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 newly improved 2009 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 2009 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 New for 2009
The CLS receives a slight freshening for 2009, with a new grille and rear exhaust outlets, a sporty three-spoke steering wheel and integrated side mirror turn signals. There is also a new central display operating the CD stacker and Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity, providing voice control for the audio and phone.
Whether it's the car's lower stance, smaller windows or more defined cockpit, the 2009 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.
Adaptive Cruise Control
Mercedes' Distronic cruise control uses radar to maintain a driver-variable distance from the car ahead.
Lets you open a locked door and start the car without ever having to remove the SmartKey from your pocket or purse.
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 2009 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.
Under the Hood
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
With a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting around $72,000, 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 $99,000 and, when fully loaded, exceeds $118,000. 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.