2010 Mercedes-Benz CLS Class Review

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Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
September 28, 2009

The 2010 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class is a drama queen of the nicest kind-only visibility and backseat space suffer in its presence.

TheCarConnection.com's editors have driven the Mercedes-Benz CLS and wrote this road test from hands-on driving impressions. TheCarConnection.com has also researched available road tests for the 2010 Mercedes-Benz CLS to provide a companion review of opinions from around the Web-to help you figure out which opinions matter when reviews differ.

With the 2010 Mercedes-Benz CLS, the German automaker succeeds with an unusual formula. They call the CLS a "four-door coupe"-a notion that seemed odd a few years ago when it was introduced. And yet today, the Benz CLS has inspired a raft of similar vehicles from automakers around the world, with its slimmed-down side view and its faintly French interior.

In retrospect, the "coupe" designation seems a little more acceptable; though it still has four doors, the CLS' profile is taut and elegant like a fine coupe. Last year's face-lift subtly improved the car's visage with a more dramatic two-bar grille and a slightly trimmed nose, along with LED tail lamps. Years after its launch, the CLS' silhouette still is quite fetching. The sheetmetal gives way to even more elegance inside, where the front seats are surrounded by veneered dash, doors, and console. Last year, the CLS adopted a new steering wheel and white-faced instruments, minor styling cues that didn't interrupt its antithetically Benz beauty.

The 2010 CLS-Class returns with two models. A standard CLS 550 is plenty urgent thanks to a 382-horsepower, 5.5-liter V-8 engine. The performance CLS63 AMG version amps up the numbers with an AMG-penned 6.2-liter V-8, a muscular 507 hp, and 465 lb-ft of torque. Both pour on power in seamless streams, with the AMG barking out a more guttural tone when it hits a 100-mph stride. In either trim, the CLS is no fuel sipper. Even though it's mated to a slick-shifting seven-speed automatic, the CLS 550 musters just 14/21 mpg. The five-speed automatic-equipped AMG edition drops even lower, to 14/19 mpg. In the CLS 550, power shuttles to the rear wheels, and ride motions are controlled by an air suspension that leaves something to be desired, dynamically. The well-balanced rear-drive chassis wants to be firmer, and the steering needs to be a little quicker to please traditional German car fans. If they opt up to the AMG edition, those handling problems are solved; the top version has firm but supple ride and steering feel, without much of a sacrifice in ride quality. In all, there's an appealing, luxuriant feel to the CLS that's the opposite of the taut, tightly drawn handling of a BMW 5-Series-or Mercedes' own E-Class, for example.

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High style incurs some sacrifice with the CLS, particularly in the backseat. The tapered roofline cuts marginally into headroom in the front, much more so in the back. Heated and ventilated front seats pocket passengers deeply behind a tall dash that cuts down on visibility straight ahead. Looking back, the thick rear pillars obscure rear views. There are twin bucket seats in the back, and they're very cozy-but headroom is at a premium and the CLS' shape draws the roof and windows in close to rear-seat passengers, which could feel claustrophobic to some.

Neither NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) nor the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) has crash-tested a CLS-Class Mercedes. Both versions are outfitted with dual front, side, and curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; traction and stability control; and a Pre-Safe collision preparation system that tightens seatbelts when sensors indicate an imminent accident.

The luxuriously trimmed 2010 CLS also comes with a lengthy list of standard features. Satellite radio, Bluetooth connectivity, a Harman/Kardon audio system, and an iPod interface are included on each CLS, along with such options as adaptive cruise control and a set of sensors to assist with parking.

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2010 Mercedes-Benz CLS Class

Styling

The 2010 Mercedes-Benz CLS applies a softer silhouette to E-Class fundamentals, with fabulous results.

With the 2010 Mercedes-Benz CLS, the German automaker succeeds with an unusual formula. They call the CLS a "four-door coupe"-a notion that seemed odd a few years ago when it was introduced. And yet today, the Benz CLS has inspired a raft of similar vehicles from automakers around the world, with its slimmed-down side view and its faintly French interior.

