KBB Editors' Overview
By KBB.com Editors
To most consumers, touting its four-door masterpiece as a "coupe" makes little sense, but one cannot argue with the sheer beauty that is the 2008 Mercedes-Benz CLS. With its stunningly sleek profile and lavish four-passenger interior, the CLS is clearly not your run-of-the-mill luxury sedan; it's a car equally adept at satisfying both the driver's senses and ego. The CLS' head-turning good looks are backed by two engine choices, including a supercharged AMG creation capable of generating an eye-popping 507 horsepower. For the well-to-do who seek a vehicle as dynamic as it is expensive, the Mercedes-Benz CLS ranks among a select few that can truly be called "exclusive."
You'll Like This Car If...
If you're a fan of the brand but find the three-pointed emblem has become somewhat commonplace in your neighborhood, the 2008 Mercedes-Benz CLS will let you drive a mostly practical Mercedes-Benz sedan while still making a fashion statement.
You May Not Like This Car If...
Compared with its close sibling the E550, the CLS-Class' significant price premium doesn't buy much more than unique styling and greatly reduced rear-seat accommodations.
What's Significant About This Car?
The CLS550 and CLS63 AMG both receive standard SIRIUS Satellite Radio and 18-inch seven-spoke wheels.
Whether it's the car's lower stance, smaller windows or more defined cockpit, the 2008 Mercedes-Benz CLS feels sportier than the E-Class on which it is based even before you start the engine. Once called upon, the 5.5-liter V8 provides plenty of silky power throughout its range and the sophisticated seven-speed transmission is just as smooth. Not surprisingly, the CLS550 is both powerful and comfortable on the open highway. And, when a winding mountain road is part of the journey, the adjustable air suspension lets you dial in just enough stiffness to encourage a little coupe-like driving.
While most people will be more than happy with the 5.5-liter V8's performance, those who must have the biggest and the best will no doubt steer straight to the supercharged 6.3-liter V8. Built by AMG, the block is composed of a high-strength silicon-aluminum composite material. The engine features dual overhead camshafts with variable valve timing, low-friction cylinder walls, bucket tappets (as opposed to rocker arms) and an impressive 11:1 compression ratio. Fast, smooth and efficient, it just doesn't get much better than this.
382 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
391 lb.-ft. of torque @ 2800-4800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 14/21
6.3-liter V8 Supercharged
507 horsepower @ 6800 rpm
465 lb.-ft. of torque @ 5200 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 12/18
Only when you take your seat inside the CLS do you begin to get a handle on the car's character. Large expanses of unique matte burl walnut trim and impeccable dash stitching combine with sculpted perforated seats to convey a purpose that is at once both elegant and spirited. A long center console runs from front to back, dividing the cabin in two and giving both backseat passengers places to call their own, while four-zone climate control helps to ensure everyone remains comfortable.
Nothing about the 2008 Mercedes-Benz CLS is as distinctive as its unfamiliar shape. The arcing roofline descends almost seamlessly into the C-pillar and, subsequently, the rear decklid, imparting the CLS with a unique fastback profile. To further rationalize the coupe allusions, the CLS also features the big-star grille that's normally reserved for the company's two-door vehicles. Sporty 18-inch wheels and a sharp character line help balance what might otherwise be a soft exterior, as do prominent dual exhaust outlets. Exterior details worth noting include a power open/close trunk, automatic dimming driver's-side mirror and an automatic lamp substitution system that compensates for the loss of an important light by illuminating an adjacent bulb.
Notable Standard Equipment
In addition to the 5.5-liter V8 and seven-speed automatic transmission, the CLS550 features an adjustable air suspension, 10-way adjustable seats, glass sunroof, four-zone climate control, LCD control center and Tele-Aid, along with power windows and all the other equipment you might expect of a sedan costing around $70,000. Standard safety equipment includes electronic stability protection, an advanced electro-hydraulic braking system and an array of airbags, including front, front-side, rear-side and side-curtain. The CLS63 AMG adds a potent supercharged engine, an AMG-engineered suspension and a number of exterior upgrades unique to the AMG brand.
Notable Optional Equipment
Features not included in the base sticker price include active HID headlamps, adaptive radar cruise control, front/rear park assist, heated and ventilated front seats, air support front seats, harman/kardon digital surround-sound system, six-disc CD changer, hands-free voice control system, Keyless Go unlock and start and a rear-window sunshade.
With a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting around $68,000, the CLS550 commands a premium of several thousand dollars over the E550 with which it has so much in common. Its unique design and in-between price point leave few direct competitors, but Mercedes counts among the competition two proper coupes: The Jaguar XK8 and BMW 650i. The ultra-high-performance CLS63 AMG stickers for about $94,000 and, when fully loaded, tops out around $110,000. As with most Mercedes-Benz high-end vehicles, the CLS550 and CLS63 AMG are expected to hold high long-term residual values, on par with similarly-priced sedans from BMW, Lexus and Audi.