Review: Mercedes-Benz CLS (2005 – 2011)

Rating:

Dramatically different from any other Mercedes, wonderful styling, great engines and transmissions, incredibly refined with a forgiving ride.

Rear visibility is quite poor.

Mercedes-Benz CLS (2005 – 2011): At A Glance

It's not obvious where the CLS fits into the Mercedes-Benz line-up. It may be based on the 2002 Mercedes-Benz E-Class and come with four doors, suggesting it has plenty in common with the German brands' executive and luxury saloons, but the standout styling and coupe profile puts it more in line with the likes of the Mercedes-Benz CL. It's certainly distinctively styled with a real cultured air about it and even after several years on sale, this remains a good-looking car.

It may look as aggressive as other four-door coupes, but its low height and curvaceous profile give it a classic feel, almost reminiscent of the 1950s. As well as the dramatic looks, it majors on comfort and refinement, making it an ideal long distance cruiser - and one where you're guaranteed to arrive in style. It's also superbly engineered with a high-quality feel to the finish, both inside and out.

There's a decent choice of engines but it's the sole diesel that most people opt for and it's easy to see why - it offers strong performance along with useful fuel economy while its refined nature makes it the ideal fit for the CLS. Originally a 320 CDI it was upgraded in 2009 to a 350 CDI with more power while the petrol range includes the CLS500 along with the immense CLS63 AMG with more than 500bhp.

Mercedes Benz CLS 350 2005 Road Test

What does a Mercedes-Benz CLS (2005 – 2011) cost?

List Price from £55,440
Buy new from £45,328
Contract hire from £405.97 per month

Mercedes-Benz CLS (2005 – 2011): What's It Like Inside?

Dimensions
Length 4913–4917 mm
Width 1873 mm
Height 1403–1430 mm
Wheelbase 2854 mm

Full specifications

On the whole the CLS appears extremely well put together and it's immediately clear this is no simple rehash of the E-Class. The raked windscreen and curved dash set the CLS apart as of course does the styling. The tapered rear is particularly distinctive and is reminiscent of pre war fastback saloons. To reinforce the point that this is a coupe Mercedes has given the CLS frameless doors both front and rear - it's a neat touch and along with the sleek profile gives it a unique look.

Thanks to its four doors, access to the rear of the CLS is easy, plus legroom is good, however the sloping roof means headspace can be tight. That aside, it's difficult to find fault with the cabin. Like the rest of the car the cockpit is extremely comfortable thanks to the sumptuous seats - although the drivers seat could do with being mounted slightly lower. It has plenty of ambience and although some of the switchgear doesn't feel quite as solid as it should in a Mercedes at this proce, the general build quality is top class.

Passengers in the back will find it easy to get on with too. Admittedly, compared to the E-Class, rear access isn't as straightforward due to the low doors and roofline, but in terms of legroom and space it's plenty generous. The boots larger opening means it's easy to access and with 505 litres of boot space there's plenty of luggage room, although it's not quiet as big as the latest Mercedes E-Class, you can still easily get two large suitcases in along with plenty of shopping bags. One slight criticism from behind the wheel is the engine start/stop button on top of the gear lever as it's all too easy to press it down when changing gear from P to D (for instance) which then turns it off.

Equipment levels:

CLS standard models come with 18-inch alloy wheels, metallic paint, speed sensitive power steering, electrically adjustable, folding and heated door mirrors, leather upholstery, heated and electrically adjustable front seats, two trapezoidal exhaust pipes in chrome trim, Bluetooth, automatic climate control, a multifunction steering wheel and the COMAND multimedia system with Media Interface which includes radio, hard disk drive map navigation system with TMC, Linguatronic voice control, SD memory card slot, 4GB music register and an integrated CD/DVD changer (6‑disc) with MP3 compatability. The Media Interface allows connection and control of MP3 players and iPods while cables included for aux-in, USB and iPod connectivity.

