Used 2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class CLS 63 AMG 4MATIC S-Model Review

Edmunds expert review

The 2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class benefits from sharper styling and more features than before, as well as a new entry-level CLS400. But the sacrifices in rear passenger space and the high price should be considered.




What's new for 2015

For 2015, the Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class receives a slight styling refresh inside and out to bring it in line with the rest of the Mercedes family. A new entry-level CLS400 also debuts, along with a few safety features and a new nine-speed transmission for the rear-drive CLS550.

Vehicle overview

Style can come at the cost of function at times. As the originator of the contradictory, but increasingly popular, "four-door coupe," the Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class aims to blend the graceful shape of a coupe with the convenience of four doors. Not surprisingly, the sloping rear roof line cuts down on rear-seat headroom. But unless you regularly shuttle adults in the rear seat, the CLS's style is something to be appreciated.

This year, a new base model 2015 CLS400 debuts, making the price of admittance slightly easier to reach. With 329 horsepower, its turbocharged V6 should be more than adequate for most drivers, especially since there has always seemed to be a spot for something more efficient and less wildly powerful in the CLS-Class than the now midrange V8-powered CLS550. For 2015, it receives a new nine-speed transmission that has the potential to increase fuel economy without affecting performance, though it's available only on the rear-wheel-drive model.

The CLS-Class has also gone under the knife for a subtle nip and tuck. A restyled grille and headlights bring the CLS more in line with its newer Mercedes siblings, as does the new rear bumper that is pulled from the performance-focused CLS 63 AMG. The interior also receives a freshening with an updated infotainment screen, as well as a few new features that include autonomous braking for the frontal collision prevention system.

In the nine years since the first-generation CLS debuted, this "four-door coupe" has gone from being in a class of one to competing in a small and competitive niche. Some of the more direct rivals include the 2015 Audi A7 and its S7 and RS 7 performance variants, the 2015 BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe and sportier M6 Gran Coupe and the 2015 Jaguar XF lineup. Alternatives like the 2015 Porsche Panamera and the all-electric Tesla Model S could also be considered. These are all great cars, and all offer varying but competitive levels of performance, but the 2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class does distinguish itself from the rest with an extra helping of luxury.




Trim levels & features

The 2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class is a four-door, midsize luxury sedan with seating for four. The new V6-powered CLS400 now represents the base model, with the V8-equipped CLS550 and CLS 63 AMG S-Model topping off the lineup. Mercedes' 4Matic all-wheel drive is optional on the CLS400 and CLS550 and standard on the CLS 63 AMG.

Standard features for the CLS400 include 18-inch wheels, a sunroof, LED headlights and running lights, automatic wipers, auto-dimming rearview and driver-side mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, a frontal collision warning system with autonomous braking, leather upholstery, heated 10-way power-adjustable front seats with four-way lumbar and driver seat memory functions, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, color-adjustable ambient lighting, the COMAND electronics interface that includes an 8-inch display, a Garmin-based navigation system with voice control, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a CD player, HD radio and iPhone/USB integration.

The CLS550 adds an adaptive air suspension, a 14-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound system, satellite radio, a six-CD/DVD player and a Mercedes-Benz integrated navigation system with traffic and weather reporting. These features are available on the CLS400 as part of the optional Premium packages. Other packaged options available on either CLS model include power-folding mirrors, automatic high beams, keyless ignition and entry, a power trunk lid, ventilated front seats, additional front seat adjustments with active side bolsters and massage functions, a power rear window sunshade and a rearview camera.

Other safety and driver assistance option packages are also available. The Parking Assist package adds front and rear parking sensors, a surround-view camera system and an automated parallel parking system. The Lane Tracking package adds blind-spot and lane-departure warning systems. The more advanced Driver Assistance package includes adaptive cruise control, active steering intervention for the blind-spot and lane-departure warning systems, and cross-traffic collision alerts that also prime the brakes for maximum effectiveness. Mercedes' mbrace emergency and convenience telematics system is also offered, as is an in-car apps suite that also includes a WiFi hotspot.

The performance-focused CLS 63 AMG S-Model has all of the CLS550's features along with 19-inch wheels, summer tires, the power rear sunshade, heated front seats, the Parking Assist package (minus the surround-view cameras) and split-folding rear seats (optional on other CLS trims). Along with the packaged options from supporting CLS models, the AMG is also eligible for carbon-ceramic brakes, carbon-fiber exterior and engine trim and a 15-speaker Bang & Olufsen surround-sound system.

