Full 2006 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class Review
What's New for 2006
The CLS is an all-new sedan in Mercedes' lineup for 2006.
When it comes to shaking up the rarefied air of the luxury car world, no amount of power under the hood or computers in the cabin can top the draw of an intriguing design. More stunning in person than in even the most flattering pictures, the Mercedes-Benz CLS has a visual presence that few of its peers can match.
The 2006 Mercedes CLS possesses a level of athleticism and luxury that up until this point has been hard to find in a single car. Although it makes use of numerous unique pieces throughout, the better part of its hardware is taken straight from the E500 sedan. The engine is a 5.0-liter V8 connected to Mercedes' seven-speed automatic transmission with Sportronic manual-shift capability. While its shape does wonders for its image, it also reduces its interior dimensions in several important areas. Up front, the effects are minimal, as the CLS feels every bit as accommodating as an S-Class. But in back its dimensions are tighter in nearly every dimension when compared to the shorter E-Class.
There are also a few ergonomic quirks typical of German cars, like the flimsy fold-out cupholder, lack of storage space and overly complicated audio and navigation controls. Nothing new here to be sure, but still the kind of things that leaves you scratching your head when you consider the brilliant level of engineering interspersed throughout the rest of the car. Having had time behind the wheel, we still harbor our previous objections to its nomenclature, but a newfound appreciation for its shape and performance makes its classification a moot point. The 2006 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class isn't a case of form over function; it's a rare combination of the two that makes them almost complementary -- an impressive feat that needs no explanation.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class is available in one well-equipped trim level. Expect typical luxuries like power seat, window, lock and sunroof controls, as well as four-zone automatic climate control and a trip computer. Mercedes' Airmatic suspension system comes standard, giving the CLS a level of adjustability to suit every type of driver. Left in its default comfort mode, the CLS responds with typical luxury car motions, soft when it needs to be and stiff enough to maintain complete control at all times. Two additional settings designed for more aggressive driving are available should you desire a more coupelike handling experience.
Powertrains and Performance
The engine is a 5.0-liter V8 connected to a seven-speed automatic transmission with Sportronic manual-shift capability. With so many gears at its disposal, the 306-horsepower V8 is never far from its sweet spot, a circumstance that makes the sizable sedan feel quicker than its horsepower number would suggest. Mercedes claims a 0-to-60-mph sprint of 6.1 seconds, a believable number. Responses from the advanced transmission are satisfyingly quick, especially when left in the sport shift mode that livens up the performance even more.
Besides the traditional luxury car safety features, such as four-wheel disc antilock brakes and stability control, the Mercedes CLS features a full complement of front- and side-impact airbags. The CLS has not yet been crash tested.
Interior Design and Special Features
Smaller door openings make getting in and out of the rear seats more difficult, but once situated, the aft quarters are surprisingly accommodating. Six-footers brush their heads, but plenty of knee, toe and shoulder room keep it comfortable. The short windows do make it feel less airy than a typical sedan, but compared to a traditional coupe, the Mercedes-Benz CLS is legitimately comfortable in back rather than merely passable. A dashboard-wide strip of wood trim differentiates the CLS from any of its current siblings, along with smaller, but tastefully applied touches of wood and chrome trim on the doors and center console. The standard wood wears a new matte finish designed to look more natural than the usual high-gloss timber found in most luxury cars. Optional high-gloss trim is available for those who prefer the shinier stuff.
Although it's nearly 5 inches longer than an E-Class, the CLS weighs barely a few pounds more, and transitioning from one curve to the next makes it obvious that despite its accommodating rear seats, this is no S-Class. Unlike the big flagship that reminds you of its size when pushed, the CLS invites you to go harder at every turn. Quicker steering, less body roll and plenty of grip thanks to standard 18-inch wheels and tires give the 2006 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class a legitimate claim to coupelike performance.