The Truth About Cars » CLS The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 16 Jul 2014 16:33:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » CLS Review: 2013 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG (Video) Mon, 03 Jun 2013 21:34:45 +0000 2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes
My statement “BMW is the new Mercedes” may have ruffled the most feathers, but the second thing that gets thrown in my face is: “what then has Mercedes become?” I’m sorry if the forum fanboys can’t adjust to the new normal that is a softer, more civilized, more luxurious BMW that puts comfort over balls-out performance. Sometimes you just have to let the ostrich keep its head in the hole. If you think the M6 is the best thing since sliced bread, read no further. This isn’t about BMW, this is about the German luxury company. What of them?  To find out we were tossed the keys to a six-figure beast for a week.

Click here to view the embedded video.


The first generation CLS wasn’t my cup of tea. Perhaps it’s because I like the traditional profile of the E-Class with the high greenhouse and excellent rear headroom. Perhaps it’s because I’m a stickler and in my world a “coupé” can’t have four seats. Perhaps it’s that the first generation CLS looked like it had been laid, and I’m not referring to an egg. That’s probably it.

But that was then, this is now. Up front we get one of the more attractive and aggressive grilles I have seen lately. The side profile has ditched the “half-moon” character line that I disliked for one that I would call “American muscle,” especially those rear haunches. Out back we have a more traditionally shaped trunk lid which finally puts an end to any CLS vs suppository comparisons. Whew. That’s not to say the CLS has become more upright, quite the opposite, it just isn’t trying as hard as it used to.

Mercedes’ naming scheme needs to be explained. If you take an S and remove two doors, you get a CL. Yet the CLS is not created by adding two doors back. Instead you take an E, delete the fifth seat, squash the profile, remove the window sashes and add a whopping $20,200 to the price tag (base E vs base CLS). By having the CLS, Mercedes has been able to keep the E-Class’s upright profile while increasing profits by charging huge sums for a more stylish four-seat version. When it comes to the high performance models, the CLS is a slightly better value. Starting at $109,150 it is “only” $19,350 more than the E63 AMG. It’s good to be king.

2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes


There is a common problem with performance models: all the cash goes to making the car go faster, handle better and stop shorter. While there are some interior tweaks to the CLS’ interior for AMG duty, they boil down to AMG badging, a flat-bottomed steering wheel and unique AMG controls in the center console. There is another problem for the CLS in general; it shares a large portion of its design and components with the $51,900 E350. It’s not that the E-Class and CLS-Class parts are low rent by any stretch of the imagination, it’s just that they are a bit too popular. This doesn’t apply only to the Mercedes, the Audi A7, S7 and RS7 have the same thing going in inside with parts from the A6. The BMW 6 on the other hand has a much steeper base price of $74,900 (640i coupé) so your $113,000 M6 Gran Coupé won’t be sharing dash parts with the $599 lease special. Based on my personal likes and dislikes, the M6 Gran Coupé is the interior winner, but with a decently larger price tag, it should be.

Front seat comfort in the CLS63 is excellent thanks to a large range of motion in the seat bottom cushion, and a tilt/telescoping steering wheel that will practically telescope into the back of the seat if you wanted it to. As part of the $3,690 “Premium Package,” our CLS included MB’s “active multicontour” driver’s seat. This is what separates the CLS from the truly expensive Benz models which can have the same system applied to the passenger’s seat. The active throne massages your back, offers more adjustibility to the seat contour and has dynamic bolsters that inflate and deflate to keep you in your seat on winding roads. The active bolsters feel like someone is slowly groping you from behind as you drive, something I missed after the car left us.

2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

No coupé, even a four-door model, is about rear seat comfort. They are about looking good while carrying a pair of people to the opera and masses of luggage to your vacation chateau. This point was proved when I repeated my role as “prom chauffeur” for my godson. I suggested that his 6’4 frame would fit better in my ginormous long wheelbase and decidedly upright Jaguar Super V8, but the angry face and demonic burble of the CLS stole his heart, so he and his date jammed themselves in the back. Legroom isn’t the problem, it’s headroom. The CLS isn’t alone here, headroom is a precious commodity in the A7 and 6 Gran Coupe as well. The 15.3 cubic foot trunk doesn’t sound terribly large at first, but when you consider it’s a trunk for two, and the rear seats fold the CLS turns into a fairly practical vehicle (oddly enough). The A7 sports more cargo room and the hatchback lid means you can jam a barbecue in there should you need to, but it also means more road noise coming from the rear. The BMW Gran Coupe has a hair more trunk space but the rear seats don’t fold as flat as those in the CLS and the integrated headrests made front-seat room a bit tighter when the seats were folded.


