2010 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class Review
The Mercedes-Benz CLS has sprouted imitators, but none of them have ever come close to catching it. It’s a beautiful car, with a sweeping roofline and sports-car-like profile, yet has seating for four. It’s as powerful and opulent as a super-luxury car should be. Its extraordinary shape forces compromises -- limited rear seat space and a small trunk -- but the automotive press doesn’t care. For those who can afford to sacrifice a little practicality on the altar of style, the CLS has no peers.
Most automakers build just one flagship sedan to show off the best their designers can do. BMW, for instance, has the 7-Series. Audi has the A8. Lexus has the LS. The automotive press considers each the culmination of a company's talent. There is no feature those cars lack, they are among the most luxurious cars ever built, and most perform like sports cars half their size.
Mercedes, however, builds two. The S-Class fits the same description as the 7-Series or the A8. It’s everything Mercedes engineers can do, in one car.
Then there is the CLS. It is as sumptuous as those cars, as quick, and as extravagantly expensive. But it has something they don’t: a certain style that catches the imagination and won’t let go. Its shape is its reason for being.
The automotive press gets a little crazy when it tries to describe this car. When it first appeared, Automobile Magazine called it “the sedan as sex object.” Car and Driver said it had “the kind of good looks that make you feel like a junior-high kid all over again, sweating and stammering in the presence of true beauty.” Even after six years on the road, those attitudes haven’t faded. Reviewers say this is a car you buy because you’re in love with it, even if it doesn’t make much practical sense.
And it doesn’t make much practical sense for many people. Its rear seat is nearly unusable if you carry adults on a regular basis. It has the smallest cargo capacity in its class. Most of its running gear can be found on the E-Class Sedan for a lot less money. Mercedes’ recently redesigned S-Class and E-Class both offer safety equipment the CLS doesn’t. The BMW 7-Series even outperforms it. Buyers in need of a full-size luxury sedan with space for four adults, or for everything today’s families sometimes haul around, might be better off buying a Mercedes-Benz E-Class and pocketing the $20,000 they’d save.
But nothing else looks quite like a CLS does. And for some buyers, that argument wins.
This is the last year of the current CLS. An entirely new design has been spotting at Mercedes testing facilities, and is expected to reach showrooms for the 2011 model year. The Mercedes-Benz CLS is available in two trims: the standard CLS550 and the high-performance CLS63 AMG. The AMG model is reviewed separately.
- "Compared to the Mercedes E-Class on which it's based, the CLS trades svelte styling for typical sedan functionality--and a $9000 price premium. Furthermore, it lacks the E-Class' available all-wheel drive. But for well-heeled buyers who appreciate its dramatic design and can live with limited rear-seat room and reduced cargo versatility, the CLS won't likely disappoint." -- Consumer Guide
- "Despite the fact that none of the dirty parts have changed noticeably, we were invited to flog new CLSs on autobahns and Austrian switchbacks alike, so that I might report with no equivocation that the larger mirrors provide excellent visibility and no wind noise, the three-spoke steering wheels command helms that are paragons of accuracy if not road feel, and that the trapezoidal tailpipes didn't alter a note of the sweet sonorous exhaust music." -- Motor Trend
- "Seductively styled and beautiful to behold, the CLS-class is built upon the bones of the last-gen E-class. The interior is as attractive as the exterior, but a smallish backseat may turn off some potential buyers." -- Car and Driver