The CLS is referred to as a coupe by Mercedes-Benz, and when viewed from a front or rear angle, it's easy to see why. The arched roofline and heavily sculpted flanks -- especially the accented rear wheel arches -- makes it clear that this is a 4-door sedan with an actual trunk.
The CLS is offered in two models for 2017. The CLS550 features a twin-turbo 4.7L V8 that makes 402-horsepower and 443 pound-feet of torque, while the AMG CLS63 boasts a 5.5L turbocharged V8 making 550 horsepower and 531 pound-feet of torque.
While the CLS550 comes with rear-wheel-drive as standard, 4MATIC all-wheel drive is optional, while the CLS63 only comes with 4MATIC. A 9-speed automatic transmission is the only available transmission on all CLSes. The 550 returns an EPA-estimated 21 mpg combined in the rear-wheel-drive model and 20 mpg combined in the 4MATIC.
The CLS works hard to blend performance with luxury, and includes strong insulation and vibration damping. Nicely contoured front seats will provide great long-distance comfort, and the AMG CLS63 upgrades to even more supportive sport seats all around. Active ventilated seats are available to keep occupants warm or cool and a driver's multi-contour seat inflates to provide special support as well as help hold the driver in place when cornering.
On the CLS63, in addition to the sport seats, there are special AMG door sill panels and brushed stainless-steel pedals, along with expanded leather trim. There's also a special E-Select shift lever, as well as a "Race" mode that can record lap times.
All CLS models include COMAND, the Mercedes-Benz screen-based interface, for audio, climate and navigation functions. Also of note is the available Harman/Kardon Logic 7 surround-sound system, which features 14 speakers, a 610-watt amplifier and a subwoofer for a studio-quality experience.
Both of the CLS models include electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes with Brake Assist, a Distronic Plus cruise control system that lets drivers follow at a safe distance, and a Pre-Safe emergency braking system that can spot slowdowns ahead and bring the car to a full stop. Attention Assist studies movements of the steering wheel to spot times when drivers might be falling asleep, sounding a chime and displaying a coffee-cup symbol. Rain-sensing wipers even feature a heated washing system and headlight cleaners. Active Park Assist will actually steer the vehicle into a parking space at speeds below 7 mph.
I vividly remember the first time I saw the Mercedes-Benz Vision CLS concept car. It graced the December 2003 cover of Automobile Magazine alongside other iconic concepts from that year's Frankfurt Auto Show, but the Vision CLS was special. A near-production look at the first modern "four-door coupe," the Vision CLS was the genesis of a trend that truly disrupted the industry. For 10-year-old me, the gorgeous design was revolutionary.
Now, 19 years later, the CLS is nearing the end of its third generation, and while it's still beautiful, it's no longer the showstopping trendsetter it once was. Instead of putting a sparkle in my eye, the 2022 CLS450 just makes me sad.
That disappointment is in large part due to the CLS' styling. As I said, it's still a great looking car, but the proliferation of the four-door coupe-style roofline throughout every size and class of sedan makes the slippery shape less novel. It doesn't help that Mercedes' other four-door coupes, the CLA and AMG GT, look even better. The blacked-out trim from the $400 Night package and the nonmetallic Midnight Blue paint on my test car does the car no favors, and as part of the Manufaktur catalog, that shade costs $6,500. This third-gen model has always kind of looked like a bar of soap -- not always in a good way -- but at least gave it a more interesting front fascia and star-pattern grille.
One bright spot is the CLS' cabin, even though it's nearly identical to the E-Class. The pair of 12.3-inch screens features Mercedes' MBUX software, and while it's feeling a little old compared to the touchscreen setup in cars like the new C-Class, it's still a great system. Navigation comes standard, as do and . I love this CLS' combination of Sienna Brown leather and flowing lines of piano black trim (a $1,300 option), and as a whole, the interior feels well put together. There's definitely less headroom and legroom in the CLS compared to the E-Class, but I don't find it to be too cramped or claustrophobic.
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