Dogs may be man’s best friend, but I’d take a snazzy infotainment system any day, so would many luxury shoppers by all accounts. This is where the sharp dressed CLS looses in a big way. Mercedes hasn’t rested on their laurels as some would suggest, COMAND has been updated continuously, you’d just be hard pressed to notice. COMAND still uses a 7-inch LCD set high in the dashboard surrounded by a plastic bezel seemingly designed to accentuate the small dimensions of the screen. Audi uses a large 8-inch screen that pops out of the dash and screams “look at ME!” while BMW has gone for a ginormous 10.2-inch wide screen system. While I find Audi’s MMI system frustrating to use and overly complicated, BMW’s iDrive has evolved into a relatively intuitive system that I have been able to get anyone off the street to figure out. COMAND lands somewhere in the middle being fairly simple to use but looking a little old school. Part of Mercede’s modernization efforts have gone into integrating smartphone apps and internet connectivity into COMAND, but the system’s processor seems to slow to take full advantage of the improvements. Voice commands are one thing this system has always done well and Mercedes has expanded the system to now offer SYNC-like voice control of your USB/iDevice. Notably, the system lacks the annoying “talk now” beep that most systems use making it more natural to interact with. For in-depth infotainment commentary, check out the video.

M157 EngineDrivetrain

Ah, the section we’ve all been waiting for. For RS7 duty, Audi took the existing turbo V8 and punched up the boost. For M6 Gran Coupe duty BMW did the same thing to their 4.4L V8. (Yes, I know that there were a few other changes but my point is they are the same basic engine.) Based on the competition, AMG could have very easily done the same thing to their twin-turbo 4.6L “M278″ V8 engine. Instead the AMG built a larger 5.5L V8 off the M278′s design and dubbed it the M157. No, I don’t know why they didn’t call it the M279 or just Thor’s Hammer. The RS7′s 560 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque and the M6′s 560 ponies and 500 twists sound impressive as do the CLS63′s base 518 horsepower and 516 lb-ft. But for $7,300 Mercedes will toss in a re-tuned (read: stiffer) suspension, sportier steering wheel, 186MPH top-speed limiter and bump the engine to 550 horses and 590 lb-ft of diesel-like pull. Still not enough? (Why should it be?) The engine puts down 664 lb-ft in a variant of the CL63 AMG and there are tuners that will happily flash your ride to get you there too. Why the big difference in torque? It’s all about displacement.

The difference in the way the Audi/BMW and the Mercedes engines behave is also quite different. Thanks to the large displacement, low end torque is much more pronounced than the smaller V8s. While there is still a bit of turbo lag, you’d be hard pressed to notice on your way to a 12 second 1/4 mile at 123 MPH. In a 4,300lb sedan. While burning unbelievable amounts of rubber. For the record, that’s the same speed we clocked in the M6 drop-top. With this much power, traction is the CLS’ Achilles heel, something Mercedes is planning to rectify in 2014 with the addition of AWD to the performance pack CLS63. I’d like to compare the Panamera to the CLS, but since Porsche won’t return my calls I have to rule the CLS superior.

2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Engine, 5.5L twin-turbo V8, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Since every silver-lining is wrapped in a cloud, we need to talk about the AMG Speedshift MCT transmission. If you take a look at the cut-away above, you’ll notice something. What Mercedes calls a “multi-clutch” transmission isn’t the same as a “dual-clutch” unit. BMW’s M-DCT transmission is two robotically shifted manual transmissions inside the same casing. One does the odd gears, the other handles the even gears. The Mercedes unit is a variant of their regular 7-speed slushbox with a wet clutch replacing the torque converter. The MCT acronym refers to the multiple clutches and bands used in the planetary gearsets.

