Mercedes CLS review

Our Rating: 
By Auto Express Test TeamComments

The sleek and stylish Mercedes CLS combines head-turning coupe looks with sensible saloon practicality

Stylish looks, sumptuous cabin, excellent ride/handling
Poor residuals, lack of versatility, thirsty V8 petrols

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When the original Mercedes CLS hit showrooms in 2005 it caused an instant stir. By mixing four-door versatility, sleek coupe styling and a luxurious cabin, the CLS was a true trendsetter. Now in its second generation, the latest model adds sharper driving dynamics and efficient new diesel and petrol engines to its list of desirable attributes. All versions are well-equipped, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to avoid the expensive options list.

Our choice: CLS 350 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY



The new Mercedes CLS clearly takes its cues from its sleek predecessor. With a mix of sweeping curves and bold creases, the CLS packs more visual appeal than rivals such as the Audi A7. As with the previous model, the Mercedes CLS is available as a four-door saloon only. All versions get eye-catching LED daytime running lights, while Sport models are treated to 19-inch alloy wheels and a racy looking bodykit. Inside, quality is top notch, with classy and expensive feeling materials used throughout. What’s more, the attractively designed cabin is almost as stylish as its sleek exterior.



Drivers wanting the ultimate in sporty driving dynamics should look elsewhere. However, the Mercedes CLS’s fine ride and handling set-up strikes the right balance between fun and comfort. Adaptive damping is standard on all models, which means the Mercedes copes effortlessly with poorly surfaced roads. Yet the direct and well-weighted steering, good body control and decent grip make the Mercedes a surprisingly agile choice. Entry-level versions get a 201bhp 2.1-litre diesel engine, while at the other end of the performance scale are the muscular petrol V8-powered 500 and AMG models – the latter will blast from 0 to 62mph in just 4.4 seconds. Buyers can also pick from a pair of V6 engines – a smooth 3.0-litre diesel and a muscular 3.5-litre petrol. All versions get a slick shifting seven-speed automatic gearbox, apart from the AMG, which benefits from Mercedes’s MCT seven-speed twin-clutch gearbox.



There has been no Euro NCAP test for the Mercedes CLS yet, but there’s no reason to think it won’t bag a five-star result. Included in the raft of standard safety kit are six airbags, ESP and tyre pressure monitoring. Hit the eye-wateringly expensive options list and you can add hi-tech extras such as lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control. Mercedes has a reputation for strong build quality and mechanical strength – and the Mercedes CLS certainly feels like it will last. Standard three-year warranty is joined by the firm’s Mobilo scheme, which delivers breakdown cover for up to 30 years if you continue to have your car serviced at a Mercedes main dealer.



It’s unlikely that buyers of the Mercedes CLS are in the market for a practical holdall, so it’s no surprise to find the newcomer lacks versatility. The CLS is a strict four-seater, although there’s plenty of head and legroom for occupants. Opening the tailgate reveals a generous 520-litre load bay, but you’ll have to hit the expensive options list if you want folding rear seats. Buyers looking for an extra dose of practicality would be better of looking at the hatchback-equipped Audi A7. On the plus side, the cabin of the Mercedes is littered with useful storage, including a deep, lidded box in the centre console.

Running Costs


Owners who want all the flash without forking out lots of cash should stick to the CLS 250CDI. The diesel-powered machine emits only 135g/km of CO2 and is capable of returning an impressive 54.3mpg. The petrol-powered V8 versions serve-up crippling running costs, however, while all CLS variants suffer from poor residuals compared to rivals such as the Audi A7 and Porsche Panamera. As you’d expect for a premium car, servicing costs are likely to be pricey. And while the level of standard equipment is decent, it will be hard not to hit the expensive options list. For instance, you’ll have to dig a little deeper in your pocket for ambient lighting, sat-nav and heated seats – kit we’d expect to be standard at this price.

Disqus - noscript

The article refers to the cost of options, but the standard car car comes loaded with far more extras than almost any other competitor.
Sat-Nav is standard across the range, as is full leather, metallic paint, parking assist (steers the car into tight spots) as well as a long list of other luxuries. Everything is there already.
Only stuff like memory seats/mirrors/steering/headrest, upgraded audio, reversing cameras etc require additional expense.

"Thirsty V8 petrols"... as a negative? Then don't buy the V8 petrol if you want economy! I don't believe Merc V8s (non-AMG ones anyway) are notably more thirsty than other manufacturers' V8s.

Last updated: 5 May, 2012

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