Audi A7 Vs. Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class – Which One Wins The U.S. Sales Race?

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
audi a7 vs mercedes benz cls class which one wins the u s sales race

With a broader product portfolio and extra decades of established premium status in the United States, Mercedes-Benz USA sells a lot more vehicles than Audi USA. Through the first four months of 2015, Mercedes-Benz sales were up 9% to 107,344, excluding Sprinter. Audi, globally favored, was up 12% to 56,925.

But again, the comparisons are difficult to make because the lineups simply don’t, well, line up. We’ve discussed the CLA and A3 before, but even there, Audi is offering different bodystyles under one banner, which Mercedes-Benz does not. The S-Class has a significantly higher base price than the A8. The E-Class is available as a sedan, wagon, coupe, and convertible – the A6 is sedan only. The GL is significantly pricier than the Q7; the Q7 offers more seats than the ML. The C-Class is new; we might as well wait for a new A4 to draw realistic comparisons. The SLK is a hardtop convertible; the TT is either coupe or convertible.

You get the idea. Only in a handful of zones do the two brands offer truly direct rivals. GLA vs. Q3, GLK vs. Q5, and the matter at hand, Mercedes-Benz CLS vs. Audi A7.

The CLS is a swoopier E-Class, in a sense, just as the A7 is the more style-centric A6. The CLS starts at $65,990, offerings more performance at $73,200, and is just plain crazy as a $106,550 CLS 63 AMG S 4Matic. The Audi A7 starts at $68,300, rises to $82,900 as an S7, and begins its RS7 scheme at $108,900. Similar.

They are two German mid-rung offshoots with six, eight, or overwhelming eight-cylinder power. There’s very little to separate the two.

Yet the Audi A7 consistently outsells the Mercedes-Benz CLS.

The margins are slim, but sufficient so as to be noticeable.

Audi USA sold 6,270 A7s in 2011, the A7’s first (abbreviated) year of sales. Mercedes-Benz USA, having already sold 44,389 CLS sedans in the six years before the A7’s launch, achieved a 165% year-over-year sales increase in 2011, but fell 605 sales shy of the Audi despite having an extra three months in which to sell.

The A7 outsold the CLS by 533 units in the Audi’s first full year of 2012. A7 sales then slipped 1% to 8,483 in 2013, still enough to outsell the CLS (down 0.4%) by 451 units in 2013.

Last year, A7 sales dropped 4% to 8,133 units, but the CLS’s 13% decline made an 1,152-unit victory possible for the Audi.

And through the first four months of 2015, the A7 is ahead by a scant 34 units with 1,835 year-to-date sales.

What makes the A7 so capable of staying ahead of the Benz? Both cars have had recent supply constraints that caused U.S. volume to drag: CLS sales were down 61% through the fourth-quarter of 2014; A7 sales are down 36% over the last six months. But even in those strange circumstances, the A7 stays just ahead. The Audi has outsold the Benz in 31 of the 49 months in which the Audi has been available.

Could it be the tailgate?

Sure, the A7 and CLS line up head-to-head in so many ways. But Audi builds the A7 as a hatchback.

Moreover, Audi builds a diesel version of that hatchback.

Yes, America, the diesel hatchback outsells the sedan that they call a coupe. In a manner of speaking.

Of course the diesel isn’t all that common. Only 13% of the A7s, S7s, and RS7s currently listed by’s inventory are fitted with the V6 diesel. But that, in concert with the fact that the A7 offers 60% more cargo capacity, may be all that’s needed.

After all, the A7 is only just barely pipping the CLS on the TTAC sales-o-meter.

Where’s the CLS350d Shooting Brake when you need it?

Timothy Cain is the founder of, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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  • Derekson Derekson on May 15, 2015

    For some reason I always thought the CLS was a larger car than it actually is. I saw one parked next to a Mk VI Jetta recently and it was barely any larger than the Jetta, which was surprising to me. I guess when I see them on the road or in photos they have enough presence that they just look larger than they are?

  • NMGOM NMGOM on May 15, 2015

    Tim, I've had the same problem trying to compare lower end Audi and BMW offerings. It took me a while to see that the A4 and A5 are really closer to what BMW calls the 328i and 335i. The Audi A4 alone is NOT the Audi competitor for the BMW 3-series; and A5 is not a competitor for the 5-series. It's almost as though Audi, unlike Mercedes, did not want head-to-head comparisons to be made, and sought to stake out claims to "within" categories, to distinguish itself with more offerings for customers. Very clever. ===================

  • ToolGuy CXXVIII comments?!?
  • ToolGuy I did truck things with my truck this past week, twenty-odd miles from home (farther than usual). Recall that the interior bed space of my (modified) truck is 98" x 74". On the ride home yesterday the bed carried a 20 foot extension ladder (10 feet long, flagged 14 inches past the rear bumper), two other ladders, a smallish air compressor, a largish shop vac, three large bins, some materials, some scrap, and a slew of tool cases/bags. It was pretty full, is what I'm saying.The range of the Cybertruck would have been just fine. Nothing I carried had any substantial weight to it, in truck terms. The frunk would have been extremely useful (lock the tool cases there, out of the way of the Bed Stuff, away from prying eyes and grasping fingers -- you say I can charge my cordless tools there? bonus). Stainless steel plus no paint is a plus.Apparently the Cybertruck bed will be 78" long (but over 96" with the tailgate folded down) and 60-65" wide. And then Tesla promises "100 cubic feet of exterior, lockable storage — including the under-bed, frunk and sail pillars." Underbed storage requires the bed to be clear of other stuff, but bottom line everything would have fit, especially when we consider the second row of seats (tools and some materials out of the weather).Some days I was hauling mostly air on one leg of the trip. There were several store runs involved, some for 8-foot stock. One day I bummed a ride in a Roush Mustang. Three separate times other drivers tried to run into my truck (stainless steel panels, yes please). The fuel savings would be large enough for me to notice and to care.TL;DR: This truck would work for me, as a truck. Sample size = 1.
  • Art Vandelay Dodge should bring this back. They could sell it as the classic classic classic model
  • Surferjoe Still have a 2013 RDX, naturally aspirated V6, just can't get behind a 4 banger turbo.Also gloriously absent, ESS, lane departure warnings, etc.
  • ToolGuy Is it a genuine Top Hand? Oh, I forgot, I don't care. 🙂