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The Premium Coupes of Mercedes-Benz

by Marcus B. Fitzhugh

Mercedes-Benz has built some of the premier coupes in postwar history. Dating back to the 1950s, we have the 300 Sc. This handmade coupe was based on the 300 series. In the 1950's, the Mercedes-Benz 300 series was known as one of the most luxurious cars in the world. Introduced at the 1951 Paris Auto Salon, the 300 Sc was produced from 1952 until 1958. The 300 Series cars were powered by a 3 liter in-line six that would later be used as the basis for the 300 SL Gullwing. The original 300S engine came with three two-barrel carburetors. In that configuration, it made 150 horsepower. The 300 Sc was fuel injected, which increased horsepower to 175. These are highly collectible cars as only 314 were built during its eight years of production.

Alongside the 300 Sc, was the W187 based 220 Coupe. These were produced from 1953 through 1955. The 220 Coupes were powered by a 2.2 liter in-line six.

The W187 based 220 Coupe was superseded by the W180 and W128 based 220 S and 220 SE coupes. These were produced from 1956 through 1960 and because of their shape, are commonly referred to as pontons. These were initially powered by a 100 horsepower 2.2 liter in-line six. That engine was later upgraded to 106 horsepower. The 220 SE benefited from fuel injection and produced 115 horsepower. Later in production, the 220SE was upgraded to 120 horsepower.

The W111 based 220 SE was introduced in 1961. A year later, the 300 SE was introduced. The 300 SE had its own chassis number; the W112. The 300 was powered by a three liter in-line six, and was a more upscale model. In the summer of 1965, the four-door versions of the W111 and W112 were replaced. The coupes retained the W111 and W112 chassis numbers and were updated. The updates saw the 220 SE replaced by the 250 SE. The 250 SE's larger engine, a 2.5 liter in-line six, was a lot more powerful than the 220 SE. The A year later, in November of 1967, both the 250 SE and the 300 SE were replaced by the 280 SE. The 280 had an upgraded interior, and the 2.8 liter six was more powerful than the 3 liter six of the outgoing 300 SE. In 1969, the 280 SE was available with a V8 engine. That model was called the 280 SE 3.5. The last regular 280 SE was produced in January of 1971, with production of the 280 SE 3.5 halting that summer.

1971 brought us a completely different coupe; the SLC. The SLC chassis number is C107, and they were based on the R107 SL. These were the only Mercedes-Benz coupes based on a roadster, rather than a sedan. The SLC was produced from 1971 until 1981. Throughout their production, there were a number of upgrades and drivetrain changes. During the SLC run, the engines available were a 2.8 liter in-line six, 3.5 liter V8, 4.5 liter V8, 3.8 liter V8, and a 5 liter V8.

1981 saw the return of the sedan based coupes with the SEC series. The SEC was based on the W126 S-Class. The W126 made its debut at the 1979 International Motor Show in Frankfurt, Germany. It was the second generation of the S-Class. S-Class is Sonderklasse in German, which stands for "special class" - and the SEC was truly a special class. The SEC was produced from 1981 through 1991. A number of different models were produced during that 11 year period. In 1981, the 380 SEC and 500 SEC were introduced. 1985 saw a mid-life upgrade when the 420 SEC and 560 SEC were added. In 1986, the 380 SEC was dropped. The 420, 500, and 560 model SEC continued through 1991.

In 1992, a new coupe arrived. These were based on the W140 series S-Class. Initially they were sold as the 500 SEC and 600 SEC. The 500 SEC was powered by a V8, while the 600 was a V12. These cars were also called the S 500 Coupe and the S 600 Coupe. Later, the name was changed to CL 500 and the CL 600. Some time in the midst of all these name changes, the cars went from seriously expensive to very seriously expensive. The W140 based coupe production continued through 1998.

1999 introduced the C215 based coupes. These were very elegant cars. They had less rear leg room than the previous model, but that was the only shortcoming. Every option imaginable was available; DVD based navigation system, Active Body Control, Active Cylinder Control, designo packages, exotic wood, and premium leather. This series had a number of engine options, and the model name matched the engine - CL500, CL55, CL63, CL600, and the CL65. This translated to a 5 liter V8, a 5.5 liter V8, which later became a 5.5 liter supercharged V8, a 6.2 liter V8, a 5.8 liter V12, which was eventually replaced with a 5.5 liter dual turbocharged V12, and a 6 liter dual turbocharged V12. Early cars came with 5-speed automatics, while some later models had 7-speeds. These were the best selling CLs to date.

The current CL-Class was introduced in 2006. These cars have it all. Incredible power, advanced safety features, and luxury that exceeds perception.

  • Power: The CL65 is powered by a V12 that produces over six-hundred horsepower and over seven hundred pound feet of torque. What does that translate to? The CL is electronically limited to a top speed of 155 MPH. However, with the limiters disabled, these vehicles have exceeded two hundred miles per hour.
  • Safety: Electronic stability control ♦ Active Body Control ♦ Brake Assist Plus ♦ DISTRONIC PLUS adaptive cruise control ♦ Bi-Xenon headlamps with Active Curve Illumination ♦ Night View Assist, which uses infrared light beams and a camera to spot people, animals, or roadway debris ♦ Blind Spot Assist ♦ Rain sensing wipers ♦ PRE-SAFE belt tensioners ♦ 4MATIC all wheel drive ♦ Nine air bags ♦ A review camera ♦ Advanced front/rear crumple zones that deform progressively to absorb the energy of an impact, coupled with a bulkhead that is designed to channel the forces of a frontal impact under, over, and around the cabin.
  • Luxury: Sit in another car with a leather interior, then sit in a CL. The difference you feel is "premium leather". While you're sitting in the CL, look up. That's Alcantara. The heated steering wheel is leather with hand polished wood that matches the interior trim. The wood trim in the rest of the car is also hand-polished. The front seat entertainment system has SPLITVIEW, which allows the driver and front passenger to see two different sources from the same screen. Speaking of entertainment, in addition to real time Sirius traffic reports, the satellite radio equipped harmon/kardon digital surround-sound system has an iPod/MP3 media interface and a 6-disc CD/DVD changer. Naturally, these cars are equipped with Bluetooth, navigation, 8-inch COMAND, KEYLESS-GO, and 14-way power multicontour sport seats with four levels of massage, and three levels of heating and cooling. For customers who require a more personal touch, there is a choice of two AMG carbon fiber trim packages from the AMG Performance Studio. The exterior carbon fiber trim package has front deflectors, exterior mirror housings and a rear diffuser insert. The interior package replaces the wood trim elements with AMG carbon fiber trim.

The premium coupes of Mercedes-Benz: Truly Sonderklasse.


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