25 years second generation Mercedes CL (C215): first with Active Body Control system

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Launched at the Geneva Motor Show in March 1999, the second-generation Mercedes CL (C215) is 25 years old. The Mercedes CL C215 was the first model in the world with Active Body Control suspension.

The Mercedes CL C215 was the second generation of Mercedes’ luxury coupe (CL comes from Coupe-Luxury). CL name appeared in June 1996 (1997 for the American market) on the W140 series on the CL 500 and CL 600 models. CL name was found also on the third generation C216 (2006-2014), while the fourth generation C217 returned to the S-Class Coupe name.

The Mercedes CL C215 was the first car in the world with Active Body Control active suspension. With 200-bar high-pressure hydraulics and powerful sensors and controls, ABC minimizes rolling, pitching, and squatting movements of the body. In addition to Active Body Control, the Mercedes CL C215 features as standard ESP, ASR, and ABS with BAS brake assist. It also featured bi-xenon headlights with a cleaning system, a Parktronic system, and integral front seats with easy-entry function. The CL C215 Coupe also received Distronic adaptive cruise control, introduced as a world premiere on the S-Class W220 in autumn 1998.

340 kg lighter than the former C140 

Built on the basis of the fourth-generation S-Class (W220), the coupe has undergone a drastic diet, just like the limousine. The CL C215 was 340 kg lighter than the first-generation C140.

The Mercedes CL C215 was indeed slightly more compact than the massive C140. The body of the C 215 was 72 millimeters shorter, 55 millimeters narrower, and 54 millimeters lower than its predecessor, the C 140, and the wheelbase was 60 millimeters shorter. The car was assembled on a separate line at the Sindelfingen plant and the seats, dashboard, door panels, and center armrest were upholstered in leather as standard.

The luxury coupe debuted in October 1999 with the CL 500 version equipped with the 5-litre V8 engine and 306 PS (M113). Mercedes CL 600 with the 5.8-litre V12 engine and 367 PS followed in 2001. With cylinder deactivation, the 5.8-litre V12 engine was 20% more fuel efficient than the former 6-litre V12 in the C140. The cylinder deactivation system was also offered as an option on the CL 500.

The Mercedes CL C215 was also available in two AMG versions: the CL 55 AMG with a 5.4-litre V8 engine and 360 PS from late autumn 1999 and the CL 63 AMG with 6.3-litre V12 engine and 444 PS from 2001. The top model CL 65 AMG with a 6-litre twin-turbo V12 engine developing 612 PS and 1000 Nm was launched in 2003.

From autumn 1999 to February 2006, Mercedes sold 47,984 CL C215 units, of which the best seller was the CL 500 with 32,224 units.

In the 2000 Formula 1 season, a modified Mercedes CL 55 AMG was the official F1 Safety Car. To celebrate this moment, Mercedes produced a limited run of 55 examples of the CL 55 AMG “F1 Limited Edition”, which was the first street car with ceramic disc brakes.