Grand Edition models add Nappa leather-trimmed three-spoke multi-function steering wheel and gear shift lever, special floor mats, 18-inch AMG alloy wheels, xenon headlights with headlamp wash, cornering light, Active Light System and dark headlamp casing, front grille louvres in Palladium Silver matt finish and the performance upgrade to 272bhp and 590Nm torque.

CLS500 adds AirMATIC Dual Control semi-active air suspension with adaptive damping and self-levelling suspension, automatically dimming rear-view mirror and driver's exterior mirror plus luxury automatic climate control which includes digital display and four-zone control.

Child seats that fit a Mercedes-Benz CLS (2005 – 2011)

Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.

Which car seat will suit you?

What's the Mercedes-Benz CLS (2005 – 2011) like to drive?

Comfort is the CLS's forte though. It feels superbly refined and the same can be said of the engines in the line-up. The earlier 320 CDI was a popular choice as you'd expect - not only was it the cheapest model but also the most economical. The V6 with 224bhp has a silkily smooth power delivery and will get from 0-62mph in just 7.0 seconds and feels very rapid in kickdown, helped by the 510Nm of torque. It does lack some of the grufness and urge of rival diesels (some of which use twin turbochargers), but still gains pace effortlessly.

In July 2009 the 320 CDI was replaced by a 350 CDI which has the same bhp figure but an extra 30Nm of torque. It's a superb engine and even better than the 320 CDI with a bit more urgency in-gear, yet will return 37.2mpg. There is also a Grand Edition version which uses this engine but with power upped by 48bhp and in increase in torque too (of 50Nm). As a result, 0-62mph takes 6.5 seconds - half a second quicker - but fuel economy stays the same.

On the open road, the manner in which the CLS gains speed quickly and quietly is impressive, while the seven-speed automatic offers slick changes - although if you want the steering-wheel paddle shift it's an optional extra. The CLS is sharp and composed, plus the steering offers decent feel, however body control could be better in tight corners, but the ride quality is absolutely sublime and makes it superb for long journeys.

The CLS 350 with a V6 engine was available from launch, but was replaced by the CLS350 CGI in 2007 which offers more power and is also more efficient. It's a great engine which is smooth and quiet at low speeds but provides strong pace when you need it along with a lovely engine note. At the top there's the CLS 500 which is powered by a 5.0-litre V8 and covers the 0-62mph sprint in just 5.4 seconds while the CLS63 AMG is the ultimate model with a 6.2-litre V8 engine that delivers 514bhp.

Engine MPG 0-62 CO2
CLS Grand Edition 35 mpg 6.5 s 215 g/km
CLS350 CDI 37 mpg 7.0 s 200 g/km
CLS350 CGI 31 mpg 6.7 s 217 g/km
CLS500 24 mpg 5.4 s 275 g/km
CLS63 AMG 20 mpg 4.5 s 345 g/km

Real MPG average for a Mercedes-Benz CLS (2005 – 2011)

Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.

Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.

Average performance

95%

Real MPG

18–43 mpg

MPGs submitted

150

Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.

What have we been asked about the Mercedes-Benz CLS (2005 – 2011)?

Every day we're asked hundreds of questions from car buyers and owners through Ask Honest John. Our team of experts, including the nation's favourite motoring agony uncle - Honest John himself - answer queries and conudrums ranging from what car to buy to how to care for it as an owner. If you could do with a spot of friendly advice before buying you're next car, get in touch and we'll do what we can to help.

Ask HJ

Mercedes-Benz CLS suspension failure

The front suspension collapsed on my 2010 Mercedes-Benz CLS350 Grand Edition. Both shock absorbers and both springs need replacing. Main dealer also says the car needs some newly developed rear wheel shims adding to adjust the ride level of the car, not a recall they say just a development. Is is reasonable to request MB make a contribution to the repair cost estimated at over £1500?
Unfortunately the car is more than 6 years old so the supplying dealer cannot be held liable. However, MB might support the dealer in offering you some goodwill towards your costs which are not just for the new suspension, but also for the prematurely worn front tyres.
Answered by Honest John
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