What they said when the Mercedes-Benz CL600 was new… (Mar 19 2001)
JAMES Bond would be shaken and stirred by it. Q would be proud to claim it as one of his own mind blowing inventions.
But the "credit card" which allows you to lock and unlock a Mercedes-Benz CL600 and even start it without a key is very much a product of the German luxury car makers' boffins.
You simply place the credit card in your pocket and forget about it. When you want to get into the car it unlocks automatically as soon as you lay your hand on the door handle.
Once inside a simple touch of the top of the gear lever makes the 6.0-litre V12 burst into life and the steering wheel moves gently to the pre-set position for your comfort.
One day all cars will be like this. No they really will.
Manufacturers like Mercedes-Benz can afford to lead the way because of the premiums paid for their cars but this type of technology has a habit of eventually trickling down to lower priced vehicles.
Surprisingly, however, this system is a £970 optional extra on the CL600. I say surprisingly because the car starts life at a mind blowing £80,200.
Before Mercedes reduced its prices along with most other manufacturers, however, my CL600 test car would have cost £93,000 to put on the road.
Despite the millionaire's price tag I can now understand why those people who can afford to buy one do.
In my book this car has everything. And before anyone says at that price it should have, bear in mind that there are a lot of Italian cars out there at twice the price that only have half the features.
The CL range is the most stunning model Mercedes have produced in recent years. It has all the features of the large S-Class saloons but in an eye-catching streamlined two-door coupe.
Despite the rakish line of the roof this is a very spacious four-seater with gadgetry galore. Like the S-class it comes with almost everything you could ask for on a car. The windows are double glazed for silence, the front seat backs gently massage your back as you are driving along so your muscles don't get tight on long journeys, the doors and boot lid are self closing so you don't have to wake the neighbours by slamming them when you get home late and the seats even have fans built into them to keep you cool on a hot day.
Obviously features like exclusive Nappa leather, walnut trim, Bose sound system and electrically operated seats are run of the mill features on this car. Safety systems include ABS, Active Body Control and a multitude of airbags for starters.
On the road this is one car where the only thing you can hear is the sound of the tyres on the road. Engine noise is virtually non-existent.
As one would expect for a car with such a large engine, power is not lacking. There is no roar as you depress the accelerator. The V12 just whispers gently to you as you hurtle towards the speed limit.
But the most amazing thing is my test car averaged 22 miles per gallon, which for a V12 is some achievement. It is all thanks to the clever cylinder cutout system, which means that when you are driving along sedately in a line of traffic or are at a standstill half of the 12 cylinders stop working. As soon as you need the power all 12 jump into action. This system is so sophisticated that it works without the driver even being aware of it.
Perhaps one day all cars will be as good as the CL600.
Words: Ed Stephens