Used 2016 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class Review

The 2016 Mercedes-Benz CLS has a higher price and a smaller backseat than its mechanically related E-Class sibling, but its sharper styling could be more than enough reason to choose one anyway.




what's new

For 2016, the all-wheel-drive version of the Mercedes-Benz CLS550 gets the latest nine-speed automatic transmission, thereby mirroring the rear-drive CLS550. For every CLS, it is now possible to plug your smartphone in using a regular USB cable instead of the old, proprietary Mercedes plug. Finally, Mercedes, per its latest nomenclature, has renamed the range-topping model the Mercedes-AMG CLS 63 S.

vehicle overview

The Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class has been a trendsetter since it first appeared on the scene. A decade ago, it ushered in the concept of a four-door car with a coupelike roof line, and that design has since spread throughout the automotive industry in the form of dedicated "four-door coupes." Several of those compete with the CLS directly, and it's fair to say that the CLS has influenced the design of regular old four-door sedans as well. Boxy is no longer acceptable, sleek is the new norm and the CLS can take much of the credit.

It's also fair to say that the 2016 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class, which belongs to this model's second generation, is not such a trendsetter. It's simply following the formula established by its predecessor. But its diminished novelty has detracted little from its appeal. A Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress can still be fashionable even though it's no longer considered a new trend.

As always, the CLS provides the quality, features content, performance and driving experience of the superlative Mercedes-Benz E-Class, but with far sleeker styling that continues to stand out among the many conservatively styled luxury sedans plying the roadways. If you're looking for something distinctive to park in your driveway, the CLS-Class delivers.

At the same time, like wearing high heels to a day-long party, opting for style over function has its drawbacks. Space would be the main one, as there is significantly less rear seat headroom, and seating for four occupants only. Outward visibility is also a bit claustrophobic given the fast-rake pillars and tall window sills.

You also have to pay more than for an equivalent E-Class, but that's typical for the class. Popular coupe-styled rivals include the Audi A7 (and high-performance Audi S7 and RS 7) and the BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe and go-faster BMW M6 Gran Coupe. The CLS actually undercuts those four-door coupe rivals on price while being every bit as competitive and appealing from an objective, automotive perspective. However, cars like these are all about style and speaking to your automotive fashion sense. And even if the CLS is no longer a trendsetter, it's still plenty fashionable.




trim levels & features

The 2016 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class is a four-door, four-passenger midsize sedan. There are three trim levels that correspond to engine choice: CLS400, CLS550 and AMG CLS 63 S. The term "4Matic" indicates a particular example has all-wheel drive.

The CLS400 comes standard with 18-inch wheels, automatic LED headlights and running lights, automatic wipers, a sunroof, forward collision and driver inattention warning systems, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated 10-way power front seats (with four-way lumbar adjustment), driver memory settings, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, the COMAND technology interface (with an 8-inch display screen), a Garmin-sourced navigation system, a CD player, HD radio, an auxiliary audio jack, a USB port and a media player interface.

The Premium 1 package adds a rearview camera, power-folding side mirrors, keyless ignition and entry, a power-closing trunk lid, ventilated front seats, satellite radio and a 14-speaker Harman Kardon sound system. The Premium 2 package adds those items plus upgraded LED headlights with automatic high beam control, a power rear sunshade and an upgraded Mercedes navigation system.

The CLS550 has a more powerful engine plus an adaptive air suspension (optional on the CLS400), the upgraded navigation system and the Harman Kardon sound system. Its Premium package features all the elements of the two CLS400 versions that aren't already standard. The Night package adds gloss black exterior elements, red interior stitching, a sport steering wheel and a manual shift mode for the transmission.