I haven’t been a huge fan of this transmission since it launched, because in some ways the MCT combines the “slow” shifts of an automatic and unrefined feel of clutches in one unit. Thankfully the 2013 software has made the transmission much more liveable but the way the transmission shifts is an issue for me. My complaint is simply software, Mercedes chose to not allow the car to “queue” shifts. So two pulls on the steering wheel paddle does not take you down/up two gears. You have to wait until the transmission shifts before commanding the next gear. Holding the “down” paddle will get the transmission to scoot to the lowest gear possible (except for first), but going down 5 gears takes an eternity compared to the BMW M-DCT. When the high-rev fun is over, you’ll find there is no command for going “up” to the highest gear possible. Mercedes has improved the speeds of the shifts which now come in around 170ms in “Comfort” and 100ms in “Manual” with Sport and Sport+ slotting in-between those times but the 20-80ms shifts of the BMW/Getrag DCT are lightning fast in comparison.

2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Exterior, Brakes, Wheel, Caliper, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes


When you get the CLS on the road, complaints about the MCT fade thanks to a positively devilish V8 burble that is 100% authentic rather than computer generated like in recent BMWs. The steering comparison is somewhat similar, with the CLS feeling light, but more accurate and transmitting more feel than the M6. The Audi on the other hand has that Quattro system to interfere with steering feel, something I notice many reviews fail to notice. I’m very torn about AWD in a high performance car. AWD’s ability to put power down more effectively is usually worth the steering feel penalty as long as it doesn’t change the car’s neutral handling characteristics. Next year you will be able to have this debate as 2014 brings standard 4MATIC to the CLS AMG. At 150lbs, 4MATIC adds less weight than Quattro and will have a nearly 70% rear bias. If however RWD shenanigans are more important than grip, snag a 2013 while you can/

When it comes to driving dynamics this becomes a two-way fight between the BMW and the Mercedes. Aside from the fact that the RS7 isn’t officially out yet so few have driven it, we have to keep Audi’s platform designs in mind. The A6/A7 platform was designed with FWD base models in mind and that cause some inherent compromises most namely the weight balance. Although Audi has not officially said, I doubt the RS7 has improved much upon the S7′s 54.5/45.5 percent weight distribution. I recently had the opportunity to drive the S6 and a number of BMW and Mercedes models on Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and the impact that Audi’s engine layout has on handling is obvious on a track. The S6 felt nose heavy and less willing to change direction than the other Germans. Some of that has to do with the AWD system but more has to do with where the weight is located. (And remember, Porsche wouldn’t lend us a Panamera which means it looses by default.) Weight balance is important with performance cars because big engines usually equal a heavy nose. This is the case with the 6-Series Gran Coupe in which the 640i model is a near perfect 50/50 but the M6 version bumps the numbers to 52.3/47.7 % and in the CLS as well with the CLS63 having a 52/48% distribution. You might think “there’s little difference between the S7 and CLS in distribution” which is true, but the difference combined with tire choices and suspension dynamics made the S6/S7 feel decidedly front heavy in comparison.

2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Exterior, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Our tester had the performance package suspension which turns the CLS63 into the best handling and the best feeling four door coupé. With precise steering, tenacious grip and excellent feel, the CLS is quite simply a willing dance partner. The M6 on the other hand comes off as a little artificial at times and a little less connected the rest of the time. That being said, I prefer the ride in the M6 because it’s not as punishing as the CLS63 with the stiffer springs. If you don’t get that $7,300 performance package, then the softer CLS63 gives a little away in performance to the M6 Gran Coupé, but has a ride more fitting of a Mercedes in my opinion. The performance package is without a doubt breathtaking, but in my mind it is at odds with the “mission” of a Mercedes-Benz.

While we’re talking options, if you plan on exercising your CLS63 on a regular basis, the $12,625 carbon ceramic brakes are a must. The stock brakes do a fine job keeping up under normal circumstances, but with this much power and 4,300lbs it is possible to overreach the ability of the stock stoppers. Also, the $2,030 limited slip differential is an absolute must have if you’re serious about applying this much power from a stop. That jacks up the price of the CLS63 to $127,247. If that price shocks you, just stick with the CLS550 since the RS7 and M6 are more expensive.