Thanks to the CLS, the whole idea of calling a four-door sedan a "coupe" has become commonplace, even though it's easy to spot the CLS' doors from the side. Even so, it's a handsome coupelike look, taut and elegant. A 2009 face-lift gently updated the front end with a more pronounced two-bar grille and a slightly trimmer nose, along with LED tail lamps. The silhouette still is quite fetching, even a few years after the CLS' debut. Cars.com praises its "sweeping arc" roofline, while Edmunds declares it "a 'four-door coupe' that blends the sleek lines of a luxury two-door with the practicality of a sedan." Automobile won't hear of the loose terminology; the "CLS is a sedan," they report. "Take a look: four front-hinged doors, back seats, trunk. If that's a coupe, then Mercedes should open a real estate arm specializing in two-bedroom studio apartments." They still are pleased by the design, as is Kelley Blue Book, which says "nothing about the Mercedes-Benz CLS is as distinctive as its unfamiliar shape," in which the back blends into the rear C-pillars and trunk lid to create a "unique fastback profile." Edmunds summarizes opinions from around the Web nicely when it deems the CLS "more stunning in person than even the most flattering photography might suggest," with "a visual presence that few other luxury sedans can match."

The CLS' sheetmetal gives way to even more elegance inside. Veneered panels and soft leather surround passengers. Edmunds notes the "sweeping wood panels, chrome trim surrounds, premium materials and beautiful detailing [that] set the CLS apart." Kelley Blue Book observes, "Large expanses of unique matte burl walnut trim...combine with sculpted perforated seats to convey a purpose that is at once both elegant and spirited." Automobile gushes, "A wood-trimmed center console separates the seats and continues the theme set by the Paul Bunyan-sized slab of burled walnut that adorns the leather-upholstered dashboard."

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2010 Mercedes-Benz CLS Class

Performance

The 2010 Mercedes-Benz CLS is a cushy ride in base trim; as an AMG CLS, it's balanced, grippy, and almost shockingly fast.

The 2010 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class returns with two models, and in either, there's great acceleration, but sometimes soft reflexes, according to editors at TheCarConnection.com and reviewers from around the Web.

A standard CLS 550 is plenty urgent, thanks to a 382-horsepower, 5.5-liter V-8 engine. The performance CLS 63 AMG version amps up the numbers, thanks to an AMG-penned 6.2-liter V-8 with a muscular 507 hp and 465 lb-ft of torque. Both pour on power in seamless streams, with the AMG barking out a more guttural tone when it hits a 100-mph stride. In either trim, the CLS is no fuel sipper. Edmunds dubs the V-8s "smooth and incredibly powerful," calls the CLS' performance "excellent," and feels the seven-speed automatic transmission provides "crisp shifts." Car and Driver agrees, for the most part: "the V-8 hooks to a seven-speed automatic that's as heartwarmingly capable as the engine itself." Even though it's mated to a slick-shifting seven-speed automatic, the CLS 550 musters just 14/21 mpg. As for the AMG CLS, Edmunds reports it shoots to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds-"supercar territory." According to Cars.com, "it has strong immediate power, and it doesn't taper off as speed increases, making for no-sweat highway passing and merging." Though it has just five transmission gears, the AMG CLS does come with "steering wheel shift buttons," in ConsumerGuide's terminology-meaning shift paddles. The AMG edition's fuel economy is just 14/19 mpg.

In the CLS 550, power shuttles to the rear wheels, and ride motions are controlled by an adjustable air suspension that leaves something to be desired, dynamically. The well-balanced rear-drive chassis wants to be firmer, and the steering needs to be a little quicker to please traditional German car fans. If they opt up to the AMG edition, those handling problems are solved; the top version has firm but supple ride and steering feel, without much of a sacrifice in ride quality. In all, there's an appealing, luxuriant vibe to the CLS that's the opposite of the taut, tightly drawn handling of a BMW 5-Series-or Mercedes' own E-Class, for example. Kelley Blue Book says, "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." ConsumerGuide calls ride and handling in the AMG version "controlled and comfortable on any road surface despite sporty suspension tuning...[it] confidently absorbs bumps with little impact harshness." The car tested here "turns with grippy assurance, surgeon-precise steering. Any body lean in fast turns is minimal at worst," while "brakes have exceptional pedal feel and erase speed with no drama." Edmunds sums it up succinctly: The full-sized Mercedes Benz "handles like a smaller car."

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2010 Mercedes-Benz CLS Class

Comfort & Quality

The 2010 Mercedes-Benz CLS has sumptuous accommodations for four, but those in the backseat might be squeezed a bit.

