Mercedes CLS 500 Review, wintonsworld – 2005

30 Mar 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Mercedes CLS 500 Review, wintonsworld – 2005
Mercedes CLS 500

Flash, Four-Door #147;Coupe#148; May Have Wider Appeal

Will It Attract Mercedes#146; Traditional Customers? Probably Not

When Is A Coupe Not A Coupe? When It Has 4 Doors

Rating: **** out of 5

Farnham, Surrey

S orry for the lack of scientific backing for this claim, but buyers of Mercedes cars are, I believe, the sort of people who crave anonymity and privacy.

Unlike BMW or Jaguar owners, they don#146;t buy cars to make a statement or to flaunt their wealth. They don#146;t want drivers#146; cars. They want to get from A to B in a quality car, quietly, with no fuss.

If this is true, you have to wonder how they will react to the new Mercedes CLS.

This is no shrinking violet of a car. It is huge. Its low, swoopy, streamlined, styling hits you right between the eyes. This is no ordinary Mercedes which will be bought by people with money who hate cars. This car doesn#146;t say Belgian grocer or German dentist.

This is a rocker#146;s car. Minor celebrities will queue up to buy it. Mercedes calls it a 4-door coupe, and it is not alone among manufacturers insisting on this oxymoron of a description. Yes, it looks sleek and fast. But no, it ain#146;t a coupe.

Coupes have 2 doors. The car is supposed to offer the style and presence of a luxury tourer. Only nit-pickers would say Mercedes hasn#146;t succeeded.

As prices start at £43,115 (62,000 euros), German taxi drivers will also be priced out of the market.

Speed Limiter

The car is loaded with high technology gizmos. Some of them take a bit of getting used to. When I first drove the car, it refused to go faster than 6 mph (10 km/h).

I had inadvertently nudged the speed limiter stalk. It took a while to figure out how to disable this.

When I managed to disable the speed limiter, the car was a fabulous goer. The CLS 500 has a 5.0 litre V8 engine punching out 306 bhp through a 7-speed automatic gearbox. This costs £52,115 (75,000 euros) before adding extras. I also drove the #147;entry#148; level CLS 350, which has a 3.5 litre V6 272 bhp engine, with the 7-speed automatic with manual override. Mercedes says the new 7-speed auto box gives better acceleration and lower fuel consumption.

The extra gears mean that the car#146;s computer can pick the best gear for most effective acceleration or economy. A diesel version is on the drawing board.

Ridiculously Fast

There is also a CLS 55 AMG, powered by a supercharged 5.5 litre 476 bhp V8 which was ridiculously fast. Why bother with a faster version of a car #150; the 500 – that reaches 62 mph (100 km/h) in 6.1 seconds? The AMG blasts to 62 mph in 4.7 seconds, and produces so much power it is too much for the new 7-speed gearbox.

It has to make do with an old five-speeder. So you spend almost £20,000 (30,000 euros) more, get a bit of extra power that you can#146;t use without loosing your license, and an inferior gearbox?

If traditional Mercedes buyers aren#146;t put off by the styling, there some other issues they must get used to. Mercedes used to be the byword for over-engineering and high quality. Longevity and reliability is no longer a given, I#146;m afraid.

Least Reliable In The U.S.

The annual reliability survey in the U.S. magazine Consumer Reports ranked the E-class as the least reliable car in 2004. The J.D.Power reliability study ranked the E-class joint 28th with Mitsubishi, with Mercedes customers reporting twice as many problems as Toyota#146;s luxury Lexus division, mainly because of dodgy electronics. In J.D.Power#146;s first survey in 1990, Mercedes was ranked No 1.

Mercedes claims to have sorted out the quality problem.

Mercedes also used to be a copper-bottomed money making machine. That is no longer true. In 2004 Mercedes suffered a stunning deterioration in profitability. Profit margins fell from the normal 5.5 to 6 per cent in the first half of 2004 to 2.5 per cent in the 3rd quarter and 0.2 per cent in the 4th quarter.

Some expect that the three-pointed star will sink into the red in the first quarter of 2005, with losses running as high as $500 million.

Mercedes has been hammered by huge warranty costs from its unreliable E class, not to mention the impact of the weakening dollar in its biggest market, the U.S. The CLS is based on much of the E class engineering. But Mercedes says all these problems are a thing of the past.

The CLS fits into the model range above the E class and under the top-of-the-range S class, which is due for renewal in the autumn.

As for the new CLS, if you can get by the styling, the car itself is remarkable. The amount of technology to cosset and comfort you is amazing. Adaptive airbags change the way the restraint force they deploy depending on the severity of the accident.

Keyless ignition means the car detects you are entitled to drive and will unlock doors and ready the ignition system for the starter button.

Bi-xenon Active Light System illuminates around corners.

Four zone climate control allows passengers to select the temperature they want.

All seats, including the rear ones, are adjustable electrically.

The driver and front passenger seat extend and grip to hold you under hard cornering. The seats will massage your lower back too.

Radar cruise control holds you away from the car in front

The cabin quality is top class, with the switches housed in a sweeping dashboard. The wood trim on the AMG version though looked decidedly Daewoo. The low roof line doesn#146;t seem to impact head room, although in the back the roof will be a factor if you are over 6 feet tall. Leather seats are standard.

The boot was long and wide, but on the shallow side. The standard air-suspension offers 3 settings. Like the manual override on the automatic gearbox, here#146;s is a switch which won#146;t be worn away by overuse. Handling is just fine, unless you drive like a hooligan.

The paintwork is based on a new technique called nanotechnology which is apparently three times as tough as ordinary paint, and 40% shinier.

Repent At Leisure

Every buyer of a CLS can choose to collect their car from the factory at Sindelfingen, Germany. This is at no extra cost, says Mercedes. Outbound flights, overnight accommodation, the factory visit and return travel are all included in the standard delivery charge.

What a neat idea.

I wonder how many people will buy the car, travel to Germany to get it, and spend a long, twitchy journey back to Britain or wherever, feeling that they are standing out like a sore thumb, and wondering if they did the right thing.

Neil Winton #150; March 20, 2005

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