Real-World Review

2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS400: Real World Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Doug DeMuro November 2015

Although Mercedes-Benz's CLS "4-door coupe" has been out for almost a decade now, it has made some major changes in recent years. While the biggest update was a redesign for 2012 that saw the model get a totally new look, the CLS also turned over a new leaf for the 2015 model year with the addition of a V6-powered base model dubbed the CLS400 -- the car's first-ever V6 variant. So how does the new 2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS400 drive? We recently spent a week behind the wheel in order to find out.

The New Engine

Despite its bold, head-turning styling and its vast array of high-tech gadgets, the most important part of the CLS400 is its new engine. Interestingly, it inspired mixed reactions from our testers.

Automotive Data Manager Ben Cheney praised the powertrain, noting that "the engine is a gem" and that he "was not wanting for more power." On the other hand, Automotive Content Specialist Tommy Flanagan "felt underpowered" at times, noting that 329 horsepower might not be enough for such a big car. Bridging the gap between them was Automotive Data Specialist Dwight Cunningham, who felt that the engine was "powerful enough" but also noted that it "could use a little more juice."

Frankly, your feelings on the engine will likely depend on your frame of reference. If you've only driven V8-powered CLS models in the past, you might find the new CLS400 to be a little light on power. Meanwhile, if you're moving up from a C-Class, you may find it just right.

Gorgeous and Comfortable

But everyone on our team agreed about one thing: the styling. While the 2006-2011 CLS remains opinion-splitting for most car enthusiasts, the latest model has received near-unanimous praise for its gorgeous exterior design -- praise that was echoed by our testing staff. Dwight commented that the second-generation CLS "chiseled away the fat" from the first-generation model, while Ben called it "truly beautiful."

The CLS earned the same praise for its interior design, with our editors noting that the cabin really shines in terms of its quality and design. However, everyone noted that the CLS's back seat is a little tight -- an intentional decision by Mercedes, as the CLS is intended to offer a sleeker version of the brand's more practical E-Class sedan.

Although the CLS received high marks for its stable and responsive steering, everyone agreed that it isn't exactly as sporty as the Porsche Panamera or even a BMW 6 Series. But the CLS offers a smoother driving experience than those models, with our editors giving it high praise for a quiet cabin and a comfortable ride.

The Drawbacks

Just like virtually every car we test, the CLS suffered from a few drawbacks worthy of mentioning. While we've already covered one of the biggest -- the back seat -- several editors mentioned the infotainment system as a disadvantage that nearly rivals our disappointment with the back seat.

Our complaints about the infotainment system ranged from simple -- "overly complicated" and "not easy to use" -- to more unusual: Why is the screen surrounded by an inch of unused black space when it could be expanded for a larger display?

Then there was another issue: One morning when Ben went to start the CLS, a warning sign showed up that said "Anti-Theft Protection Activated." While he was able to start and drive the car with no problems, the infotainment system was completely locked out until he popped out the start/stop button, physically placed the plastic key in the ignition and twisted it. This only happened once, but it served as a reminder that this car has more than a few complicated electronics nestled under the skin.

Our Take

To us, the 2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS400 is all about perspective. If you currently own a full-size luxury sedan such as an S-Class, then our CLS test car's $84,000 price tag might seem reasonable -- but maybe not if you own a C-Class. Drive a CLA, and the CLS's rear-seat room might start to seem generous; drive an E-Class, and you may feel differently. Likewise, the new engine splits opinions.

If you're on the fence, a test drive is probably in order to find out if the CLS is right for you. But regardless of whether you get a CLS or end up with a more practical choice such as the E-Class or the S-Class, we suspect you'll agree that the latest CLS is among the most beautiful new cars to wear a 3-pointed star.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS400: Real World Review - Autotrader