History of the CL-Class

Story by Benjamin Greene

Originally published by Dupont Registry: http://www.dupontregistry.com/autos/blog/page/Mercedes-Benz-CL-Class-Chronology-History.aspx

Mercedes-Benz CL History

The new-for-2011 CL-Class continues a great tradition of Mercedes-Benz coupes. An uninterrupted history of the CL-Class dates back to the '50s; however, Mercedes-Benz did produce some very rare coupe versions of its supercharged cars in the '20s and '30s. For Mercedes-Benz, the CL-Class is considered its flagship, despite the S-Class and SL-Class normally outselling the CL-class by a ratio of 7-to-1 and 2-to-1, respectively.

1934 Supercharged Coupe

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the big Mercedes-Benz coupes are normally the test bed for new, exciting Mercedes-Benz technologies. For instance, the 1961 220SE Coupe was the first production Mercedes-Benz to be equipped with disk brakes. In 1995, Electronic Stability Program (ESP) celebrated its premiere in the S600 Coupe and, in 1999, Active Body Control was introduced for the first time in the CL-Class. Now we have the 2011 CL-Class with Active Lane Keeping Assist and Active Blind Spot Assist.

The sleek, sharp lines of the current CL65 AMG have come a long way since the 1952 300S Coupe, the forebearer of the current Mercedes-Benz flagship. The W188-series 300S Coupe was presented in October 1951 at the Paris Motor Show. The 300S Coupe went into production in 1952 with an in-line six-cylinder engine developing 150 hp, and enabling a top speed of 109 mph. Mercedes-Benz marketing said the 300S Coupe was "able to cover longest distances in the shortest time with the least possible strain on body and nerves,” which sounds like the current definition of a grand touring car to us. 

1952 300S Coupe

In 1955, Mercedes-Benz started selling the redesigned 300Sc Coupe. Fuel injectors replaced carburetors for an increased output of 175 hp. Like the small market segment the current CL-Class currently enjoys, the W188-Series sold in small volumes. Between 1951 and 1958, only 314 units were built, making the post-war coupes still around today a sought-after collector's items.

In 1956, the W180-series 220S Coupe was introduced. It was based off the 220S Cabriolet, which was based off the 220S Sedan. Because of the bizarre-for-the-time slab-sided design with no mounted fenders or running boards, the Mercedes-Benz was said to employ a pontoon look, which quickly got them the "Ponton-Mercedes" nickname. The 220S Coupe originally came with a 100-hp in-line six-cylinder engine. A short time later, Mercedes engineers increased the engine output to 106 hp. From 1957, customers could order a hydraulic-automatic clutch called "Hydrak." In September 1958, Mercedes-Benz offered the 220SE with fuel injection for an output of 115 hp. The last variants built had 120 hp.

Mercedes-Benz manufactured 2,081 220S and 220SE "Ponton" Coupes.

1955 220S Ponton Coupe

At the ceremonial opening of the Mercedes-Benz museum on February 24, 1961, Mercedes-Benz presented a new 220SE Coupe. Its design, frame, engine, suspension were drafted from the 220SEb "Tailfin Sedan," so it was also assigned to the 111 series. The only major difference, as previously mentioned, was that the 220SE Coupe was the first Mercedes-Benz production car to have disc brakes on the front wheels.

1961 Mercedes 220SE Coupe

A 120-hp six-cylinder engine motivated the 220SE Coupe. A little later, the 300SE Coupe with 160 hp debuted at the Geneva Motor Show as a member of the 112 series. Its came standard with such luxury items like a four-speed automatic transmission, air suspension, and power-assisted steering. When production of the sedan ended in 1965, the Coupe and Cabriolet continued onward. However, their 2.2-liter engines were replaced by a 2.5-liter units with 150 hp, thus the model designation became the 250SE Coupe. In January 1968, the 280SE Coupe with a 2.8-liter and 160 hp replaced the 250 SE Coupe. At this point the 300SE ceased production. In September 1969, a V-8 engine with 200 hp debuted in the 280SE 3.5 Coupe.

