredibly comfortable and cosseting and offers simply sublime levels of refinement.

WHAT TO PAY

Unsurprisingly perhaps, the market isn’t exactly flooded with these twin-turbo über GTs as not everyone ran out to buy one when they were new, but we still found a selection of cars to choose from. All the examples we found sat between £9000 and just a tiny bit over our maximum budget (once again, we’re factoring in a little bit of shrewd negotiation) and mileages were all very similar, circa 80,000.

WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR

If you’re shopping for one of these then we have nothing but respect for you, but you need to be braced for potentially expensive repairs. The most expensive part of owning a C215 CL is the ABC suspension – first of all, a fluid change is recommended every two years and then you’ve got the struts, which are around £800-1000 each, pump control valves are £2000 per pair and a pump is about £1500, and if the whole system is deteriorating then new pipes will be needed and a complete refurbishment can cost around £7000.

In short, you need to make sure the ABC functions properly when out on a test drive and also make sure the car hasn’t dropped low after being parked up, which means the pump is failing. The V12 itself can suffer from oil leaks from the timing chain cover, usually caused by a blocked crankcase oil breather, and oil leaks can also occur from the gasket for the cooler that’s positioned in the valley of the V12, and then there are the coil packs, with one per bank and they cost £1000 each to replace when they fail, which they will (misfires are the usual indication that they’re on their way out).

Corrosion can be a problem, especially around the wheel arches and where the C-pillar meets the body, while the bottoms of the doors, the rear arches and the leading edge of the bonnet are also areas that need to be inspected. The side windows also have a habit of delaminating, which appears as bubbles, and the only fix is to replace the glass; as the problem was never solved it will eventually come back. On the interior front, problems with door buttons and the softclose doors will often be down to wires in the door looms breaking, which is caused by the double hinges putting strain on them – they can be re-soldered, but getting to the wires is a time-consuming process.

Damp in the passenger footwell is not uncommon and as a lot of the CL’s controls systems are located there, it can lead to electrical problems. Door cables fail as do window cables, the vacuum-operated central locking can also fail, the pneumatic lumbar support can stop working properly and if you can hear air escaping it’s likely to be down to a broken vacuum hose. Finally, gearboxes are tough but can go into limp-home mode and stop engaging third gear, which might need the gearbox to be removed for repairs, which is expensive.

VERDICT

If you’re looking for a car that is the very definition of value for money via depreciation, this is it. The sheer amount of machine on offer for your money is hard to believe as is the level of performance on offer. This is a car that needs you to come to have a sizeable war chest at your disposal; there are potentially some very expensive repairs that could crop up and general maintenance won’t be cheap either, but it’s a 5.5-litre twin-turbo V12 for under £10,000. We’re not saying it would be a good decision but, sometimes, you just have to live a little.

C215 is a still a great-looking car. Twin-turbo V12 is simply epic. Interior feels suitably luxurious.

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