When a luxury car's options alone add up to more than the price of a basic vehicle, such as a Chevrolet Aveo, you know you're cruising in the automotive ether.
That's the case with today's test car. For 13 large, it can be outfitted with extras that include special paint, special leathers, an elegant headliner, a "dynamic rearview mirror" (be still my heart), fancy woods, and special wheels.
For most of us, such a car is far out of reach, but sometimes it's tempting to fantasize and go along for the ride. We are behind the wheel of the 2007 Mercedes-Benz CL550, the relative "baby" in a line of CLs. Essentially, they are top-of-the-line S-Series cars turned coupe, but far more fun.
With a 5.5-liter V-8, it tops out at "just" 382 horsepower and 391 lb.-ft. of torque for tugging.
It has a top speed of 130 miles per hour, but only because it is electronically limited to not go any faster. It will also go from 0 to 60 miles per hour in well under 5 seconds. Not that we advise anyone to go that fast or to accelerate that quickly.
Still, this is the baby of the 2007/2008 CL models because its performance is easily outclassed by the CL63 (518-horsepower V-8), and the CL65 AMG, at 604 horsepower with twin-turbo aspiration.
But not that long ago, the CL550 would have been a competitor on some of America's toughest race tracks (assuming the electronic limits on speed were lifted). It is an incredibly stiff yet lithe automobile. If the weight - nearly 2 1/2 tons - could be chopped, this would be a world-class sports car. I don't know why it needs to be so heavy, but what do you want for $115,000?
When we review a car, we always ask there questions: At whom is it aimed, and will they be happy?
The easy guess here is that it will appeal to folks who have plenty of money and an eye for bling and bang, but are not so concerned about ultimate performance. For true enthusiasts, that's a bit of a shame, because this car does boast lots of bang beyond the bling.
Other than its weighty feel when being tossed into corners, the car is remarkably firm and stable. There is the sense of heft when going down an entrance ramp, but once it's on the highway, the straight-ahead push is powerful and tactile. The steering response is pleasingly delicate, braking is "bar the gates" sudden, and acceleration, as needed, makes it feel like a plane.
There is no skimping on luxury (and there shouldn't be, given the price). Taut leathers, a crisp four-passenger seating set-up with quad-bolstering, and a sound system to die for are standard. So are safety features such as electronic stability and head-protection air bags. Overall, there are nine air bags, including front knee protection.
Standard comfort features include Sirius satellite radio, leather, navigation, 14-way adjustable front seats, dual-zone climate control, hands-free communication, heated front seats, and a guy who lives in the trunk and parks the car when you stop (just kidding).
Not many of us can afford this car - which is available in "upscale" versions that reach nearly $150,000. But it sure is fun to drive.
Royal Ford can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.