The four-door coupe is quite a conundrum. Sure, it’s mostly a term made up by clever marketing reps looking to create a new automotive segment, but looking at the CLS, one can’t help but agree that it actually does
look like a four-door coupe. It’s been three years since the launch of the CLS and the competition is finally starting to catch on, with models due from Volkswagen, Porsche and others due out in the near future. As part of an attempt to more closely interrelate the coupe family within Mercedes-Benz – not to mention fire a warning shot to towards the upcoming opposition – the 2009 Mercedes-Benz CLS550
receives a few minor exterior tweaks, including a slightly reworked front grill, 32 percent larger rearview mirrors and LED taillights, proving that Mercedes is comfortable not overly altering an already excellent formula.
What's to Like
While it might not be as revolutionary as it was a few years ago, the CLS’s unconventional form is still a head-turner. Good V-8 power means the CLS has dynamics to match its sweet looks. The interior is up to typically high Mercedes-Benz standards.
What's Not to Like
Trying to explain to everyone that you own a four-door coupe. Expensive options make it easy to get outside the base price range quickly. Some might prefer the adequately powered but less fuel hungry 3.5-liter V-6 engine offered in Europe.
DriverSide Driving Impressions
Not too much of the driving experience has changed in the CLS over the outgoing model, but don’t get us wrong, that’s not a bad thing. The new three-spoke steering wheel certainly gives base model CLS a sportier feel before you even fire it up, and once you do, the soundtrack of the 5.5-liter V-8 won’t disappoint. The CLS550 rockets from 0-60 mph in just 5.4 seconds, though it is capable of shaving 0.2 seconds off that time in manual mode. The CLS handles predictably through turns and can be progressively pushed to the limit, at which point the Electronic Stability Program will intervene and keep the car on course, though it does give you plenty of room to play before taking over and can be deactivated at the driver’s discretion.
Engine and Drivetrain
The CLS550 is powered by a naturally aspirated 5.5-liter V-8 that develops 382 horsepower and 391 lb-ft of torque, figures which translate to effortless acceleration. Power is transmitted to the rear wheels via a 7G-Tronic seven-speed transmission that makes for low rpm highway cruising.
Interesting Vehicle Features and Options
The CLS’s new steering wheel features a revised and very logical control scheme for the COMAND system, which is accessed via the centrally located 6.5-inch color display. For the frequent freeway driver, Mercedes’ optional Distronic adaptive cruise control system can be a lifesaver with its ability to take the stress out of highway traffic. Wireless technology is showcased via both Bluetooth phone integration and Smart Key locking and unlocking. For those looking for a sportier CLS experience, a performance package from Mercedes tuner AMG is available, which adds 18-inch five-spoke AMG alloy wheels, aggressive AMG body styling and the same flat-bottom steering wheel found in the hardcore CLS63, complete with paddle shifters.
Key Technology Evaluation
Navigation is now standard on all CLS models, with data now being stored on an internal 40GB hard drive that results in faster access speeds than the previous DVD-based system. Navigation data takes up 36GB of storage, leaving 4GB free for music storage, and there is also an SD card reader in the dash for more music expandability.
Green Evaluation/Gas Mileage
Official EPA numbers haven’t been recorded yet, but considering how little has changed between the new CLS and the outgoing model (both use the same 5.5-liter V-8), it’s relatively safe to assume the 2009 car will return the same 14 mpg city and 21 mpg highway as the prior model.
A Closer Look: Vehicle Details
The coupe feel of the CLS carries over into the interior, which is more compact than that of a midsize sedan, yet not cramped, though headroom in the back is limited. A revised climate control system resides in the upper center dash, with the main control console surrounding the navigation screen below.
Many subtle styling reworks adorn the CLS’s exterior, beginning in the front with a large, dual louvered radiator grill and painted grills covering the air intakes. The center of the rear bumper now drops down lower, further highlighting the car’s sloped rear end, while the dual tailpipes are now trapezoidal and the taillights run on LED diodes.
Market Segment and Pricing
At a base price of $68,775, the CLS doesn’t come cheap, but being the only four-door coupe on the road does have a sense of exclusivity to it. That won’t be the case for long though, as Volkswagen is preparing its Passat CC for 2009, and the Porsche Panamera
and Aston Martin Rapide aren’t far behind.
What We Think
The CLS is a truly revolutionary design that doesn’t need much tweaking to remain fantastic, so the minimal styling changes come as a relief. Packed with upgraded technology, comfortable for up to four adults and a sporting ride make the CLS550 a sure bet. Besides, a four-door coupe? How 21st century is that?