Mercedes-Benz is adding safety and power to its CLS — the sedan it says looks like a coupe. The automaker's Pre-Safe system, which reacts to a collision and adjusts the interior to protect its occupants, is now standard across all CLS models.
The power comes in the form of bigger engines for the CLS500 and CLS55 AMG, now known as the CLS550 and CLS63 AMG. Beneath the hood of the CLS550 is a V-8 rated at 382 horsepower. Stepping up a notch, the CLS63 AMG features a 507-hp, 5.5-liter V-8.
The CLS550 includes such features as Airmatic DC air suspension and four-zone climate control for comfort levels comparable to the automaker's S-Class sedan. Safety features include adaptive front airbags, side-impact airbags and side curtain airbags.
Dubbed a four-door coupe, the CLS-Class was derived from a coupe study that appeared at the 2003 Frankfurt Motor Show in Germany. It features a high belt line and short side glass. A distinctive body crease rises from the front wheel arch, extends across the bodyside and continues through the contoured rear light cluster into the back bumper.
The roofline forms a sweeping arc above the body before smoothly transitioning into the C-pillar, which appears pulled toward the rear of the car. Aluminum is used for the front and rear subframes, parcel shelf and other components. The car has a coefficient of drag of 0.30.
Built on a 112.4-inch wheelbase, the CLS-Class is slightly more than 193 inches long overall and nearly 74 inches wide.
Projector-type headlights are standard, and bi-xenon headlights are optional. An automatic cornering light function with the bi-xenon units switches on the cornering lights during a turn, and the adaptive headlights pivot to follow the driver's steering movements.
Up to four occupants can fit inside the CLS-Class. The instrument panel's central speedometer is flanked by a tachometer and clock. Black dials have chrome surrounds. Bar-chart displays show the fuel level and coolant temperature.
The four-door layout of the CLS-Class permits easy entry and exit. Power front seats are standard and may be equipped with optional active ventilation. Massaging front seats are also optional.
Under the Hood
The CLS550 gets a 382-hp, 5.0-liter V-8 that works with a seven-speed automatic transmission. The CLS63 AMG has a 507-hp supercharged V-8 that's connected to a five-speed automatic transmission. Both transmissions have manual-shift provisions.
Mercedes' Pre-Safe system is standard. The system pre-tensions seat belts, moves the seats into a safer position and closes the sunroof if it senses an impending collision. Electronic Stability Program, antilock brakes, front and rear side-impact airbags, and side curtain airbags are standard.
This CLS sedan doesn't look like a typical Mercedes-Benz. Relatively light steering detracts from the sporty feel even though handling capabilities rank high. This is a big car, yet it maneuvers like a smaller model.
The automaker's mighty V-8 delivers plenty of power in a wholly refined and civilized manner. Shifts are more noticeable in the CLS than in some other luxury automobiles, but they're reasonably crisp and quick. However, the automatic transmission's operation tends to be intrusive while braking; it sometimes feels like an anchor ratcheting you down yet another notch. Occasional downshifts get awkward when rolling to a halt — and more so if you then step on the gas.
Expect a comfortable ride in the true luxury sense. The suspension might be taut, but its operation is largely concealed as you drive on smooth surfaces. On the downside, backseat headroom is scant, though legroom and foot space suffice. Getting into the backseat is difficult.