RE: Mercedes CL55 AMG (C215) | The Brave Pill

RE: Mercedes CL55 AMG (C215) | The Brave Pill

Saturday 14th May

Mercedes CL55 AMG (C215) | The Brave Pill

Not the shiniest star, but a bang-per-buck bargain


As crypto-bros the world over have been discovering this week, the value of investments can go down as well as up, often dramatically. Yet in the used car market values still seem to be spiking skywards, and not just when it comes to the sort of sensible nearly-new stuff that, to judge from the excellent ‘ask a car salesman anything’ thread, can provoke punch-ups in the showroom as would-be punters vie with each other to pay over list for them.

Even further down in the murkier depths of the market, where the bigger, scarier stuff lives, gravity is still only working intermittently. It’s not long since the fate of any large-engined Mercedes was to lose money like a plunging anvil, depreciation only flattening slightly before it reached scrap value. Risk-tolerant buyers would happily hunt in these depths knowing that, if something went catastrophically wrong, they could roll the car to a scrapyard and walk away smiling. But that’s no longer the case, with values of even braver and shabbier stuff holding firm or even strengthening. It’s hard to be quite so blasé when there’s several thousand quid on the line.

So although this week’s Pill – a C215 generation Mercedes CL55 AMG – looks fairly priced by current market standards, there seems little doubt that it would have been offered for less a couple of years ago given what the selling dealer acknowledges are some cosmetic issues. Sure, £5,500 is still a seriously attractive price tag for something that combines an AMG-fettled V8 with what is effectively an S-Class coupe body; but our last W215 – a much tidier V12-powered CL600 – arguably looked like better value at £7,500 back in February 2020. 

Any Mercedes from this period comes with a higher than average amount of peril as standard. The late nineties and early noughties were a time when the brand decided to increase both fashionability and profitability by deprioritizing the hewn-from-solid build quality it had previously been famous for, in favour of funky design and snazzy technology. Cars like the C215 CL were packed with advanced features, but also – not very long after registration – often also had an abundance of warning lights. This was also the time when Merc’s rust proofing fell to similar standards to those of the Italian car industry in the seventies, or Russia’s in the eighties.

The good news is that any Merc from this era that has survived until the present has almost certainly been treated to a good deal of both love and attention, especially one like the CL which has a multitude of potential failure points, some of which are better regarded as ‘when’ rather than ‘if’.  

Having had both CL and S-Class badged versions of the previous generation C140 coupe, Mercedes decided to better distinguish saloon and coupe versions of this one. So although the C215 is very closely related to the W220 S-Class under the skin, it always carried different branding, and was also given a much more comprehensive redesign to indicate its position at the top of the tree. The most obvious difference is the fact the CL is seven inches shorter than the S-Class, the second most obvious a roof line seemingly inspired by the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Being intended as a halo model, the CL was spared from the need to offer any of the bourgeois powerplants fitted to cheaper versions of the S-Class. There were no V6s and no diesels, with the entry level being the CL500 with a 302hp version of Merc’s triple-valve M113 V8. Above this there were two more beefier options, offering different cylinder counts but very similar power outputs. The CL55 AMG had a reworked 5.5-litre version of the M113 V8 producing 355hp, while the CL600 we previously Pill’d had a 5.8-litre V12 that made an almost identical 362hp, but sounded less vocal as it did so. A brawnier supercharged AMG V8 arrived with a mid-life facelift in 2002, as did a twin-turbo V12 and an even madder CL65 AMG variant.

But, of the early cars, the CL55 AMG was almost certainly the one to pick. AMG had retuned the suspension as well as the engine, but not with the intention of removing an appreciable degree of wafting ability that is always most of the point of a car like this. All C215 CLs had Merc’s Active Body Control (ABC) as standard, this using high-pressure hydraulics to counter pitch and roll. When working this is a deeply impressive system, maintaining ride compliance while limiting lean under hard corner loadings. Similarly, although the V8 had a pleasantly purposeful exhaust note when pushed hard, it was refined at cruising speeds.

