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2016 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class: New Car Review

The 2016 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class continues to cut a striking figure with its smooth nose, muscular haunches and flowing fastback roofline. It might seem shallow to talk about a car’s styling before anything else, but that’s exactly what separates this model from the E-Class on which it is based — and it’s no doubt the main reason why buyers would choose a CLS over an E-Class.

The CLS was the first of the 4-door coupes that have become so influential — not just in sedan design but also with crossovers. It has limited passenger space in the back, but if you think of the car as a coupe with a little extra functionality, it’s suddenly in a different, even more alluring light. The current (second) generation doesn’t necessarily push the styling envelope, but it makes sure that the Mercedes-Benz remains desirable with excellent engines, sumptuous interiors and advanced technology.

What’s New for 2016?

The all-wheel-drive CLS550 4MATIC becomes like its rear-drive counterpart (the CLS550) by receiving a 9-speed automatic transmission. A 5-year subscription to the company’s mbrace2 Connect telematics system is also standard throughout the CLS range. This includes web services, roadside connection, MB Apps (nonstreaming), diagnostics, remote updates and remote starting.

The company’s name-changing spree means we have a 2016 Mercedes-AMG CLS63 S as the range’s hot version.

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 with a conventional sedan

How Much?

$67,825-$108,725

Fuel Economy

The rear-drive CLS400 has a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 engine that makes 329 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque, plus a 9-speed automatic transmission. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates fuel consumption at 20 miles per gallon in the city, 30 mpg on the highway and 24 mpg combined.

The CLS400 4MATIC has the same engine and transmission, with the addition of all-wheel drive. Fuel consumption is 19 mpg city/26 mpg hwy/22 mpg combined.

The CLS550 has a twin-turbocharged 4.7-liter V8 developing 402 hp and 443 lb-ft. This is also linked to a 9-speed automatic transmission. In rear-drive form, the EPA figures are 17 mpg city/26 mpg hwy/21 mpg combined. Add the 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system for 17 mpg city/25 mpg hwy/20 mpg combined.

The AMG CLS63 S enjoys a twin-turbocharged 5.5-liter V8 that generates 577 hp and 590 lb-ft. This model has a 7-speed automatic transmission (tuned by AMG for fast shifts) and achieves 16 mpg city/22 mpg hwy/18 mpg combined.

Standard Features & Options

The 2016 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class is available in CLS400, CLS550 and AMG CLS63 S versions. All models have 4-passenger seating with a full-length center console.

The CLS400 ($67,825) includes 18-inch alloy wheels, adaptive LED headlights, a sunroof, auto-dimming mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, wood interior trim, 10-way heated power front seats with driver’s-side memory, a power adjustable steering wheel, leather upholstery, multicolor ambient lighting, dual-zone automatic climate control, an automatic garage-door opener, a USB port, Bluetooth, navigation and the COMAND infotainment system with an 8-in central display screen and a knob-based interface.

The CLS550 ($75,025) adds an adaptive air suspension, upgraded navigation, voice control, ventilated front seats, a rearview camera, keyless entry/ignition, a power-closing trunk lid, LED headlights, a power rear sunshade and an enhanced 14-speaker Harman Kardon audio system with a 6-disc DVD/CD changer, satellite radio and an SD-card reader.

Generally speaking, the CLS550’s upgrades are available as options in the CLS400.

The AMG CLS63 S ($108,725) includes 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, a 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.

A Bang & Olufsen audio system with 15 speakers is optional on all models. Other options include active multicontour front seats, front and rear parking sensors, a heated steering wheel, a self-parking system with a surround-view camera, a blind spot monitoring system, lane-departure intervention, adaptive cruise control, rear traffic alert and emergency braking with pedestrian detection. The AMG model can also be specced with carbon-ceramic brake discs.

Safety

The CLS comes standard with anti-lock brakes, stability control and 10 airbags (front, front-side, front-pelvic, front-knee and full-length side-curtain). Standard-issue 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, frontal cross-traffic alerts with self-braking, a blind spot monitoring system and lane-keeping assistance.

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

Behind the Wheel

There’s substance to match the style. Power is abundant in all models, although the CLS550 definitely has the edge over the CLS400. Naturally, the CLS63 is absurdly fast, yet the CLS550 is close enough to make the AMG model’s stratospheric price seem questionable.

High-speed handling and cornering abilities are similarly up to the rest of the car’s stratospheric standards. 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 long drives and the daily commute alike. But when the urge for performance strikes, every CLS will deliver.

Other Cars to Consider

2016 BMW 6 Series Gran CoupeBMW’s reply to the CLS-Class is attractive in its own right, and there’s a potent M6 version to challenge the AMG CLS63 S.

2016 Audi A7 — The A7’s hatchback profile is beautiful. Try the V8-powered S7 and RS 7 as alternatives to the CLS550 and AMG CLS63 S.

2016 Cadillac CTS — Although it’s a traditional sedan, the CTS has plenty of style and a formidable twin-turbocharged V6 version pumping out 420 hp.

Used Porsche Panamera — Comparable models of the Panamera are more expensive than the CLS equivalents, but a certified pre-owned example with a warranty is a different matter.

Autotrader’s Advice

Despite the CLS400’s low starting price and twin-turbo V6 — and the amped-up attitude of the much-costlier CLS63 AMG — it’s the CLS550’s sonorous V8 and effortless thrust that really stand out.

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