2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

The CLS63 that Mercedes lent us is a serious performance machine, but it’s more than that, it’s the first AMG product I have driven lately that’s a better performance machine than BMW’s M line. I have long preferred AMGs to Ms because they were slightly softer, slightly more luxurious and easier to live with on a daily basis, but the CLS63 isn’t that Mercedes. While the 2014 AWD model might tame the beast, this 2013 model hustles with the M6 coupé, handles with greater precision than an M5 and the sense of urgency that 590lb-ft of torque bring to the party must be experienced to be believed. Is this the new Mercedes?


Hit it or Quit It?

Hit it

  • Endless torque.
  • Did I mention the torque? Yea, it’s that good.
  • Impeccable road manners and the last stand against numb steering.

Quit it

  • Mercedes needs to snag someone’s dual-clutch transmission or swallow their pride and buy ZF’s 8-speed.
  • COMAND needs to be replaced, stat.


Mercedes-Benz provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.0 Seconds

0-60: 4.1 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 12 Seconds @ 123 MPH

Average Observed Fuel Economy over 740 miles: 19MPG


M157 Engine M157 Engine M157 Engine 2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Engine 2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Engine, 5.5L twin-turbo V8, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Exterior, Brakes, Wheel, Caliper, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Exterior-001 2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Exterior-002 2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Exterior-003 2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Exterior-004 2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Exterior-005 2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Exterior-006 2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Exterior-008 2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Exterior-009 2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Exterior, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Exterior-012 2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Exterior-011 2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Exterior-014 2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Instrument Cluster 2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Exterior-015 2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Instrument Cluster-001 2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Instrument Cluster-002 2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Interior 2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Instrument Cluster-003 2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Interior-002 2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Interior-001 2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Interior-003 2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Interior-005 2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Interior-006 2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Interior-007 2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Interior-008 2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Interior-010 2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Interior-011 2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Interior-012 2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Mercedes COMAND 2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Mercedes COMAND-001 2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Mercedes COMAND-005 2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Mercedes COMAND-004 2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Mercedes COMAND-003 2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Mercedes COMAND-002 ]]> 45
Review: 2012 Mercedes CLS 550 Sun, 18 Dec 2011 12:54:02 +0000

I appreciate the novelty of a new design as much as the next guy, but have never understood the four-door-coupé. I mean, aren’t these terms mutually exclusive? A coupé can’t have four doors and a car with four doors can’t be a coupé? Mercedes started this conundrum with the CLS back in 2004, and then Volkswagen decided to jump on the bandwagon to bolster Passat sales with the CC in 2008. It was only a matter of time before VAG decided to compete with the CLS head on with the A7. After all, Audi has had model envy for years, and if they are to stay on track with world domination, they need to attack the mainline Germans at every body style. Not one to rest on laurels, Mercedes has redesigned the CLS for 2011. Michael Karesh wrangled an A7 out of Audi back in July, and Mercedes let me take theirs for a week. Let’s see if the CLS has what it takes to reign supreme in this extremely small niche.

The new CLS, like the outgoing model is essentially a Mercedes E-Class styling exercise. From the outside, the new CLS is larger than its predecessor by an inch in almost every dimension. Mercedes’ new love of angles mixed with curves is an attractive blend of Bentley, Jaguar XJ and “a whole lot” of old CLS. When the old CLS was released back in 2004, I thought to myself “it looks like it was laid,” and I wasn’t thinking about eggs. The new Merc’s sheet metal strikes an aggressive pose from almost any angle but the rear end still looks a bit pinched-off. On the bright side, the all-LED headlamps look like they could pierce your soul; and that’s what I want in a German car. The Audi A7 on the other hand is almost boring in comparison. Sure, the A7 apes the R8’s haunches, but the front is decidedly pedestrian A3/A4/A5/A6/A8/A-insert-your-number-here.

Flamers, get your torches ready! Let’s dive into the interior. “Got headroom?” No, headroom in the rear is far from impressive, but who cares? This is a coupé after all, so the rear seats have little impact on my impression of the car. Please note that the primary mission of the four-door coupé is not to carry four in comfort, it is to carry four “when required”. As a result, both the A7 and CLS “suffer” from limited headroom in the back, but what are those seats really for? Not the kids. No, the seats are for business lunches where you jam someone in the back for a 5-minute trip to Il Forniao and wow them with your car’s acceleration. The CLS accomplishes this task with ease, the A7 however feels flustered. More on that in a bit.

