Monday, January 31, 2011

Is it a limo? Is it a sports car?

Mercedes CL 500 BlueEfficiency
The Mercedes CL 500 BlueEfficiency may look like a businessman's bus, but with 435hp through the rear wheels it's got the firepower of a Ferrari

Have you ever told somebody not to do something, and known from the gleam in their eyes that they’re not listening – because they’re so excited about doing the thing you’ve just told them not to do? It happens all the time to parents.


My mum vividly recalls telling me not to go out on my BMX without a helmet one day. I don’t remember it at all, because, well, I wasn’t listening, having just seen Kick Start on the telly and decided I could be on the next series if I practised right now. But I probably shouted ‘Yes, Mum’ as I ran out of the house and jumped bare-headed onto my Raleigh Pro Burner.

Oh, it was a cool bike, that Burner: it had stunt pegs and mag wheels – shiny blades instead of spokes – which I was admiring as I barrelled along, head tucked down, when… WHACK! Next thing I remember, I was waking up in A&E with a massive headache and my mother tutting at my bedside.

‘I told you this would happen,’ she said.

Told me what would happen? Turns out they’d found me lying on a farmer’s track I’d been pedalling along furiously, having failed to notice the gate was closed. It was never usually closed, as there was never usually a gate. The farmer had just got one, made of iron scaffolding – a fact first discovered by the top of my skull. And as I’ve grown up I’ve learnt that if people bother to warn you about something, it’s probably worth listening.

Some people could still do with learning that. Take my mate Chris Evans, who came on Saturday Kitchen in November to celebrate our 200th show. He was brilliant, cooking a soufflé that rose like a volcano, and brimming with confidence, he decided to join me on stage at the Good Food Show that afternoon as well. I told him it takes 20 years of training and practice to be able to talk and cook at the same time, but he insisted on helping out.

‘All right, chop that,’ I said, handing him some parsnips, ‘but be careful – these knives aren’t like the ones at home. They’re very, very, very sharp.’

I must have sounded like his mother, because I could see his eyes glaze over. Sure enough, we were one chopped parsnip into the first recipe when he started talking mid-chop, looked up to catch my eye and added the tip of his left index finger to the ingredients. It looked quite nasty to me, but he was cool about it, jamming it into a pot of turmeric to stem the flow.

An hour later I headed home in the dark in this new CL 500, listening to the travel news telling me to take care as the A34 was like an ice rink. Now, bearing in mind everything I’ve just said, did I listen? Or did I have the traction control off and Sport mode on, as usual?

What do you think? Before I’d even left the car park I’d given it too much power before getting the steering wheel straight, and spun round 360 degrees like Ann Widdecombe wiping the dancefloor.

After that I definitely had more respect for this new Merc. It may look like a businessman’s bus, but with 435hp through the rear wheels it’s got the firepower of a Ferrari. This is great once you get used to it, but for the first day or so I drove with permanently clenched buttocks and fearful eyes.

A week in, I loved the feeling so much I took it to the track, beating two M3s around Silverstone (don’t tell the press office).

I honestly think that’s where it belongs, because the firm ride, savage acceleration and 155mph top speed are wasted on motorway cruising – but you’ll still be burning a gallon every 30 miles, if you’re lucky.

And would you believe this is the green option?

The others are a CL 63 with a bigger V8 and a CL 65 with a gigantic V12, both badged AMG. They’ve badged this one BlueEfficiency, because the new 4.7-litre V8 is 28 per cent more efficient and 21 per cent cleaner than the previous engine. Well, that’s great, but it only brings the CL 500 down from the most polluting tax band possible to the second-most polluting.

I loved it, but still… what is it?

It’s not a sports car. It’s not a limo (too small in the back). All the gizmos on board – from Attention Assist and crosswind stabilisation to optional three-colour mood lighting – in theory make it an executive car… but at £90,000 it’s even beyond the reach of most execs.

What it is is a showcase for everything Mercedes can do right now. And the problem with that is, in five years’ time it won’t look so impressive. That’s why resale values for CLs sink like a stone. So do I want one? Yes. Do I want to buy one?

No. My mum would shout at me not to be daft, and I do listen to her. Sometimes.

TECH SPEC
Mercedes CL 500 BlueEfficiency

Price: £92,280

Engine 4.7-litre V8

Power 435hp

Transmission Seven-speed automatic with Eco mode

Max torque 700Nm at 1,800-3,500rpm

Top speed 155mph (limited)

0-60mph 4.9 seconds

Fuel economy 29.4mpg

CO2 emissions 227g/km (£425/year tax band)

Standard features AMG body styling, ESP with ASR and Torque Vectoring Brake, engine stop/start, Active Body Control with crosswind stabilisation, ABS with hill-start assist, Advanced Parking Guidance, Intelligent Light System with Adaptive High Beam Assist, Attention Assist, cruise control, Direct Select gear shift with steering-wheel paddles

Optional extras Distronic Plus proximity-control system, Brake Assist Plus with collision detection, Active Lane Keeping Assist, Active Blind Spot Assist, Night View Assist Plus, TV tuner, DAB radio, Harman Kardon Logic 7 surround sound, dynamic multi-contour seats, ambient lighting, reversing camera

source: dailymail