2013 Mercedes-Benz CLS Class Review

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Nelson Ireson Nelson Ireson Senior Editor
June 14, 2012

Carrying forward 2012's more muscular looks with inimitable style, the 2013 Mercedes-Benz CLS Class gets new high-tech options while keeping its surprising performance.

Elegant, sleek, and stylish, the 2013 Mercedes-Benz CLS Coupe glides into the new model year with just a handful of changes, but remains among the frontrunners of the luxury four-door coupe class.

Based on the E Class, but with a more rounded, coupe-like silhouette, the CLS Class's angles and edges were updated in 2012 for an edgier, more modern look. The result is a compelling, even athletic exterior and an interior that rides the border between glamorous and over-wrought.

On the road, the CLS Class is a relaxed, comfortable cruiser in any trim. The standard model the CLS 550, continues with its 4.6-liter twin-turbocharged 402-horsepower V-8 engine and seven-speed automatic transmission. Riding on Airmatic suspension with available 4Matic all-wheel drive, the CLS 550 is both comfy and capable. The performance-minded buyer will prefer the CLS63 AMG's 518-horsepower 5.5-liter twin-turbo V-8, however, with standard seven-speed MCT automatic transmission, Airmatic rear suspension, and start-stop technology. An optional performance package upgrades the CLS63 AMG's output to 550 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque.

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While the front seats are spacious and plushly appointed, the rear seats are a bit tight on both head and leg room. Optional active seating adds active air-filled bolsters that grip driver and front passenger during more spirited driving.

Inside, the CLS Class takes the E Class's finery to the next level. Standard equipment includes a sunroof and leather upholstery, navigation, walnut wood trim, Attention Assist safety system, and 10 airbags. The CLS63 AMG adds to that spec with its monstrous drivetrain, an AMG-designed interior, and unique exterior appearance items, plus a range of higher-performance upgrades under the sheet metal.

On the safety front, the CLS Class continues to uphold Mercedes-Benz's reputation as a technology leader in the field, with standard Attention Assist to detect driver drowsiness, plus available upgrades including Pre-Safe braking assistance, Active Blind Spot Assist and Active Lane Keeping Assist, 10 airbags, and more.

Gas mileage isn't typically at the top of the list of concerns for a V-8-powered luxury sedan, but nonetheless, Mercedes-Benz has put considerable effort into making the most of both power and efficiency. The 2013 CLS 550 rates 17/25 mpg city/highway in rear-drive form, and 16/25 mpg with 4Matic all-wheel drive. The more potent CLS63 AMG rates nearly as highly, at 15/22 mpg and 18 mpg combined.

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2013 Mercedes-Benz CLS Class

Styling

Svelte despite its size, the 2013 Mercedes-Benz CLS Class' design is elegant, sporty, and eye-catching.

With an almost complete revision or improvement of the 2013 model lineup, Mercedes-Benz is working hard to keep its cars current. The 2013 CLS Class gets upgrades in several areas, but in terms of styling, carries forward from 2012.

The silhouette of the CLS Class is unmistakable, with a long, arching, coupe-like roof sloping into relatively short front and rear ends. At the front and sides, bold angles and character curves add definition to the once-smooth shape of the CLS. Strong trapezoidal themes, seemingly flared fenders, and an overall look of more masculine solidity defines the current CLS Class. In CLS63 AMG guise, the fast four-door coupe enters the realm of truly aggressive.

Inside, the story is much the same, though efforts to out-do the E Class lead to a degree of busy-ness that's not entirely welcome. While the interior is undeniably well-made and well-appointed, the proliferation of details, curves, and adornments can be distracting. That said, the materials are pleasing to both touch and eye, and the overall style is luxurious, modern, and rich.

Upgrading to the CLS63 AMG adds another layer of design, which in some cases means more bling. Nonetheless, the AMG's interior is among the most well-executed and attractive in the business short of the hyper-luxury class.

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2013 Mercedes-Benz CLS Class

Performance

Even the base 2013 Mercedes-Benz CLS 550 is an impressive performer, but to move up to spaceship-class fun, the CLS63 AMG is the answer.

Like the styling, the powertrains for the 2013 Mercedes-Benz CLS Class remain unchanged from 2012.

For the CLS 550, this means a 4.6-liter direct-injection twin-turbocharged V-8 engine rated at 402 horsepower and 443 pound-feet of torque. That's a lot of go, and the CLS 550 never feels underpowered. In fact, it feels downright fast in most situations, though the relaxed ride quality and quiet cabin confirm this is the everyday driver option in the CLS Class range.

Zero to 60 mph acceleration takes just 5.1 seconds for the rear-drive CLS 550, or 5.2 seconds for the all-wheel drive 4Matic. Both models come standard with a seven-speed automatic transmission that shifts smoothly, with sport and comfort modes to alter its character to suit the driver's mood.

The CLS63 AMG, on the other hand, adds a more stiffly-sprung, performance-oriented suspension to suit its very potent 518-horsepower, 516-pound-feet of torque, 5.5-liter twin-turbo V-8 engine. An optional Performance Package boosts output to 550 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque for even quicker performance.

In standard trim, the CLS63 AMG is still good for 4.4-second 0-60 mph runs and a top speed of 155 mph (electronically limited. The Performance Package shaves the 60 mph time to 4.3 seconds and raises the top speed to 186 mph. A seven-speed MCT paddle-shift multi-clutch gearbox is standard with the CLS63 AMG, offering comfort, sport, sport-plus, and manual (paddle shift) modes.