Despite pricing the CLS above the E, the majority of the interior bits and pieces are pinched from the E rather than the more expensive S, including the E’s fairly small COMMAND screen and controls. Also lifted from the E are the steering wheel, seat controls and window switches. Thankfully Mercedes borrowed only the high-rent parts for use in the CLS. The snazzy switchgear conspires with the stitched dashboard to make the CLS interior a considerable improvement over the E’s haphazard fit and finish. The A7 on the other hand seems to borrow more heavily from the A8 than the A6 with an interior that is top-notch, decidedly more modern and perhaps even less German than the Mercedes..

About that flustered A7, here’s the reason: Audi may have decided to compete with the CLS head-on in terms of interior and exterior design, but (in the American market at least) the engine specs tilt the table heavily in Mercedes’ favor. This is because under the hood of the CLS550 beats the same all-new 4.6L twin-turbo V8 as the CL550 we reviewed back in September. The new M278 engine uses lightweight aluminum construction, direct-injection, variable valve timing and twin intercooled turbochargers (delivering up to 12.9psi of boost) to paradoxically increase horsepower by 5% to 402 HP, torque by 14% to 443 lb-ft while reducing fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by some 20%. Not a bad trade statistically.  The A7 on the other hand has yet to be blessed with the long rumored VAG turbo V8, making the only model currently available in the USA the 3.0TFSI trim which uses a 3.0L 90-degree V6 mated to a supercharger to yield an impressive (yet paling in comparison) 310 HP and 325 lb-ft.  When you take into account the A7 Quattro’s heavier curb weight of 4,210lbs vs 4,158lbs for the RWD CLS, you would be right in thinking this big Benz is a rocket ship. (When equipped with 4Matic AWD, as was our tester, the weight increases to a not-too-crazy 4,268lbs.)

While the Audi A7 uses the latest ZF 8-speed transmission, Mercedes has stuck to their tried-and-true in house designed 7-speed automatic. We can be thankful of two things in regards to the 7-speed: it hunts far less than the ZF 8-speed unit, and Mercedes thankfully used a torque converter instead of a clutch ala some recent AMG products. If you opt for one of the AMG wheel packages Mercedes ($760 or $1,260) Mercedes will throw in a manual shift mode for your steering wheel paddles. Since the A7 comes only in Quattro guise on our shores, we requested the CLS in 4Matic to get the comparison as even as possible. Out on the drag strip the A7’s 5.4 second 0-60 time proved optimistic with the car actually yielding 5.5-5.6 second times. On paper this appears to compete well with the CLS550, however, our 4Matic tester delivered 4.3 second runs to 60 back-to-back with heat soak only knocking the times down to a maximum of 4.5 with repeated runs. We were unable to test the RWD CLS550’s 0-60 time ,but I don’t expect it to be much higher for most drivers despite the reduced weight and loss; with this much power, traction is your enemy. I should point out that 4.3 seconds is faster than a decent number of Mercedes’ late model AMG products. Speaking of AMG, because the CLS63 AMG is RWD only, I was unable to get much lower than 4.2 seconds during a brief flirt with a dealer provided vehicle. With Audi expected to release a turbo charged V8 S7 at some point, stay tuned for a rematch.
Coupés are supposed to be all about spirited driving on the windy roads of California’s central coast. This is where the differences in design between the A7 and CLS become more apparent. The A7, much like the A6 on which it is based, may now have a rear-biased Quattro system, but design is still front heavy. The combination of a heavy nose and a two-foot larger turning-circle make the A7 a chore to steer on the tight and questionably-cambered corners of Highway 1. The CLS on the other hand may deliver less road feel and a more compliant ride, but the tendency to “plow” less frequently leads to a decidedly reduced pucker-factor on roads where “plowing”  is  followed by a 400ft plunge into the Pacific ocean. How much does this really matter? Not much for 99% of drivers honestly. While the 1% may rave over the CLS’ road manners, the other 99% will probably find the CLS’s air suspension seals the deal.

