Car Reviews: Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class CLS 350 – The AA

13 May 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Car Reviews: Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class CLS 350 – The AA
Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class

Car safety


Bold yet graceful exterior Far more sporting that E-Class AMG variant is the proverbial rocket ship on the road Cabin ambience possesses a bespoke-like feel


CLS boasts a sizeable premium over equivalent E-Class Modest rear headroom precludes use as a full, adult four-seater 350 variant could be better equipped for the money Long options list could easily trick you into spending more than you want

For a company that has sought to have a car in every niche, there’s no denying the fact that Mercedes’ products are everywhere. From posh compact hatchbacks to luxurious limousines, there really is a car to suit every taste. Factor in what Mercedes calls a four-door coupe and, with the CLS, another niche is filled.

The car market is full of odd machines that don’t quite fit the conventional, established classes. Mercedes’ CLS is one of those cars. It may be loosely based on a traditional executive motor but its style and interior ambience couldn’t be further from the accepted norm.

If Mercedes’ positioning of the CLS as a ‘four-door coupe’ has you sniggering, don’t worry you’re not alone. A coupe is supposed to have only two doors but the CLS has double that and a saloon-like boot. What the big Merc does have in common with a coupe is its distinctive sloping roof.

And it’s this feature, along with an interior that gives hints at a coachbuilt feel, that sets it apart from other luxo barges.

But why go to all the trouble to make a car pretend to be something it’s not? The simple answer is exclusivity. You’re likely to see many more E-Classes running around than CLS’, which if you’re a potential buyer is good news.

And when CLS prices are significantly higher than that of a comparable E-Class, you expect more for your money, too.

Luckily the CLS doesn’t disappoint. Standard equipment levels are relatively high – for something with a three-pointed star badge. Kit levels are linked to engine size, making the CLS 55 AMG the top model.

The more affordable CLS 500 is the next best and, thanks to a combination of generous amounts of convincing wood trim, leather upholstery and the CLS’ trademark one-piece wood fascia, you really do feel special when inside the car’s sung cabin.

Our verdict on the Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class CLS 350

In a cunning spot of planning, the CLS doesn’t really have any rivals. Executive saloons are just that, saloons, while the CLS boasts a more rakish profile despite possessing a quartet of doors itself. Unlike a comparable E-Class, the CLS delivers a more sporty drive and has a high-class cabin that easily exceeds anything from other makers’ cars.

It won’t be for everyone, but if you want an executive car with character, this Merc could be the one.


The CLS is not a cheap car by any standard, but anyone seeking exclusivity will find this a fair price for something so unusual. Diesel aside, the petrol models use their fair share of fuel and main dealer servicing won’t come cheap. Factor in the many attractive optional extras Mercedes offers and you dealing with serious amounts of money.

The car’s status and scarcity should help residuals, though.

Space and practicality

You don’t buy this car if you have a busy family life or make regular trips to the home improvement store. Like any saloon the CLS’ four-door form can be limiting, although if you treat the rear accommodation as occasional seating because of the modest headroom you won’t be disappointed. Even the space available up front is more snug than spacious, confirming the car’s status as a true four seater.

The upside is a full-length centre console complete with useful storage areas, plus a decent size boot.

Controls and display


Car security

Car safety

There should be no worries in this department as the CLS boasts all the latest kit. Airbags, traction control, stability control are all onboard. Most people will rejoice at the level of protection offered, but keen drivers will rue Mercedes’ decision to make the various systems cut in rather early, thus thwarting any attempt to really exploit the car’s fun side unless you switch everything off completely.

Driver appeal

While comparisons will be drawn with Mercedes’ E-Class, the CLS has been developed to be a more sporty car. The engine range bears this out, especially the mighty supercharged AMG 5.5-litre unit. Acceleration is rapid and brutal in a straight line, and the sound is more akin to that of a TVR. The regular models aren’t slow either. The seven-speed auto gearbox shifts gears smoothly, ride quality is impressive – especially with air suspension – and the big CLS feels nimble even on winding B-roads.

Good news for your wallet; in the real world, the 350 is no less fun than the more costly 500, while the 320 CDI could be the pick of the bunch.

Family car appeal

First car appeal

Quality and image

Mercedes has come in for a serious battering in recent years over a noticeable range-wide drop in quality. The CLS does much to right those wrongs. Cabin materials feel and look expensive, the switchgear operates with a well-oiled efficiency and much work has gone into improving the reliability of the various electrical systems.

Image-wise the CLS cause is boosted thanks to a lack of any genuine rival, its rakish profile and low volume exclusive status.


The CLS is very much a car of two halves. At the front you could be getting into a regular E-Class as cabin access is adequate. The rear of is a different matter thanks to the car’s sloping roof.

The doors don’t open as wide for starters, and headroom is predictably less generous than in a regular saloon. There’s no disguising the fact that tall occupants will feel compromised accessing and exciting the rear of the CLS.

Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)

You get a quality audio system with the CLS, and it delivers a good sound in the snug cabin. Remote controls on the steering wheel are a welcome addition, although the main display and array of buttons take a little getting used to. It’s the same with the sat-nav, which although is fast and responsive when on the move, takes while to learn thanks to its various options and menus.

Rear cabin is snug and a definitely only for two occupants

Colours and trim

As with any luxury car, the CLS looks its best when selected in a glossy metallic exterior colour. Dark reds and silver work especially well, although black adds a menacing look to the already butch-looking AMG variant. Inside, the CLS boasts a one-piece wood-trimmed facia. Its gloss finish and the various wood and chrome accents dotted around the cabin add a welcome high quality feel to the cabin.

A bog standard E-Class this car is not.

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