Our Pill is being sold by a dealer in Milton Keynes who says it has had just three owners from new, the last since 2008, and also promises recent work including new discs and pads all round and some suspension components. That’s to the good. Less so is the admission that the paint is suffering from some lacquer peel, this seemingly reflected (dully) in some of the images. On the plus side, the advert promises that there is no rust, and that assertion is seemingly supported by an MOT history that makes no mention of any rot at all.

Indeed the online test record makes very little mention of anything, being a reassuring sea of green. Straight passes have been recorded all the way back to 2014, when the car’s last fail was for the non-heinous offence of excessive play in track rod ends. The previous refusal was for a non-functioning numberplate lamp and a wobbly ball joint. Given the potential big Mercs of this generation have for sheet-filling lists of issues, this one does seem to have been looked after well. (Although the images show two of the wheels carrying substantial dings.)

But what does its future hold? Unless the world goes a fair bit madder, it is hardly going to be a speculative investment, and the cost of properly sorting the CL’s paintwork would undoubtedly push the total spend beyond the point of just buying a smarter one. Yet the evident mechanical strength, and a non-scary 112,000 miles, means it should have years of life left in it if kept in fettle. 

Its obvious appeal will be to somebody looking for a useable car rather than something they can park on a Concours lawn, wanting to enjoy a big, charismatic engine before such pleasures become financially impractical, or even socially unacceptable. For anyone seeking a final V8 fling, this faded star still has plenty of lustre.


See the full ad here

Author
Discussion

Gecko1978

Original Poster:

6,822 posts

134 months

Saturday 14th May
quotequote all
I wonder could you run it for 12 months get most of the sticker price back an enjoy a trip to the ring of 2 an some Sunday drives. This seems like a great weekend car if nothing went bang. An paint we'll there is always wrapping

MikeM6

4,041 posts

79 months

Saturday 14th May
quotequote all
Very appealing in many ways, but even I'm not brave enough to head down that route!

the-norseman

9,288 posts

148 months

Saturday 14th May
quotequote all
The garage that is selling it are terrible, I went to have a look at a car there a while ago, none of the cars are prepped at all, all filthy, thrown in corners, parked too close to each other, some have windows left down etc. Their compound is gated, me and my partner opened the gate walked in, looked round the car we wanted to see, looked around the rest of the stock and left without anybody even saying hello.

stavr0ss

106 posts

105 months

Saturday 14th May
quotequote all
The link seems to be for a red M100 elan…

s m

22,019 posts

180 months

Saturday 14th May
quotequote all
stavr0ss said:
The link seems to be for a red M100 elan…
The internet is trying to save you from financial ruin!

gonnagetyoursBenny

55 posts

82 months

Saturday 14th May
quotequote all
s m said:
The internet is trying to save you from financial ruin!
With a Lotus?!

ExPat2B

2,091 posts

177 months

Saturday 14th May
quotequote all
I looked at buying one of these a while ago.

The upkeep costs are on a totally different level to anything else.

I was looking at cars with a full service history, and they *all* came with pages and pages of faults that had been rectified, and bills for thousands every year.

All of them had evidence of work under the dashboard and in the cabin, I looked at five cars and they all had trim missing/put back badly and still rattled.

A couple of stand out examples :

The active body control is a 2000psi system and you will be replacing bits of it.

The ESM has a weak failure point and is £700

A pistonheader did a cost breakdown on his ownership which gives a good idea of what to expect, 21,000 pounds in total spent after a fairly trouble free first 5 years.

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1s3SQ1Q5MAM...




Court_S

7,698 posts

154 months

Saturday 14th May
quotequote all
Quite like that.

