£47,000 - £87,025 Price range
28 - 57 MPG
The first generation CLS was met with a fair bit of praise, so it’s pleasing to hear that the latest version of the car is held with as much esteem by the critics.
Although some aren’t convinced by the styling of the latest version, most reckon that the overall car is a noticeable improvement over its predecessor in almost every conceivable way. However, it’s not a cheap car to buy, and the CLS no longer has the market to itself.
Does the original sleek four-door coupe have what it takes to make it to your shopping list?
Cheapest to buy: CLS 220d Sport diesel
Cheapest to run: CLS 220d Sport diesel
Fastest model: CLS 63 S AMG petrol
Most popular: CLS400 AMG Line petrol
As you’d expect from a modern Mercedes, the build quality of the CLS is superb – you’ll be hard pressed to find any cheap materials, it feels sturdy and looks quite stylish as well for executive car standards.
Despite the low and sloping roofline, there’s actually a fair bit of room inside for passengers – taller people may feel a bit cramped in the back, but overall the CLS is spacious enough all-round for most people. There are, though, only two rear seats.
The boot is also a decent size, and can come with an optional ‘boot bag’ which stops smaller items from rolling about. However, though it’s by no means the smallest in its class, some rivals are more practical and commodious in the back – check out the CLS Shooting Brake if you want more luggage room.
Mercedes themselves state that the CLS defines ‘refined sportiness’, and the critics seem to agree with that – the CLS is a great cruiser, with impressive overall refinement and a supple ride, especially on the optional air suspension. However, it’s also a fairly good car to drive – it won’t set the world on fire, but the Merc still handles well for such a large and heavy car, and can put a smile on your face on twisty roads.
There are, however, some niggles here and there – some testers didn’t like how the steering, though linear, didn’t have much feel to it, there’s a fair bit of wind noise from the wing mirrors at higher speeds and rear visibility is restricted. Thankfully, the CLS does come with rear parking sensors as standard.
There’s a fairly broad range of engines on offer, varying from economical diesels to an outright performance-oriented AMG V8. The diesels are praised for their frugality while the two petrols are more powerful. Refinement is not an issue with most Mercedes, and the CLS is no different.
The most affordable engine in the range is found in the 220 CDI. The four-cylinder diesel the cheapest to buy and run, and has the lowest emissions too. However, most testers recommend opting for the V6 diesel, as they reckon its enticing blend of efficiency and performance makes it the one to go for. If you want more performance, though, then there’s the V6 petrol CLS400 and snarling CLS63 AMG S.
The experts agree that despite being the lowest powered engine is still has lots of torque, is fine for overtaking and is effortless on the motorway. The running costs will be reasonable too, it's the cheapest CLS to run, thanks to high fuel economy and road tax of £115 a year.
The only complaints about it are that it's a bit noisy when you start it up, though this is less of a problem when you get moving. The other issue is that one review says the stop-start system is a bit intrusive.
Just make sure you don't want to stretch to the more powerful 350 CDI, it really is a great engine! However, an advantage to this 250 CDI is that it looks the same as the more expensive CLS models, yet will cost a lot less to run.
The V6 engine itself appears to suit the sporting characteristics of the CLS fairly well – with just over 300bhp on tap, performance isn’t an issue most buyers will have with it. However, if you’re not in the mood for hooning about in your Merc, then the engine is also adept at cruising duties – it’s an incredibly refined unit, so it’s good for long journeys, and the claimed 41 mpg isn’t too bad for such a large and potent car.
The biggest thorn in the CLS’ side, though, is the similarly sized diesel option – though not quite as quick or as refined as the petrol, the oil burner does cost about the same yet is usefully more fuel efficient. However, the petrol motor still has its merits, and is a worthy choice if you don’t want your CLS to be powered by diesel.
The critics love how it’s a punchy engine that’s great when you’re hammering it, but is also usefully refined and efficient at cruising speeds. Overall, it’s a very impressive piece of kit.
Thanks to the rather substantial 457lb/ft of torque on offer, the motor offers plenty of thrust, especially in the mid-range. It’s also surprisingly eager by diesel standards, and one tester thought it even sounds quite good when you really work it! However, it’s also very capable at a more settled pace – the engine itself is quite refined, and the claimed 47 mpg means it’s a fairly efficient car, considering the performance on offer.
The 7-speed auto gearbox works well with it, though as with every other engine isn't too great when put in manual mode.
