Mercedes-Benz dubs the CLS a “four-door coupe.” That’s not much of an exaggeration, as the CLS has a very aggressive, coupe-like profile even though it’s mechanically related to the more traditional E-Class sedan.
In just its fourth model year on the market, the sensual Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class gets a mild face-lift for 2009, with a dramatic two-bar grille and a sleeker nose. New dual-five-spoke 18-inch wheels, a new rear bumper with trapezoidal dual exhaust pipes, and arrow-shaped LED taillights round out a few changes that make the CLS models quite eye-catching.
The thoroughly modern exterior styling is met with a more traditional appearance inside, with plenty of real wood veneers; a new three-spoke steering wheel and white-faced instruments have silver backgrounds to give the instrument cluster a more dashing appearance for 2009. A center-console display incorporates Bluetooth for hands-free cell phone operation, voice control of audio and phone, and a six-CD changer.
The CLS line includes two models: the CLS 550, powered by a 382-horsepower, 5.5-liter V-8 engine, and the high-performance CLS63 AMG, which sports an AMG-designed 6.2-liter V-8 that produces a muscular 507 hp and 465 pound-feet of torque. Fuel economy is less than that of most sedans; teamed with a slick-shifting seven-speed automatic, the CLS 550 gets 14 mpg city, 21 mpg highway—not a stunning achievement. The 507-hp CLS63 AMG is blurringly fast but even less efficient.
The 2009 Mercedes-Benz CLS 550 has a well-balanced rear-drive chassis and an air suspension, but the ride is almost too living-room-sofa-like and the steering a little slow to respond. The AMG version is a welcome improvement, offering firm yet supple handling without much of a sacrifice in ride quality. Overall, the 2009 Mercedes-Benz CLS 550 has an appealing luxury feel that's the opposite of the taut, tightly drawn handling of a BMW 5-Series, for example.
Interior room is at a premium, especially in back—the price paid for the sleek roofline, which tapers downward. The heated and ventilated front seats sit low, and the higher dash cuts down on visibility in front, as do the thick rear pillars. The rear bucket seats are quite comfortable, but headroom is at a premium and the CLS's bodywork draws in close, making the backseat feel claustrophobic.
Because the Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class is made in very limited numbers compared to other luxury sedans, it hasn’t been tested by either of the two U.S. crash-test programs. But both versions of the 2009 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class come with all the expected safety features, including traction and stability control, anti-lock brakes, side and curtain airbags, and even a Pre-Safe collision preparation system that senses if an accident is about to happen and tightens seatbelts before impact.
A premium Harman/Kardon audio system, satellite radio, Bluetooth connectivity, and an iPod interface are among the standard features on all Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class sedans, while options include the Distronic cruise control system and Parktronic parking aid.