Mercedes CLS-Class saloon (2005-2010)
"The striking looks of the Mercedes-Benz CLS are just one part of this four-door saloon's appeal. It's comfortable and good to drive too."
- Unique coupé-like styling
- Four-door practicality
- Very comfortable on any type of road
- Poor headroom, particularly in the rear
- You pay a big premium for that styling
- Cabin starting to look dated now
The Mercedes-Benz CLS was a revelation when it first appeared - there was nothing else like it on the market. Its ‘four-door coupe’ concept has been copied since - most notably by VW with the Passat CC – yet the CLS is no less striking now. But while fans of the car love the way it combines genuine coupe looks with four-door saloon practicality and space, bigger families will find the four-seat interior too small for their needs. Ultimately though, nobody can deny that the CLS is anything other than a very comfortable and prestigious cruiser, and the engine range offers excellent performance.
MPG, running costs & CO2
The three petrol models should only be considered if running costs aren’t an issue - the high-performance CLS 63 AMG, for example, can easily dip into single-figure economy when driven quickly. However, the diesel CLS 350 CDI manages 37.2mpg. Insurance costs are high, as is main dealer servicing.
Engines, drive & performance
The CLS has a coupe look about it, but it doesn’t pretend to be a sports car. It’s very good to drive, but at its heart, this is a big, comfortable cruiser. An excellent driving position and the impressive power of all the engines offer effortless long-distance comfort, which is helped by a standard automatic gearbox. The driving position is set lower than the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, which gives the CLS a sportier feel. It works, but this, combined with a long bonnet, can make parking and positioning the car tricky. Shallow windows limit all-round visibility, too. The 3.0-litre diesel-powered CLS 350 CDI is the most popular model, and it’s obvious why. It has none of the rattle you normally associate with diesels and ample amounts of pulling power, so it feels very smooth and quick indeed.
Interior & comfort
More expensive models have a clever air-suspension system, but even the entry-level CLS 350 CDI with its regular suspension glides over the road like a true luxury car. Noise of all kinds is kept well out of the cabin, so even though you sit close to the road on massive wheels and tyres, there’s little road rumble to speak of, nor wind noise. The dashboard arrangement is fussy and button-heavy compared to newer Mercedes-Benz models, but it’s intuitive enough. The only real compromise is with headroom. Taller drivers will fit, but will feel the roof and windscreen pillars are a little close, and rear passengers might have to crane their necks a little.
Practicality & boot space
The 505-litre boot is big enough to swallow a pair of golf bags, but the boot floor is shallow. A console separates the two rear seats, and this has a pair of cubbyholes featuring sliding covers. The seat map pockets are quite big, as is the glove compartment and the box between the front seats - a foot-operated parking brake leaves more space on the centre console.
Reliability & safety
Quality shouldn’t be an issue - the previous-generation E-Class on which the CLS is based placed 7th out of 100 for build quality in the 2010 Driver Power survey. Anecdotally the CLS has suffered some electrical niggles, but quality in the cabin is first rate. Mercedes-Benz is a world leader in safety too, and the CLS offers an impressive collection of airbags and anti-whiplash head restraints. It also gets a Pre-Safe system, which pre-locks the seatbelts in place if the car detects an imminent crash.
Price, value for money & options
Objectively the CLS isn’t great value because it’s less practical but much pricier than the E-Class it’s based on. Subjectively, however, the CLS is more prestigious and unique, and it really feels like a step up in class. It’s loaded with equipment as well - you won’t want for anything.