Boxy sedans are out, and sleek coupe-like rooflines are in. Even work-a-day sedans from Chevy and Honda have profiles that could best be described as coupe-like, and all of them owe a debt (if not license fees) to the Mercedes CLS-Class. The CLS is now well into its second generation, and thanks to a proliferation of sleek sedans, it has lost some of its novelty ? but not its appeal. There's an elegant simplicity to the CLS that makes it stand out in a crowd, and its pulse-quickening performance, engaging driving experience, and exceptional quality make it one of the best cars on the market today.
The CLS is available with three engines, and all are thrillers. The CLS400 gets a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 good for 329 horsepower and 354 power-feet of torque, while the CLS550 gets a 4.7-liter turbo V8 that produces 402 hp and 443 lb-ft. Both are available with rear- or all-wheel drive. The top-of-the-line AMG CLS 63 S gets a turbocharged 5.5-liter V8 making 577 hp and 590 lb-ft and comes standard with an specially tuned all-wheel-drive system. We've clocked a rear-wheel-drive CLS550 to 60 mph in a quick 4.6 seconds, and Mercedes says the AMG version will get there a second quicker, putting it in exotic-supercar territory. The EPA did not have fuel economy estimates for the V6 cars, but V8s range from 21 mpg combined (18 city/26 highway) for the rear-wheel-drive CLS550 down to 18 mpg combined (16 city/22 highway) for the AMG model.
The CLS is one of the older models in Mercedes' lineup, so it lacks some of the cutting-edge technology and features found in newer models. The interior drips with wood-and-leather elegance, but the design is out of date compared to the freshly redesigned E-Class, which has a better infotainment system with a larger display and an overall feeling of greater opulence. The CLS' sleek hatchback profile means headroom is in short supply in the two-place backseat. Visibility to the rear isn't very good, and Mercedes still doesn't fit a backup camera as standard equipment.
The driving experience, however, is hard to fault: The adaptive suspension provides a nice balance of agile handling and ride compliance, and all three engines develop impressive levels of thrust. The AMG version, its grip enhanced by the specially tuned all-wheel-drive system, is one of the most thrilling four-door cars on the market.
Mercedes offers the CLS in three models, classified by their engine sizes, and all three are lavishly equipped. Potential buyers will be faced with a long list of stand-alone options and bundles that make the car even more luxurious ? and a lot more expensive. How best to equip your CLS? Let Edmunds help find the best Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class for you.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.