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2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader April 2015

It seems like so-called 4-door coupes have been with us forever, but the 2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class reminds us of how this particular craze got started. It was back in 2006 when the first-generation CLS-Class hit the scene, and its slinky, coupe-like styling quickly inspired a legion of imitators. The CLS is in its second generation now, and it's once again at the forefront of its class. If you need four doors but not the frumpy looks that typically come with them, the CLS is a prime candidate for your hard-earned cash.

As ever, the CLS-Class cuts a striking figure with its smooth nose, muscular haunches and flowing fastback roofline. It also offers a serious dose of attitude, thanks to relatively sporty suspension tuning and a choice of three twin-turbocharged engines, including two fire-breathing V8s. Furthermore, Mercedes has made sure to keep the interior up to date by adding the latest technology features. The CLS may no longer be the only 4-door coupe in town, but it's still the car that sets the tone for this exclusive segment.

What's New for 2015?

The CLS400 joins the fray as the base model, featuring a twin-turbocharged V6 engine. All models get mild styling revisions, standard adaptive LED headlights and revised electronics with a larger 8-inch central display, while the rear-wheel-drive CLS550 boasts a novel 9-speed transmission. Finally, the AMG lineup now consists solely of the 577-horsepower CLS63 AMG S-Model.

What We Like

Gorgeous exterior; sharp handling; plush ride; powerful acceleration; world-class luxury; cutting-edge technology

What We Don't

Limited rear passenger space compared to a conventional sedan; keyless entry/start costs extra

How Much?

$66,915-$107,425

Fuel Economy

The base CLS400 features a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 engine that produces 329 hp and 354 lb-ft of torque.

The CLS550 steps up to a twin-turbocharged 4.7-liter V8 with 402 hp and 443 lb-ft.

The CLS63 AMG S-Model goes nuts with a twin-turbocharged 5.5-liter V8 making 577 hp and 590 lb-ft.

The CLS400 and CLS550 come with either rear- or all-wheel drive (RWD or 4MATIC), while the CLS63 is 4MATIC-only. A 9-speed automatic transmission comes standard on CLS550 models with rear-wheel drive; all other CLS-Class models employ a 7-speed automatic, though the CLS63 gets a special AMG-tuned 7-speed unit called MCT that's designed for enthusiastic driving.

Fuel economy for CLS400 is rated by the Environmental Protection Agency at 20 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway (RWD) or 19 mpg city/26 mpg hwy (4MATIC). The CLS550 drops to 17 mpg city/26 mpg hwy (RWD) or 17 mpg city/24 mpg hwy (4MATIC). The CLS63 brings up the rear at 16 mpg city/22 mpg hwy.

Standard Features & Options

All CLS models offer 4-passenger seating with a full-length center console.

The CLS400 ($66,915) includes such amenities as 18-in alloy wheels, adaptive LED headlights, a sunroof, auto-dimming mirrors, wood interior trim, 14-way heated power front seats with memory, leather upholstery, multicolor ambient lighting, dual-zone automatic climate control, an automatic garage-door opener, a USB audio port, Bluetooth and the COMAND infotainment system with an 8-in central display screen and a knob-based interface.

The CLS550 ($74,125) adds the AIRMATIC adaptive air suspension, an integrated COMAND navigation system, voice controls and an enhanced 14-speaker Harman Kardon audio system with a 6-disc DVD/CD changer and an SD-card reader.

Generally speaking, the CLS550's upgrades are available on the CLS400 as options.

The CLS63 AMG S-Model ($107,425) includes a number of unique specifications, among them an AMG body kit, 19-in AMG wheels, performance brakes, a wider front track, an adaptive sport suspension, a limited-slip rear differential, multibeam active LED headlights, an AMG sport exhaust, a rear spoiler, an AMG sport steering wheel with aluminum shift paddles, AMG front sport seats, semi-aniline leather trim and an IWC analog clock.

Optional on all CLS models is a Bang & Olufsen audio system with 15 speakers. Other notable options include keyless entry/start (no, it's not standard), active multicontour front seats, a power-closing trunk and a Parking Assist package that bundles a self-parking system and a surround-view camera system.

Safety

The 2015 CLS-Class comes standard with anti-lock brakes, stability control and 10 airbags (front, front-side, front-pelvic, front-knee and full-length side-curtain). Mercedes mbrace emergency telematics is also included on a trial basis, though over time you'll have to choose which of the three levels of service (if any) you'd like to pay for every year. Standard driver assistance technologies include a driver alertness monitor, active front head restraints and a collision mitigation system with automatic emergency braking.

Options include adaptive cruise control, a blind spot monitor and lane-keeping assist.

Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has crash-tested the 2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class.

Behind the Wheel

Living up to its striking exterior styling, the CLS is as much a driver's car as it is a luxury tourer. Power is abundant in all models, though the V8-powered CLS550 definitely has the edge over the V6-powered CLS400 if you're comparing passing ability on the highway. The CLS63 is absurdly fast, of course, though in our view the CLS550 is close enough to make the AMG model's stratospheric price seem questionable.

High-speed handling and cornering abilities are provided to match the muscle under the hood. The CLS550 can take a fast turn with remarkable grip and minimal body roll for a luxury car. When driven less assertively, the CLS retains its relaxed touring personality; it's quiet and comfortable on both long drives and the daily commute. But when the urge for performance strikes, the CLS will deliver.

Other Cars to Consider

2016 BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe -- BMW's retort to the CLS-Class is attractive in its own right, and there's a potent M6 version that challenges the CLS63.

2016 Audi A7 -- The A7's beautiful hatchback profile is a sight to see, and its engine offerings include a turbodiesel V6 that's both fast and frugal. Try the V8-powered S7 and RS 7 if you want alternatives to the CLS550 and CLS63 AMG S-Model.

2015 Cadillac CTS -- Although it's a traditional sedan, the CTS has plenty of style, and you can get it with a formidable twin-turbocharged V6 that pumps out 420 hp.

Used Porsche Panamera -- The Panamera is more expensive than the CLS-Class if you look at comparable models, but Porsche can put you in a certified pre-owned Panamera with a warranty for less than you might think.

Autotrader's Advice

While the CLS400's low starting price and twin-turbo V6 may pique your curiosity, our pick is the CLS550. Its effortless and sonorous V8 thrust must be experienced to be believed, and we prefer its laid-back personality to the amped-up attitude of the much costlier CLS63 AMG.

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2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class: New Car Review - Autotrader