The Mercedes-AMG CLS 63 S gets an AMG-tuned engine, transmission, adaptive suspension, braking system, exhaust and limited-slip differential. Beyond the CLS550 equipment, it has 19-inch wheels, unique styling elements, front and rear parking sensors, an automated parallel parking system, the upgraded LED headlights, special gauges and interior trim, an IWC "Ingenieur" analog clock, more aggressively bolstered sport seats, the power rear sunshade and upgraded leather upholstery. Its Premium package has the rearview camera, keyless ignition and entry, power trunk lid, power-folding mirrors and ventilated front seats with additional "multicontour" adjustments. Carbon-ceramic brakes and a 15-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system are available.

Available on all trims is the Lane Tracking package that includes blind-spot and lane-departure intervention systems. The Driver Assistance package adds adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go functionality and steering assist, an enhanced blind-spot warning and intervention system, rear cross-traffic alert and an enhanced emergency braking system that includes pedestrian detection. A heated steering wheel can be added to either of these packages.

The CLS400 and CLS550 are available with the Parking Assist package that includes the front and rear parking sensors, an automated parallel parking system and a surround-view parking camera. They're also available with the extra "multicontour" seat adjustments, a split-folding rear seat and the Bang & Olufsen sound system.



performance & mpg

The 2016 CLS400 is powered by a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 that produces 329 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque. A seven-speed automatic and rear-wheel drive are standard, and all-wheel drive ("4Matic") is optional. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 24 mpg combined (20 city/30 highway) with rear-wheel drive and 22 mpg (19/26) with all-wheel drive.

The CLS550 is powered by a turbocharged 4.7-liter V8 good for 402 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque. A nine-speed automatic and rear-wheel drive are standard; all-wheel drive is optional. During Edmunds performance testing, a CLS550 with rear-wheel drive went from zero to 60 mph in just 4.6 seconds, which is very quick even for this lofty segment. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 21 mpg (17/26) with rear-wheel drive and 20 mpg (17/25) with 4Matic.

The Mercedes-AMG CLS 63 S has a turbocharged 5.5-liter V8 that cranks out 577 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque. A special AMG seven-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive are standard. Mercedes estimates it will go from zero to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds, which is exotic sports car territory. EPA fuel economy is 18 mpg combined (16 city/22 highway).

safety

Every CLS-Class comes standard with antilock brakes, stability and traction control, front side airbags, front side pelvic airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and front knee airbags. Also included are a driver inattention warning system and a forward collision warning system with automatic braking. The mbrace emergency communications system provides automatic alarm and collision notification, emergency assist, stolen vehicle location and remote lock/unlock features.

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, front and rear parking sensors, a rearview camera and a surround-view camera. Some of these items are standard on the AMG model.

In Edmunds brake testing, a CLS550 with summer tires came to a stop from 60 mph in 102 feet, which would be excellent for a high-performance sports car, let alone a midsize luxury sedan.

Driving

The 2016 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, as it provides feedback to the driver during enthusiastic handling and feels properly weighted for every driving condition.

We have yet to drive the V6 CLS400, but given the mechanically related E400 we have driven, we're sure the power output will be more than adequate for most drivers, perhaps even abundant. But that's just the beginning. The CLS550 delivers a plentiful rush of power that can pin passengers to their seatbacks when you hit the gas, while the AMG CLS 63 S, with its colossal thrust and resolute grip provided by the standard all-wheel-drive system, feels like something developed by the Air Force.

Interior

The CLS-Class's evocative 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. There are also only two rear seats. For frequent passenger shuttling, the less expensive and mechanically related five-seat E-Class is a better choice.

Materials quality and construction are up to the utmost expectations for Mercedes-Benz. The design aesthetic isn't as fresh as those in more recently designed Mercedes models like the C-Class, but it's handsome, elegant and suitably special. The CLS features the latest COMAND electronics interface software, but it lacks the new touchpad that goes along with it in the C- and S-Class. Frankly, we haven't found the touchpad especially useful. The remaining buttons and knob get the job done, but this latest system update does seem to be a bit more confusing than its predecessor.

Stepping up to the AMG CLS 63 S adds a distinctive sporty flair 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.