2014 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class review

28 Oct 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class review
Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class

2013 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class

After spawning no shortage of imitators copying its CLS four-door coupe, Mercedes-Benz was faced with the difficult challenge of reinventing what had become something of an icon.

From BMW to Hyundai, it seems as though every automaker is now on board with the CLS#39; low roofline. That#39;s apparently just fine with the designers in Stuttgart. So successful was the first CLS that Mercedes#39; new entry-level model in the United States, the CLA. looks like a 3/5ths copy of what is arguably the automaker#39;s design flagship.

All-new for 2013, the redesigned CLS brings with it some added swagger and an SLS AMG-inspired front fascia, but its mission in life as a shapely sedan for those not interested in big back seats remains positively in tact.

Underneath, the CLS is simply a Mercedes-Benz E-Class. But CLS buyers are concerned about appearances, so Mercedes-Benz has slapped on the aforementioned squat profile, an upright front fascia and a tail so trim that it looks like it spends a couple of hours a day on the Stairmaster.

Inside, the CLS likewise has its own look, but those exterior proportions have carved into its head room – especially out back. Honest Abe would not approve.

Unlike the E-Class, the CLS can be ordered in just two configurations: CLS550 and CLS63 AMG. The latter is positively bonkers with its optional 577-horsepower S-Model package, but even the mainstream CLS550 is no weakling thanks to 402 ponies delivered to either the rear, or, in the case of our CLS550 4Matic tester, all four wheels.

Befitting its status as a design-driven car, the CLS550 is offered with a wide array of customizations. Clad in Caprito Brown, our particular car was rather modestly optioned up with just 19-inch alloy wheels, folding rear seats, a small spoiler and a Premium 1 package with a rearview camera, ventilated seats an LED head lamps. A number of electronic safety features like radar cruise control and a lane keeping assistance that actually nudges the CLS back onto its intended path are also available.

What#39;s it up against?

So you want some sexy in your sedan? Bypass the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, BMW 5-Series and Audi A6 for the CLS, BMW 6-Series and Audi A7 and you#39;ll net a much prettier shape than those workaday midsizers that also double as taxis in Europe.

What#39;s it look like?

After the knockout CLS arrived nearly a decade ago, we#39;ve gotten rather used to this four-door coupe body style. Today, you can find it on everything from a Hyundai Sonata or Volkswagen CC for under $30,000 to the BMW 6-Series.

As a result, we were somewhat cool to our particular CLS550 despite the attractive brown paint. Its upright front fascia, which is nearly a dead-ringer for that used on the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, seems somewhat incongruous with the shapely roof line. Things fit a little better out back, where the CLS tail lamps appear larger and more rounded, but ultimately more refined, than before

Still, the CLS is absolutely the kind of car that makes you pick a booth close to the window just so you can keep your eyes on it.

And on the inside?

Eschewing the E-Class#39; squared-off dashboard for a more swept look, the CLS is bright, modern and functional inside, especially in the tasteful almond shade of our test car.

A wide swath of burled walnut trim spreads the length of the dashboard, spilling down the center console. Not quite as graceful as the Audi A7, the CLS#39; interior is nonetheless intimate and attractive.

That said, we were a little underwhelmed with both the ergonomics and some of the trim Mercedes selected. Hampered by its chopped roof and tall door sills, the CLS imparts the riding in a bathtub feel that has become increasingly common with the trend toward high belt lines and short side windows. Raising the power-operated front seats higher doesn#39;t alleviate the matter since even short drivers will find their heads tapping the roof eventually.

The two rear seat riders are treated to a center console, but coach class in the CLS is not for those of large stature. Between the low roof and a pair of doors that don#39;t open as wide as you#39;d expect, this second row is best suited to kids or groceries. As is the small trunk, hampered further by its small opening and intrusive hinges.

Aside from the upmarket stitched vinyl on the CLS#39; dashboard, its interior materials didn#39;t feel substantially nicer than the last E-Class we tested. In fact, some of the plastics around the center console – including the climate control knobs – feel surprisingly downmarket. A handful of creaks and rattles emanating from the dashboard raised eyebrows from even otherwise disinterested passengers.

But does it go?

Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class

A stab of the skinny pedal instantly results in a rush of torque accompanied by an exhaust rumble that the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra would struggle to recreate. The CLS vaults forward with alacrity, its seven-speed automatic gearbox firing off shifts faster than a real housewife of Beverly Hills can dig through her credit cards at Neiman-Marcus.

So addictive is accessing the 443 lb-ft. of torque via the CLS#39; throttle that we guzzled through a half a tank of premium in short order. More modest driving matched the EPA-estimated 16/25 mpg (19 mpg combined).

But make no mistake: The CLS550 4Matic is neither a particularly sporty car nor a boulevardier, roles better suited to the CLS63 AMG and the S550, respectively.

Underneath, its air suspension provides a firm ride exacerbated by the low profile tires, but the moves its chassis makes are clearly not tailored to aggressive driving. Though its three-spoke wheel feels good in the driver#39;s hands, the CLS#39; tiller is light and essentially devoid of feel.

Grip from the meaty Pirelli P-Zero tires is as phenomenal as we#39;ve come to expect from these Italian track shoes and the 4Matic system generally gives the CLS a neutral feel into corners.

Combining a stiff ride with a relaxed chassis, makes the CLS a bit confused about its mission in life on the road. Louder-than-expected tire noise (thank those Pirellis) doesn#39;t help things out, either.

Still, the CLS delivers refinement in spades – and it certainly attracts its share of attention. Pull up to a valet and, unless you#39;re in Beverly Hills, you#39;re guaranteed a parking spot out front.

The definition of an automotive fashion statement, the Mercedes-Benz CLS550 should continue to suit its target market quite well indeed.

It#39;s graceful and elegant, but it comes up a bit short in terms of actually being fun to drive.

2013 Mercedes-Benz CLS550 4Matic base price, $74,500. As tested, $81,135.

19-inch wheels, $500; Folding rear seats, $440; Rear spoiler, $400; Premium 1 Package, $4,390; Destination, $905.

Photos by Andrew Ganz.

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