Other stand-alone options include a trunk lid spoiler, heated rear seats, rear side airbags, a heated wood-trimmed steering wheel and two tiers of upgraded leather upholstery.



Performance & mpg

Powering the base 2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS400 is a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 that produces 329 hp and 354 pound-feet of torque. A seven-speed automatic is the only available transmission, but buyers can choose between the standard rear-wheel drive and optional 4Matic all-wheel drive. The EPA estimates fuel economy for the CLS400 at 24 mpg combined (20 city/30 highway) and the 4Matic at 22 mpg combined (20/28).

Under the hood of the CLS550 is a turbocharged 4.7-liter V8 that produces 402 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque. A new nine-speed automatic transmission is standard on rear-wheel-drive models, while the 4Matic receives a seven-speed automatic. EPA estimates for the CLS550 stand at 21 mpg combined (17/26), while the 4Matic is rated at 19 mpg combined (17/24). According to Mercedes, the 2015 CLS550 should go from zero to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds, but Edmunds testing of previous model years had it even quicker than that.

At the top of the CLS-Class food chain is the CLS 63 AMG S 4Matic with a twin-turbocharged 5.5-liter V8 that churns out an impressive 577 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque. A seven-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive are standard. Mercedes estimates that the CLS 63 will accelerate to 60 mph in a blistering 3.6 seconds. The EPA estimates fuel economy at 18 mpg combined (16/22).

Safety

Standard safety features for all 2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class models include antilock brakes, traction and stability control, a driver drowsiness monitor, front-seat side and pelvic airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and knee airbags for front passengers. Also included is a frontal collision warning system with autonomous braking, the basic mbrace telematics system offering smartphone integration, and Web-based apps that include remote controls, driver monitoring and emergency services.

Optional safety features include rear-seat side airbags, front and rear collision mitigation systems, blind-spot and lane-departure warnings with active steering intervention, frontal cross-traffic collision warnings with autonomous braking, automatic high beams, front and rear parking sensors, a rearview camera and a surround-view camera. Some of these items are standard on the AMG model.

Driving

The 2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS550 embodies all that we've come to expect from top-level German luxury sedans. The confidence-inspiring handling, combined with a composed ride quality, is a testament to the adaptive suspension's range and tuning. The steering feel is also worthy of praise, with a good amount of feedback to the driver and matching an appropriate amount of effort to any particular condition.

We have yet to drive the new V6 CLS400, but we're certain that the power output will be more than adequate for most drivers, perhaps even abundant. The CLS550, on the other hand, revels in the plentiful rush of power that can pin passengers to their seatbacks. For the rare and wealthy individuals who desire even more performance, the CLS 63 AMG with its requisite 4Matic all-wheel drive will likely impress drivers of any stripe.

Interior

The CLS-Class' evocative coupelike roof line is one of its most distinguishing characteristics, but it's not without its drawbacks. Headroom for the rear seats is reduced as a result, making them ill-suited for adult passengers. With only two rear seats available, the CLS is not recommended for those who frequently shuttle multiple passengers. In this case, the less expensive and mechanically related five-seat E-Class is a better choice.

Expectations for quality and design are high with any Mercedes-Benz, and the CLS-Class meets them with ease. This year, the interior gets a minor upgrade to bring it up to date with other Mercedes vehicles by incorporating an iPad-like screen atop the dash instead of the smaller display that was inset above the central vents. Some may find the aesthetic a bit clumsy, but the larger screen placed more conveniently within the driver's sight lines is a definite improvement.

The COMAND infotainment interface also receives a minor upgrade, with more physical buttons flanking the main controller knob. A new layout for the steering wheel buttons marks another improvement, however minor it may be. One of the few holdouts to the previous design involves the climate controls, which still use a pair of detented knobs instead of the latest toggle switches.

Stepping up to the CLS 63 AMG adds a distinctive sporty flare to the cabin with racy sport seats and unique stitching and trim selections. The AMG also relocates the gear selector from the steering column to the center console, eliminating the large cupholders and reducing some interior storage for your personal effects. Cargo space is generous regardless of CLS model, with a trunk that can hold up to 15.3 cubic feet. It is worth noting that the optional Bang & Olufsen audio system significantly compromises trunk space.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.