Dogs may be man’s best friend, but I’d take a snazzy infotainment system any day, so would many luxury shoppers by all accounts. This is where the sharp dressed, quick off the line CLS loses to the Audi in a big way. Sure, the CLS550 has DistronicPlus cruise control, lane departure warning and a navigation system. The problem is COMMAND. It’s old, it’s slow, the screen is small and the graphics haven’t been updated in some time. It is the first generation Rio MP3 player to Apple’s iPod Touch. Audi on the other hand has stuffed the A8’s large 8-inch high resolution MMI system into the A7. While I have to say the MMI system is far harder to learn than iDrive, it is still miles ahead of COMMAND. If ease of use is not enough to sway you, it also has the CLS beat on the graphics front. Audi decided that the BMWesque 3D topographic maps weren’t fancy enough and teamed up with Google to put satellite imagery on their maps that is constantly updated via an embedded 3G cellular connection. Also on offer is the ability to use Google’s massive database to search for addresses and points of interest. The system works very well if you are in a 3G coverage area, “eventually” if you are in a 2G area, and not at all if you are out in the middle of nowhere (which is apparently where I live). Fear not however, it is backed up by a traditional hard drive based nav database. While this all sounds good, nobody was able to tell me how much this Google connectivity would cost me monthly and the MMI “finger gesture pad” is about as useful as Lexus’ mouse doohickey. Read: just give me some buttons.

Cargo capacity and rear seat accommodations are usually not a huge deal for two-door coupé shoppers, but the four-door buyer may want to take a quartet golfing someday. The CLS delivers a respectable 15.3 cu ft which can easily accommodate clubs for four. The A7, as a hatchback, was made with practicality in mind and offers 17.7cu ft with the cargo cover in place, 24 without, and thanks to standard folding rear seats and the hatchback design, it is possible to stuff a large BBQ from Home Depot in the trunk. (I didn’t say it would close however) The CLS’s rear thrones also fold (a $440 option), but the cargo “hole” created by their contortion is fairly small. Rear passenger room is more of a mixed bag than the trunk. Both the A7 and CLS deliver 36 inches of headroom out back but suffer from rear seats that are a hair more reclined than you would find in a sedan (this helps it seem bigger.) While the A7 does provide 2-inches more rear leg room, because of the head room is no larger than the CLS, it didn’t seem to help “normally-proportioned” tall people fit. If however your passengers are all-legs, the A7 is your better buy.

Buyers of $80,000 luxury cars still seem to care about fuel economy, so let’s talk numbers. My daily commute is 53 miles one-way and involves 30% rural mountain driving, 40% freeway at an average of 75MPH, 30% city streets and a 2,200ft mountain pass. The CLS550 4Matic over 641 miles averaged 22.2 on my daily commute and saw around 26MPG on a 40 mile trip on a level highway at the speed limit. The A7 in comparison averaged 26.3 MPG over 860 miles and 33MPG on that same level-highway trip. While the CLS doesn’t deliver the frugality of the A7, I can forgive it because of the extra hundred ponies under the hood.

Our CLS550 wore a base price of $71,300, however as ours was loaded with everything from 4Matic to LED headlamps, our tester’s out-the-door price was $82,765. A comparably equipped E550 sedan would cost $73,265 so the increase in style costs CLS shoppers about $9,500. The Audi A7 in comparison starts at $59,250 but lacks the standard equipment the base CLS posesses. Comparably equipped to our CLS tester, an A7 would have rung in at $78,605 or only about $4,000 cheaper. (As Michael Karesh pointed out, the A7’s fashion penalty over the A6 is $8,000.) Unless you are shopping for the value (at which point you’d have decided to just buy a regular sedan) the E550’s $4,000 premium over the A7 and ho-hum infotainment system seem a small price to pay for the CLS550’s performance.

You know the phrase: bigger is better, faster is better. Always. But is it? I’m the kind of shopper that a company like Mercedes loves: I option the car up to the gills when I buy, and I always get the fastest version available. Until now. With the CLS550’s twin-turbo monster under the hood, I do believe Mercedes has outdone themselves and in the process made their own AMG brand less relevant. The CLS is only a hair slower, and when shod with similar rubber handles almost as well as the AMG model for considerably less cash. Is the AMG faster? Yes. Nicer? Yes, but, is it enough to justify the premium? That’s a tough sell for me. On the other hand, the CLS550 is without a doubt the king of the four-door coupé market.

Mercedes provided the vehicle for our review, insurance and one tank of gas.

