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PERFORMANCE | 8 out of 10
Car and Driver
smooth and incredibly powerful
provides plenty of silky power throughout its range
Kelley Blue Book
The 2008 Mercedes-Benz CLS exudes as much charm in driving as it does sitting still.
Two engines are available in the 2008 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class. The base CLS550 has a 5.5-liter V-8 with 382 horsepower. Teamed with a slick-shifting seven-speed automatic, it gets 14/21mpg fuel economy--not a stunning achievement. Edmunds assures prospective buyers who may not have the wherewithal for a V-12 that the V-8 engines are still "smooth and incredibly powerful."
Acceleration is strong, performance is rated as "excellent," and the seven-speed automatic transmission provides "crisp shifts." Forbes Autos reports that the seven-speed transmission is standard and does in fact have manual shift capability for those who absolutely must shift their own gears--though this source says that "most will likely leave it in 'drive' and be done with it."
The 507-hp CLS63 AMG is lightning quick but even less efficient at 12/18 mpg. This version catapults from 0-60 in a mere 4.4 seconds--which Edmunds calls "supercar territory." ConsumerGuide says, "It has strong immediate power, and it doesn't taper off as speed increases, making for no-sweat highway passing and merging." The more powerful, supercharged trim of the Mercedes-Benz 2008 has a five-speed automatic, according to Cars.com. Both versions come with "steering wheel shift buttons,” ConsumerGuide says.
With a well-balanced rear-drive chassis and an air suspension, the base Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class has softer reflexes than the typical E-Class Benz. The ride is almost pillowy and the steering a little slow to respond; the AMG version tightens it up dramatically. In its original form, the Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class has an appealing luxury feel that's the opposite of the taut, tightly drawn handling of a BMW 5-Series, for example.
ConsumerGuide as usual has the most to say about this 2008 Mercedes Benz model's handling characteristics. Ride quality is "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." 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." Edmunds sums it up succinctly: The full-sized 2008 Mercedes Benz "handles like a smaller car."
The 2008 Mercedes-Benz CLS offers a softer driving experience, with exceptional power on tap in AMG trim—but fuel economy is a minor disappointment.