High style incurs some sacrifice with the CLS, particularly in the backseat. The tapered roofline cuts marginally into headroom in the front, where heated and ventilated front seats pocket passengers deeply behind a tall dash. The optional massaging front seats mean the front-seat passengers can "expect a comfortable ride in the true luxury sense," Cars.com says.

It's the rear seats that can inspire second thoughts; Kelley Blue Book reports "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." Automobile observes, "The back seats are set low to clear the sloping roofline, but deeply scooped-out front seatbacks leave sufficient leg-room for six-footers." In addition, the "coupe like roof line and tighter door openings can make getting in and out of the rear seats more difficult." ConsumerGuide warns there is "little head space for those over 5-ft-9. Knee and leg room get tight for adults with front seats pushed well back."

Trunk room is acceptable. Kelley Blue Book says the CLS has 15.9 cubic feet of cargo space, but ConsumerGuide points out that the space is not particularly efficient; the trunk of the Mercedes-Benz CLS is "long and wide, but not very tall," making it difficult to fit larger hard suitcases. However, there is "decent cabin storage" that includes "large, covered bins front and rear."

The 2010 CLS lives up to quality expectations, too. Kelley Blue Book is impressed by "impeccable dash stitching," and ConsumerGuide admires its "top-notch workmanship, elegant leather upholstery, numerous padded surfaces, and liberal use of soft-touch materials." Car and Driver observes that "even at wide-open throttle, your ears aren't exactly pummeled by sound," and even though the V-8 produces "enough volume to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand at attention...the sound remains refined by staying at some remove."

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2010 Mercedes-Benz CLS Class

Safety

The 2010 Mercedes-Benz CLS earns a good safety rating for its plentiful safety gear, though crash-test scores are pending.

Neither NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) nor the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) has crash-tested a CLS-Class Mercedes. However, the editors of TheCarConnection.com have rated the CLS highly, based on the Mercedes-Benz track record for good crash-test scores and the sedan's extensive list of safety equipment.

As Edmunds notes, "the 2010 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class comes standard with antilock disc brakes, active front head restraints, stability control, side curtain and abdomen airbags at all outboard positions and a driver's knee airbag." Standard equipment also includes a Pre-Safe system that takes steering and braking data to predict accidents, and "automatically tightens up the seatbelts, closes the sunroof and positions the right front seat for optimum airbag protection." Kelley Blue Book also lists "an advanced electro-hydraulic braking system" as standard equipment.

Visibility is the biggest safety issue in the 2010 CLS. The "low roofline and high beltline" can "impair outward visibility," ForbesAutos says, while Car and Driver points out the high beltline "makes looking out of the car and around the various pillars like poking your head out of a trash can that's sitting in a jail cell."

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2010 Mercedes-Benz CLS Class

Features

The 2010 Mercedes-Benz CLS baffles even the most experienced hands with its COMAND controller, but it's lushly outfitted and trimmed with the usual luxury features.

The luxuriously trimmed 2010 Mercedes-Benz CLS sports a lengthy list of standard features. Satellite radio, Bluetooth connectivity, a Harman/Kardon audio system, and an iPod interface are included on each CLS, along with adaptive cruise control and a set of sensors to assist with parking.

Kelley Blue Book reports the CLS offers "all the equipment you might expect of a sedan costing around $70,000." The list includes a sunroof, four-zone climate control, an LCD control center, and Tele Aid, which provide emergency and directional services (similar to OnStar). Cars.com reports that in 2009 Mercedes-Benz added standard "satellite radio and larger wheels" to a list that also includes leather upholstery, plenty of wood trim, and an advanced navigation system.

The Mercedes-Benz COMAND (Cockpit Management and Navigation Device) system, which operates navigation, audio, and climate functions, draws many complaints from reviewers around the Web. Edmunds says the system is "largely unintuitive." Like similar features from Audi and BMW, COMAND uses a wheel to dial through options on an LCD screen, and the functionality is like an early, primitive version of Windows. While Audi and BMW have updated their systems for 2010, the Mercedes system hasn't yet received a complete rethink.

"Noteworthy options" in the Mercedes-Benz 2010 CLS, according to Kelley Blue Book, include "active HID headlamps, adaptive radar cruise control, front/rear park assist, heated and ventilated front seats, [and] air support front seats." They also mention that the Mercedes-Benz 2010 CLS can be loaded with a "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."

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8.2
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Styling 8.0
Performance 8.0
Comfort & Quality 8.0
Safety 9.0
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