Where the CLS 550 shows relaxed yet quick pace, the CLS63 AMG is a barnstormer, ready and willing to defy expectations (and logic) with surprising speed, impressive grip, and shockingly nimble handling for a car of its size and heft. A race-start mode helps make launches fast and repeatable, while an LCD display measures performance for posterity. An available $12,000-plus carbon-ceramic braking system offers truly race-worthy stopping capacity, but is overkill for both the wallet and the street.

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2013 Mercedes-Benz CLS Class

Comfort & Quality

A comfortable, spacious front seat contrasts with a tight back seat in the 2013 Mercedes-Benz CLS Class, but materials and build quality are impeccable.

Having grown only slightly in overall length for the second-generation model's arrival in 2012, the 2013 Mercedes-Benz CLS Class is still close in overall size to the first-generation model, and shares its 113.2-inch wheelbase.

Despite the increase in overall length last year, the CLS Class gained only minimal passenger space, with improvements measured in fractions of an inch. The front seats are impressive in both comfort and technology, however, with 14-way electric adjustment even in base-model cars, and upgrades to air-bolstered active seats available. Optional seat ventilation is a very nice upgrade, improving comfort on hot days or long trips.

Leather upholstery, wood and metal trim, and high-grade plastics dominate the cabin. There can be no real displeasure with the CLS Class's interior construction or feel, even considering the $70,000-$100,000-plus price. In the CLS63 AMG, the experience is refined with Nappa leather, even more bespoke-seeming dash and door treatments, and rear-seat stitching to resemble the front seats.

The rear seat in either model is short on space in general, however. The tight head and leg room are as much a fault of the four-door coupe design as any failure in packaging, and while there's less room than we'd like, the rear seats are by no means unusable. For those that regularly transport three or more adults, however, a nicely-optioned E Class is a better option.

Trunk space is better than you'd expect given the sleek exterior shape of the rear end, but it's slightly smaller than the first-generation CLS. An optional power-closing trunk lid makes access easy, while in the cabin, two large upholders and a covered bin provide space for the typical American lifestyle.

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2013 Mercedes-Benz CLS Class

Safety

The 2013 Mercedes-Benz CLS Class hasn't been crash-tested, but it does offer a long list of standard and available high-tech safety features--including some not found elsewhere.

Mercedes-Benz has long been regarded as a technology leader in the safety arena, and the 2013 Mercedes-Benz CLS Class doesn't disappoint this heritage. For the 2013 model year, standard safety equipment includes 10 airbags, Attention Assist driver alertness monitoring, Pre-Safe emergency brake assist and seatbelt tensioner, active head restraints, anti-lock brakes, stability control, and more.

Optional safety upgrades include all-LED active headlights, Night View Assist Plus with Pedestrian Detection, Blind Spot Assist, Lane Keeping Assist, a rear-view camera, Distronic Plus (radar-based cruise control with automatic braking), and Parktronic parking sensors with Active Park Assist.

Visibility from the front of the CLS Class is generally good, though rear-quarter visibility can be limited by the thick C-pillars. The rearview camera option and parking sensors can help mitigate this, however.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) haven't crash-tested the 2013 Mercedes-Benz CLS Class, but with all of the standard and available safety features, plus Mercedes' attention to chassis engineering, buyers can drive the CLS Class with confidence.

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2013 Mercedes-Benz CLS Class

Features

Outstripping even the E Class's features and equipment, the 2013 Mercedes-Benz CLS Class offers a high base specification and an impressive list of available upgrades.

While the comfort/convenience and safety options are formidable in their own right, the entertainment and audio options available for the 2013 Mercedes-Benz CLS Class are just as impressive.

The standard audio system is a harman/kardon LOGIC7 system with Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound, engineered specifically for the CLS. Six-hundred-ten watts of power and 14 speakers distribute sound throughout the cabin. HD Radio, a six-disc CD/DVD changer, Bluetooth audio streaming, a 10GB music register, Gracenote music database, and SiriusXM satellite radio are also included. An iPod/MP3 interface is also available.

For those with iPads, there's even a docking station available, to allow rear-seat passengers to watch movies, play music, and more. Alternatively, a rear-seat entertainment system provides 7-inch screens, DVD-watching, and audio with an integrated SD card/USB stick reader for easy access to stored media.

New for 2013 is Mercedes' optional mbrace2 telematics and connectivity suite, a comprehensive update and upgrade from the previous mbrace. With mbrace2, you can contact remote services to monitor and track vehicle usage; perform diagnostics; connect to the "cloud" with the Mercedes-Benz Apps system for functions like Google Local Search, Facebook, and Yelp; interact with the car via a mobile app; and access the mbrace Concierge service, which offers 24/7 personal assistance even when you're not with your car, for anything from securing airline tickets to making dinner reservations.

The COMAND infotainment system integrates most of the rest of the car's functions, including audio, climate control, power features, and more. With voice- and controller-driven access, the COMAND system enables easy, high-visibility control, though some of the interface elements are less than intuitive.

As with other Mercedes-Benz vehicles, the CLS Class also offers an ever-expanding range of wheel, paint, upholstery, trim, and comfort options.

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2013 Mercedes-Benz CLS Class

Fuel Economy

Though it won't win any gas-saving awards, the 2013 Mercedes-Benz CLS Class is surprisingly efficient for a large, fast, V-8 luxury car.

While the 2013 Mercedes-Benz CLS Class evades the gas guzzler tax, it's still by no means in league with the greenest of the luxury sedan class. On the other hand, the CLS is powerful, luxurious, and large--and considering those factors, surprisingly efficient.

The standard CLS 500 with rear-wheel drive rates 17 mpg city and 25 mpg highway according to the EPA. Adding all-wheel drive cuts the mileage to 16/25 mpg. The massively powerful CLS63 AMG scores a still-fair 15/22 mpg, for 18 mpg combined.

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Styling 8.0
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