Rare Rides: The 2000 Mercedes-Benz CL 500, a Finale Called Final Edition

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides the 2000 mercedes benz cl 500 a finale called final edition

Large, luxurious, and very serious, the first generation CL was also an SEC and S during its life. While Mercedes-Benz played the Nineties naming games with its lineup, the W140 soldiered on in two-door format as a last-of for a top-tier Mercedes coupe.

The W140 500 SEC and 600 SEC were introduced in 1992 globally as successor to the C126 (that’s coupe) variant of the legendary W126 S-Class. We’ve covered C126 previously in both standard and cocaine-inspired AMG variants, but never a W126. Look for it in a future Rare Rides Icons.

Both versions of the W140 were penned by Bruno Sacco late in 1987, during the middle of his career at Mercedes. Sacco was lead designer at Benz between 1975 and 1999. With the W140, he brilliantly continued the pillarless hardtop styling of the C126. Two models of SEC were initially available: The 500 used a 5.0-liter V8 that produced 320 horsepower, while the top-drawer 600 SEC had a V12. The most expensive car Mercedes produced at the time, it used a 6.0-liter engine that produced 394 horsepower and rocketed the coupe to 60 in 6.1 seconds. The 600 SEC was incredibly exclusive, and fittingly asked $132,000 in 1992. Adjusted for inflation that figure comes to an eye-watering $262,000. V12 models were identifiable almost solely via their V12 badges on the C-pillar and the 600 on the back.

The range expanded into other models over the years, as a less expensive 4.2-liter V8 was an option in some markets. On the other end of the spectrum, AMG models used larger and more powerful V12 engines of 6.0, 6.9, and even 7.3 liters. That largest engine allowed the CL 73 AMG a top speed of 199 miles per hour and was the engine Pagani chose to power the Zonda of the 2000s. Standard Mercedes-issued coupes were all limited by German tradition to 155 mph. A considerable number of horses were required to motivate the CL, since in any trim it weighed at least 4,500 pounds, and weighed about 4,900 pounds with a 12-cylinder lump upfront. All cars used a four- or five-speed automatic dependent on model year.

In 1994 the SEC moniker that Mercedes used for decades was replaced by an S, as the S 500 Coupe and S 600 Coupe more closely identified with their sedan sibling. It was a temporary measure though, as for the model year 1997 in Europe and 1998 in North America the S was swapped for CL, and the CL-Class was born. Models were then CL 500, CL 600, and so on. The car underneath changed little over the years, as Mercedes used their best build quality, materials, and technology in their halo coupe.

The W140 coupe was offered through 1999 in Europe and 2000 in North America, at which point it was replaced by the W215 CL-Class. The second CL was based upon the new W220 S-Class sedan. The W215 was noteworthy, as it was Bruno Sacco’s final design for Mercedes. Both the W215 and its 2007 successor (C216) were more modern, full of even more technology, much more complicated, and as a consequence has aged more poorly over the years. Both second and third-gen CLs can be found commonly on high-quality internet content like “You Can Get All This $200,000 Mercedes Coupe For $15,000 You Guys Like and Subscribe,” but the W140 SEC and CL have escaped such an undignified fate. Their quality, non-bling appearance, and limited production (26,022 total) have kept them under the radar.

Shortly before the end of its production, Mercedes offered a final run trim on the W140 CL which they creatively called Final Edition. Said special edition seems to be an “all options as standard” version of the CL 500, and in this instance pairs a nice navy metallic paint to a black interior, with sporty AMG-adjacent monoblock wheels. A testament to its build quality, today’s CL has traveled over 164,000 miles and looks brand new. Located in Spain, the future classic asks $15,235.

[Images: Mercedes-Benz]

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  • Crosley Crosley on Oct 28, 2021

    I always liked the "cost no object" Mercedes coupes over the different years. Didn't care for the convertible/coupes as much. If I was an oligarch, I had big plans to own one brand new. I'm sure all of these were nightmares even for dealers to service. This was probably the last Mercedes built before they had to change the way they made cars to compete with brands like Acura.

  • Olddavid Olddavid on Oct 28, 2021

    I had a 1988 SEC. Beautiful black car with the tan interior. I drove it to the Country Fair outside Eugene and ran into that rare species, a hippie with money. I sloppily threw out a number twice my investment and he said sold! So, to summarize, it drove flawlessly from Lincoln Beach to Springfield and then I rode home in the back. From what I've heard since I was lucky. They're always going to be a great design, but as others have noted not cheap to own when aging.

  • Nrd515 I bought an '88 S10 Blazer with the 4.3. We had it 4 years and put just about 48K on it with a bunch of trips to Nebraska and S. Dakota to see relatives. It had a couple of minor issues when new, a piece of trim fell off the first day, and it had a seriously big oil leak soon after we got it. The amazinly tiny starter failed at about 40K, it was fixed under some sort of secret warranty and we got a new Silverado as a loaner. Other than that, and a couple of tires that blew when I ran over some junk on the road, it was a rock. I hated the dash instrumentation, and being built like a gorilla, it was about an inch and a half too narrow for my giant shoulders, but it drove fine, and was my second most trouble free vehicle ever, only beaten by my '82 K5 Blazer, which had zero issues for nearly 50K miles. We sold the S10 to a friend, who had it over 20 years and over 400,000 miles on the original short block! It had a couple of transmissions, a couple of valve jobs, a rear end rebuild at 300K, was stolen and vandalized twice, cut open like a tin can when a diabetic truck driver passed out(We were all impressed at the lack of rust inside the rear quarters at almost 10 years old, and it just went on and on. Ziebart did a good job on that Blazer. All three of his sons learned to drive in it, and it was only sent to the boneyard when the area above the windshield had rusted to the point it was like taking a shower when it rained. He now has a Jeep that he's put a ton of money into. He says he misses the S10's reliablity a lot these days, the Jeep is in the shop a lot.
  • Jeff S Most densely populated areas have emission testing and removing catalytic converters and altering pollution devices will cause your vehicle to fail emission testing which could effect renewing license plates. In less populated areas where emission testing is not done there would probably not be any legal consequences and the converter could either be removed or gutted both without having to buy specific parts for bypassing emissions. Tampering with emission systems would make it harder to resell a vehicle but if you plan on keeping the vehicle and literally running it till the wheels fall off there is not much that can be done if there is no emission testing. I did have a cat removed on a car long before mandatory emission testing and it did get better mpgs and it ran better. Also had a cat gutted on my S-10 which was close to 20 years old which increased performance and efficiency but that was in a state that did not require emission testing just that reformulated gas be sold during the Summer months. I would probably not do it again because after market converters are not that expensive on older S-10s compared to many of the newer vehicles. On newer vehicles it can effect other systems that are related to the operating and the running of the vehicle. A little harder to defeat pollution devices on newer vehicles with all the systems run by microprocessors but if someone wants to do it they can. This law could be addressing the modified diesels that are made into coal rollers just as much as the gasoline powered vehicles with cats. You probably will still be able to buy equipment that would modify the performance of a vehicles as long as the emission equipment is not altered.
  • ToolGuy I wonder if Vin Diesel requires DEF.(Does he have issues with Sulfur in concentrations above 15ppm?)
  • ToolGuy Presented for discussion: https://xroads.virginia.edu/~Hyper2/thoreau/civil.html
  • Kevin Ford can do what it's always done. Offer buyouts to retirement age employees, and transfers to operating facilities to those who aren't retirement age. Plus, the transition to electric isn't going to be a finger snap one time event. It's going to occur over a few model years. What's a more interesting question is: Where will today's youth find jobs in the auto industry given the lower employment levels?