Mercedes CL (C125): PH Used Buying Guide

Used car bargains don't come much more tempting than the Mercedes-Benz CL coupe of 2000 vintage. A used car also doesn't come with more potential to put you in the poor house if you pick the wrong one. Even so, the lure of the C215 coupe is very strong thanks to its mix of svelte looks, big engines and smooth grand touring ability. It's true this super coupe was built at a point where Mercedes was still putting its woeful corrosion troubles behind it, but the CL was generally built to a higher standard due to its demanding customer base.

Part of that package for these wealthy owners was Merc's ABC active body control that pumped oil around the shock absorbers at all four corners to maintain a level attitude in hard cornering. It also came with a Sport mode that allowed the CL to compete with big coupes from the likes of Ferrari and Maserati while still offering S-Class-like comfort.

Inside, there's a mass of leather, suede and wood, as well as plenty of electronics that were part of the CL's assault on the senses. Leading edge at the time, these gadgets can be a liability now and are part of the reason this big coupe is now so cheap. However, there are specialists around who can look after, repair and even upgrade this kit without bankrupting you.

At its core, the engines of the CL should be trouble-free if they've been maintained correctly. The CL500 is by far the most numerous and comes with a 306hp 4.9-litre V8 that makes the car quick enough to be fun yet is also reasonably economical to run for something of its size. Mercedes also offered the CL55 AMG with 360hp to start and then 500hp when it adopted the supercharged engine from the SL55 AMG. Buyers could also pick from a CL600 with 5.5-litre bi-turbo V12 producing 500hp, while the almighty CL65 sported a 612hp 6.0-litre turbocharged V12 with a whopping 738lb ft of torque.

Today, the CL continues to offer a superbly refined way to travel once you've tracked down one a keeper. Prices for the cheapest CL500s start at Β£2500, where much caution should be exercised. Double that budget and you should find a good 500, while a 600 in decent nick starts from Β£10,000. On the AMG front, the CL55 is more numerous and costs from Β£6000. Go for the CL65 AMG and its rarity combined with collectability means you'll pay from Β£25,000

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Buyer's checklist

Bodywork and interior

Damp in the passenger footwell is not uncommon and can lead to electrical problems as much of the CL's control systems are positioned here.
Look for corrosion around the rear wheelarches, door bottoms, rear windscreen surround and boot lid lower edge.

Shabby leather is a sure sign of a careless owner.

COMAND infotainment system is clunk by modern standards but should still work. Problems with the COMAND system can usually be fixed by specialists such as Braybrooks for much less than Mercedes will charge for a replacement.

Windows stuck in place will be due to broken cables, which are straightforward to fix but time consuming.

Pneumatic lumbar adjustment can fail and will deflate when you try to pump it up. Listen for the sound of air escaping when you pump it up. Usual problem is a broken vacuum hose underneath the seat.

Engine and transmission

CL500 can be tricky to start when hot if the crank position sensor has failed.

V12 engines suffer oil leaks from front of timing chain cover, usually caused by a blocked crankcase oil breather.

Oil can also leak from the gasket for the cooler positioned in the valley of the V12's cylinder banks.

All engines need an oil and filter change every 10,000 miles.

V12's ignition coils often fail when plugs are changed and cost Β£1000 for a set of six for each cylinder bank.

Gearboxes are long-lived by can go into a limp-home mode and fail to engage third gear, which can mean removing the 'box and expensive labour charges.

Suspension and steering

Active Body Control system is more reliable than some doom-sayers will have you believe, but still needs careful inspection by an independent specialist. Warning lights on the dash will be your first warning, with white lights a caution and red ones signalling a major fault.

If the suspension feels very hard during a test drive, it's probably the ABC defaulting to the Sport setting, which is a problem. An ABC system oil change is recommended every two years.

New ABC suspension struts are Β£700 each, while pump control valves cost Β£2000 for a pair. A pump is Β£1500.

After driving the car, if possible wait a few hours to check it has not settled on the suspension, which is a clear sign the ABC pump is failing.

If the ABC suspension is deteriorating, new pipes will also be needed. Completely refurbishing the suspension will cost around Β£7000 including labour.

Wheels, tyres and brakes

New front discs and pads are around Β£300 for aftermarket replacements.

Rare CL55 AMG F1 came with carbon ceramic discs as standard

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4933cc V8
Transmission: 5-speed auto
Power (hp): 306@5600rpm
Torque (lb ft): 339@2700-4250rpm
MPG: 24.8
CO2: 320g/km
Price new: Β£66,285
Price now: Β£2500 upwards

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Comments (57) Join the discussion on the forum

  • tiptreegeek 29 Nov 2018

    I had one of these for 5 years, 2000 X plate, only had 55k miles with FSH when purchased - just under 80k when sold.
    Was lovely to drive but so many issues, gained the nick name Git...
    1) Door cables - drivers door failed twice - better on the face lift models apparently.
    2) High pressure hose for the near side front strut went - made a VERY loud noise, not that expensive.
    3) Central locking on drivers door died twice, vacuum hose - cable tied after number 2.
    4) Gear box going into limp mode, never got that fixed - normally could reset with a quick stop & start of the car.
    5) Corrosion started to kick in - door bottoms, rear aches, leading edge of the bonnet.
    6) Drivers side seat started to have a mind of its own.
    7) Top Dead Centre sensor failed - only £50 & 10mins to swap.
    8) Lots of bits of interior trim started to fall off.
    9) Aircon totally packed up - did just before the end of summer & would not recharge.
    10) Cooling fan failed - got a 2nd hand one for £100.
    11) Needed over £2k of assorted work when PX'ed - at this point I fell out of love with it & my wife was fed up with me moaning about it.

    Bought a low mileage E46 330 Cab - but that turned out to be just as much of a pile of c*ap - actually even worse.

    Still tempted by a face lift CL55 or CL600, but very wary...

    Edited by tiptreegeek on Thursday 29th November 16:53

  • j_s14a 29 Nov 2018

    One of my favourite Mercedes of all time. Understated (for what it is), and in its earliest guise without big wheels and bodykits, is still a stunning thing


    I couldn't own one, unless I won the lottery, the nightmare stories about annual running costs running into several thousands are hardly unfounded. Very advanced for their time, but not built to last.

  • Animal 29 Nov 2018

    I ran a CL600 for a year.

    As many things didn't work (e.g. ventilated seats) as did, and every minor repair seemed to cost £500 (plus VAT, obviously) to fix, but the ride, the comfort, the V12 noise and the thrust were completely and utterly worth it. Wish I could have another.

  • fernando the frog 29 Nov 2018

    I had one and it was an unreliable POS but great engine and good looking.

    Suspension went, bodywork had corroded all over and just loads of electrical problems.

  • cb1965 29 Nov 2018

    Makes an SL55 look cheap to run, nice to look at as long as you don't own it!

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