Statistics as tested

0-60: 4.32 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 12.7 Seconds @ 113 MPH

Fuel Economy: over 641 miles, 22.2MPG

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What’s Wrong With This Picture: Five Door Coupe Edition Wed, 12 Oct 2011 18:28:43 +0000 Ever since Mercedes lured its competitors into the “four door coupe” segment created by its 2004 CLS, we’ve been waiting for the next fad segment to mangle the definition of the word “coupe” beyond recognition. And here it is: a forthcoming “five-door coupe” that is essentially a wagon version of the CLS. This near-production mule looks remarkably like the concept version, in other words, fantastic. On the other hand, the idea of buying a more-practical version of a less-practical version of an E-Class still doesn’t compute… but then you can’t underestimate the power of fads in the luxury car game. Stand by for competing models from Audi and BMW, not to mention the inevitable six, seven, and eight-door coupes. [via AM unds S]

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When Is A Coupe Not A Coupe? Tue, 09 Nov 2010 16:25:38 +0000

Thought the idea of a four-door coupe was confusing? How about a five-door coupe? Or, is that a four-door shooting break? While the debate rages on, Mercedes has announced that it will produce a wagon version of its CLS four-door coupe, because, as the video above states

Mercedes is committed to the development of the coupe.

To develop the coupe you must destroy the coupe… or at least the significance of the word “coupe.” By that measure, Mercedes has done quite nicely with this car, and it doesn’t look half bad either. We’re just starting to get a little worried about where all this coupe “development” is going to end up.

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What’s Wrong With This Picture: Four-Doors Recouped Edition Wed, 18 Aug 2010 14:12:43 +0000

With the debut of Audi’s A7 Sportback, and a BMW four-door GranCoupe coming in 2012, it’s clear that the four-door coupe segment is here to stay. At least in Europe. This year Mercedes is coming back into the segment swinging, with an updated CLS shown here in the first leaked official images [via Autocar]. But will the four-door coupes ever make serious headway in the US market? In the last 12 months, the CLS has sold fewer than 2,000 examples in the US market. VW’s Passat CC on the other hand has sold 29,114 units in the last 12 months, more than double the volume of the regular Passat. What does this say about four-door coupes in the US market? Probably that their sales depend heavily on the appeal of their sedan versions: Mercedes sedans have become handsome enough to make the CLS look overstyled, while the CC offers much-needed visual flair to the otherwise-anodyne Passat. But will the segment grow as BMW and Audi wade in?

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2012 Mercedes CLS: Don’t You Forget About Me Tue, 27 Jul 2010 17:38:22 +0000

With Audi’s A7 four-door coupe making waves at its release yesterday, the segment-defining Mercedes CLS just had to remind the world that its successor is on the way. Accordingly, these photos of the 2012 CLS have hit Autoexpress, granting the internet its first look at the redesigned not-quite-coupe. And though there’s definitely some Audi-inspired headlight gizmology going on with the new CLS, the overall design doesn’t seem to pop quite as dramatically as the A7. Perhaps it’s because the E-Class is already a quite handsome sedan (especially by recent M-B standards), or maybe Mercedes is saving the visual drama for a planned five-door coupe-wagon version. Either way, it’s difficult to see the CLS dominating the segment it invented going forward.

It's no A7... (courtesy: Autoexpress) Picture 330 Picture 331 Picture 332 ]]> 21
What’s Wrong With This Picture: Niché Edition Mon, 04 Jan 2010 19:03:01 +0000 2008 Concept indicates the look of a CLS Shooting Brake

Having a hard time understanding the stream of inexplicable niche products coming out of the German automakers recently? Mercedes isn’t about to make things any easier. According to the latest print edition of Auto Motor und Sport, Mercedes has fallen so far down the segment-busting rabbit hole, it’s planning a “Shooting Brake” wagon version of its already-confusing four-door coupe, the CLS. Intended, of course, to compete with the BMW 5GT and Audi A7. Look for a concept inspired by this 2008 ConceptFascination study to debut at this fall’s Paris Auto Show. Then expect Audi and BMW’s designers to drop even more acid and talk their bosses into producing a landaulet-roofed, seven-door, MPV-coupe. You know, just to see if Mercedes makes one too.

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