Because of a marked increase in the number of high-mileage drivers, demand for the W111- and W112-series cars was enough for Mercedes-Benz to build exactly 28,918 units.

In October 1971, Mercedes-Benz presented the 350SLC, based off the 350SL Roadster, at the Paris Motor Show. Apart from the fixed roof of the SLC, both 107-series variants were identical up to the rear edge of the door. Both the SL Roadster and SLC were motivated by a 200-hp V-8. From April 1973, a second V-8 engine with a displacement of 4.5 liters and 225 hp became available in the 450 SLC. In July 1974, a six-cylinder 280SLC with 185 hp was added to the model range.

1971 Mercedes-Benz SLC

In September 1977, at the Frankfurt International Motor Show, Mercedes-Benz presented the 450SLC 5.0 as new top model; its 5.0-liter engine developed a stout 240 hp. In 1980, the 450SLC 5.0 became the 500SLC for better clarification amongst consumers. The 350SLC was supplanted by the 380SLC. Its 3.8-liter aluminum V-8 developed 218 hp. In the ten years in which they were built, a total of 62,888 107-series coupes were produced.

1971 Mercedes SL Interior

At the 1981 Frankfurt Motor Show, the 380SEC and 500SEC were replaced with units that were once again based off the S-Class architecture. Their V-8 engines were thoroughly revised to reduce fuel consumption and emissions. The 380SEC Coupe developed 204 hp, the 500SEC Coupe 231 hp.

1981 S-Class Coupe

In 1985, the cars received a mild facelift and a restructured engine range. A new 4.2-liter V-8 engine was offered and the 5.0-liter engine was also heavily modified. The infamous 5.6-liter V-8 was employed for the first time, delivering 272 hp and even 300 hp in a version with a higher compression ratio.

Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe Interior

The fascination with the new coupe can be seen in the 74,060 units of the C126 series that were built.

In January 1992, the North American International Auto Show premiered the new C140-series SEC Coupe models. Initially, Mercedes-Benz offered two variants: the 500SEC with a 320-hp V-8 engine and the 600SEC with a V-12 (the first time the CL lineage utilizes a V-12 engine) delivering 394 hp. Like the C126 series, they were based on the S-Class sedan.

1992 Mercedes-Benz SEC Coupe

In June 1993, the SEC line moved under the S-Class nomenclature. Thus, the 600SEC became the S600 Coupe. To meet the high demand, the 279-hp S420 Coupe was introduced in March 1994.

In 1996, the model designations were changed once again. Now the model series was dubbed CL, an indication that the big coupes had sold well enough (26,022 units of the C140 were built) to require their own model line. If model lineage was dictated by model designations alone, this is the first time Mercedes-Benz used the CL-Class name.

1992 Mercedes-Benz SEC Coupe Interior

In the autumn of 1999, a new CL500 with a V-8 engine and 306 hp was released. In 2000, the 367-hp CL600 with a twelve-cylinder engine was added. Also in 2000, the CL55 AMG "F1 Limited Edition" was available. It was the first car in the world licensed for road use that had a braking system with ceramic brake discs. Only 55 units were produced.

2000 Mercedes-Benz CL55

In 2002, a mild facelift was accompanied by a new twin-turbocharged 500-hp V-12 for the CL600 and a 5.5-liter supercharged 355-hp V-8 engine for a new CL55 AMG model. A year later, a 604-hp CL65 AMG was added with an astonishing 738 lb-ft of torque on tap.

With the C215 model series, Mercedes-Benz produced 48,000 units.

In 2006, the C126-series debuted. The eight-cylinder was now under the CL550 name and delivered 382 hp. The CL600 gained 10 hp for new total output of 510 hp. In 2007, the CL63 AMG premiered with 518 hp and the CL65 AMG with 604 hp.

2006 Mercedes-Benz CL65

2006 Mercedes-Benz CL65 interior

This brings us to the changes we now have in the current 2011 CL-Class model lineup.

2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550