It’s a bit tatty but appears to be pretty solid based on the MOT history.

emmetb

87 posts

9 months

Saturday 14th May
quotequote all
Been there and have the drained wallet to prove it. They’re rubbish frankly, some of the worst build quality I have ever seen. Even the switchgear feels flimsy. Don’t get me started on the plethora of warning lights you are greeted with if you leave it undriven for more than a few weeks. Then there’s the doors that sever the door wiring, the ABC, the SBC and the rot that occurs at the bottom of the C pillars where two different metals react with each other. Oh and did I mention delaminating windows and electrical gremlins galore. And mine was a low mileage FMBSH example… hmmm!

AC43

10,069 posts

185 months

Saturday 14th May
quotequote all
ExPat2B said:
A pistonheader did a cost breakdown on his ownership which gives a good idea of what to expect, 21,000 pounds in total spent after a fairly trouble free first 5 years.

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1s3SQ1Q5MAM...
Wow. Servicing ALONE comes to £7k. Parts £4.5k. And "problems" nearly £10k. Gulp.

I've never dared go anywhere north of an E Class and I think I'll stay this side of the line for now.....

Leins

8,312 posts

125 months

Saturday 14th May
quotequote all
Great engine though, would love it in a W202 estate

Mysstree

218 posts

23 months

Saturday 14th May
quotequote all
It’s a good looking car compared to some of the dross churned out these days.

AC43

10,069 posts

185 months

Saturday 14th May
quotequote all
Leins said:
Great engine though, would love it in a W202 estate
Yeah I'd love to have a 55k one day, it's an epoch-defining motor.

I just don't have the gonads to get one in an SL or a CL.

I might have to get a CL55 one day to scratch that particular itch.

It's a shame they never did a two door pillarless E Class couple with a 55K. That's the one I'd have.

Rozzers

825 posts

52 months

Saturday 14th May
quotequote all
I looked at these for a while then watched Legit Street Cars on YouTube. The guy there is an Ex Mercedes Master Tech, has a ramp, all the training, experience, tools etc. and it was still a nightmare.

You could probably run a Ferrari 575 for less, there is an awful lot less to go wrong.

cerb4.5lee

22,818 posts

157 months

Saturday 14th May
quotequote all
I walk past a supercharged version of these quite regularly and it always catches my eye. I love how big and brutish they are. I often wonder what it would be like to run one(costly and painful I'd imagine!).

I heard it start up and drive off the other day, and I was expecting a V8 rumble, but all I could hear was the whine from the supercharger though. I presume that it gets more rumbly at higher revs perhaps?

Leins

8,312 posts

125 months

Saturday 14th May
quotequote all
AC43 said:
Leins said:
Great engine though, would love it in a W202 estate
Yeah I'd love to have a 55k one day, it's an epoch-defining motor.

I just don't have the gonads to get one in an SL or a CL.

I might have to get a CL55 one day to scratch that particular itch.

It's a shame they never did a two door pillarless E Class couple with a 55K. That's the one I'd have.
That would be lovely, although I do like the look of both eras of CLK55 too. It’s a pity the early ones rust so badly

I had this (unsupercharged) engine in an ML for a number of years, bought primarily to experience the V8. Loved it in a way that shouldn’t really have happened given it was objectively a terrible car, stretching its legs on the way down to LeMans being a particular highlight, powering on despite being full of people, camping gear and wine. As those who built it in the US might say, it could really haul bottom!

These CLs seem to be on another level in terms of complexity though

Perosus

7 posts

68 months

Saturday 14th May
quotequote all
I always loved the GIANT speedo on this gen Merc.

Matt_T

75 posts

51 months

Saturday 14th May
quotequote all
The dealer can't be bothered to fill the washer bottle before taking a photo of the dash... all you need to know

matlotus

87 posts

73 months

Saturday 14th May
quotequote all
I’ve always had a a soft spot for these but I’d want originality and this has aftermarket wheels and I’m pretty sure the original exhaust was a twin exit not a quadruple so on the basis that it’s been modded I’d personally steer clear