The closest competitor was the now-discontinued BMW 8 Series coupe. However, while the performance-oriented 8 series had a cramped 2+2 seating arrangement, the rear passenger volume of the CL and its previous incarnations is large enough to classify them as 2-door sedans by the SAE, making the CL one of the few full-sized coupes that offer a combination of engine power and luxury accommodation.
The present generation of the CL-Class, or C216, is currently available in four models: CL500 4Matic (CL550 4Matic in America), CL600, CL63 AMG and CL65 AMG. The 2009 price ranges from $108,775 to $204,575. The most powerful model of the CL is the most expensive Mercedes-branded vehicle (with the exception of the SLR and the S Class Pullman), slightly edging out its equivalent in the flagship S-Class.
Main article: Mercedes-Benz W126
The CL-class can most directly trace its roots back to the W126-chassis SEC-class of 1981-1991. The SEC was itself a replacement for the R107 series SLC cars, which were essentially lengthened SL roadsters with a fixed roof and rear seat. The W126 SEC was more directly related to the S-Class sedans. The first generation SEC-Class came in four models: 380 SEC, 420 SEC, 500 SEC and 560 SEC. Like all subsequent models, the rear passenger volume of the SEC coupes was large enough to classify them as 2-door sedans by the SAE.
Main article: Mercedes-Benz W140
The next generation was the sleek, redesigned W140-chassis coupe of 1993-1999. Though the coupe’s physical appearance changed little over these years, the class underwent a name change several times. The V8 and V12 coupes were called the 500 SEC and 600 SEC, respectively, in 1993 only. The 600 SEC was the first V12 coupe ever offered by Mercedes-Benz. From 1994-1997, the model names were changed to the S500 coupe and the S600 coupe. The name "CL" was adopted in 1998, and the W140 coupes were called the CL500 and CL600 from 1998-1999.
Main article: Mercedes-Benz W215
The third generation of the CL is the W215-chassis coupé of 2000 to 2006. It is based on the 1999-2004/5 Mercedes-Benz S-Class, though it rides on an 8-inch (203mm) shorter wheelbase. It is offered as four models: the V8-powered CL500, the supercharged V8-powered CL55 AMG, the V12-powered CL600 and the rare bi-turbo V12-powered CL65 AMG. The limited-edition V12-powered CL63 AMG was sold in 2001 only. All models seat four.