Overall, it’s a really good all-rounder – most of the critics reckon it’s the pick of the range, as it offers an enticing blend of effortless performance with impressive refinement and relatively low running costs. It’s an incredibly capable and sensible ‘compromise’, and we can easily recommend it if you’re interested in the CLS.
It doesn’t get the highest overall rating, but just like the other variants, the CLS 500 appears to be a very good car.
Critics are fans of the mighty engine, which offers searing pace and a great soundtrack yet is also surprisingly efficient for such a potent car. As a niche choice, it’s a very unique and appealing one. Thanks to the 402bhp and 442lb/ft of torque on tap, the CLS is by no means a slouch – despite weighing in at nearly two tonnes, the CLS can still crack 0-60 in under six seconds, and is electronically limited to 155 mph. It also sounds great under full throttle, with a meaty V8 howl at higher revs.
It’s also suitable for cruising duties as well –it’s surprisingly refined for such a large and powerful engine, which is certainly useful. When compared with other CLS models, the claimed 31 mpg may not exactly be amazing, but it’s still acceptable for a car with these levels of performance.
Overall, the CLS 500 is a charming and appealing car that bridges the gap between the more hum-drum 350 and the bonkers AMG models. It’s not be quite as quick as the flagship halo car, and it may not be the outright best CLS that money can buy, but it’s still a charming and fast car that’s also surprisingly capable with more mundane duties.
Testers love its stonking performance and great V8 rumble, but are also hugely impressed that the CLS’ more relaxed and ‘sensible’ qualities are still preserved in this souped-up version.
There’s no surprise that such a car is hugely fast – despite weighing in at nearly two tonnes, 0-60 is dealt with in just 4.3 seconds, and is electronically limited to 155 mph. There’s also an option for an ‘AMG Performance Pack’, which makes the car even faster by upping power and torque to 550 bhp and 590lb/ft respectively, and raises the limiter to 186 mph. And, of course, it sounds marvellous!
However, it can cope with more mundane duties – when you’re not in the mood to shred the rear tyres to pieces, the 5.5 twin-turbo V8 settles down to a surprisingly refined level for such a potent engine. Also, even though most buyers probably won’t be fussed by the fuel economy, the CLS AMG is quite frugal for such a car, with claims of nearly 30 mpg.
The only recurring grumble is about the styling, not everyone is a fan of the aggressive features this AMG edition has. If you like the way it looks (personally we do!) then it'll make an incredibly capable car.
Overall, the CLS AMG is a brilliant overall car with a tremendous breadth of abilities – it’s hugely fast and great to drive, yet also behaves like a normal CLS (i.e is refined and comfortable) when you’re not thrashing it. It’s not cheap to buy and run, and it’s not the only fast ‘four-door coupe’ on the market, but if you can afford such a car, we recommend having a closer look at it.
Euro NCAP hasn’t tested the CLS yet, even though the vehicle has received a midlife design update. But given that Mercedes products perform quite well in tests like these, the CLS shouldn’t perform badly.
It’s well equipped in the safety department: the list of active safety systems and driver aids is long and reassuring. A total of nine airbags are available on the CLS; ABS and stability control come as standard; and there are Isofix child-seat mounting points as well.
The Pre-Safe system anticipates crashes and makes quick changes – such as tensioning the seatbelts and part-closing the windows – to reduce the risk of injury. There’s attention assist which alerts the driver if he or she seems drowsy behind the wheel; adaptive brakes which come with hill-start assist; and cruise-control as well.
To top it all, the car sends multiple pulses via the steering wheel to alert the driver if it detects an imminent crash. The car’s braking system can work on its own as well if it detects an impending impact.
It’s not a cheap car, and is a fair bit more expensive than the E-Class on which it’s based, but the CLS is still competitively priced. Running costs are fairly good, especially if you opt for the diesels, and although the base models aren’t lavished with standard equipment, all cars still come with some nice toys such as Bluetooth, sat-nav and electrically adjustable seats and steering column.
Also, thanks to the Benz badge and its desirable looks, residual values are expected to be quite good.
Overall, the CLS is a very well-sorted car that has plenty of appeal. Though not quite as graceful as its pioneering predecessor, but the styling is still just as head turning, and the new car is suitably spacious and practical, whilst also offering up good performance and impressive efficiency.
It’s by no means a cheap car to buy, and there are other four-door coupes on sale as well, such as the Audi A7 Sportback and Porsche Panamera. However, the CLS is one of the best all-round executive cars you can buy, and if you’re in the market for such a machine, we definitely reckon it’s worth having a look at.