2006 Mercedes-Benz CLS500 Review


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THE AUTO PAGE
By
JOHN HEILIG

SEE ALSO: New Car Buyer's Guide for Mercedes-Benz

SPECIFICATIONS

MODEL: Mercedes-Benz CLS500
ENGINE: 5.0-liter V8
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 302 hp @ 5,600 rpm/339 lb.-ft. @ 2,700-4,250 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 7-speed automatic
WHEELBASE: 112.4 in.
LENGTH/WIDTH/HEIGHT: 193.3 x 73.7 x 55.2 in.
TIRES: 245/40R18 (front)/ 275/35R18 (rear)
CARGO VOLUME: 15.8 cu. ft.
FUEL ECONOMY: 16 mpg city/22 mpg highway/ 23.5 mpg test
STICKER: $69,535 (includes $775 destination and delivery charge and $1,300 gas guzzler tax).

In an automotive writing career that has reached 40 years and more than 1,500 different cars (some of them repeats, of course), it’s easy to be blasť. In all seriousness, there aren’t many cars that are capable of setting themselves apart form most of the others. There are just so many “another SUV” or “another four-door sedan” or “another sporty car” variations out there.

That is, until recently. I was in Palm Springs, California, at the introduction of a luxury car. I went for my morning walk/jog when I was stopped in my tracks by the most beautiful modern automobile I believe I have ever seen. It was pale blue in color and was sleek and swoopy. Since I was near a Mercedes-Benz dealership and there was a three-corner star in the center of the grille, I at least knew the manufacturer. Being a Mercedes-Benz, I also knew the vehicle’s identification would be on the left rear of the trunk.

It was a CLS500.

Mercedes-Benz likes to promote the CLS as a “four-door coupe,” which is an oxymoron, since coupes are, by definition, two-door models. But the CLS has coupe-like styling, and if you look at the car quickly and don’t notice the rear doors, it does appear to be an elongated coupe. The rear slopes down smoothly from the midpoint of the car, near the B-pillar, to the end of the rear decklid. In addition, the front of the CLS is equally sleek, sloping forward into a new variation of the classic Mercedes-Benz grille.

I love it.

Naturally, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a CLS, and the opportunity finally came. The best part of the tester was that it was the same robins egg blue that was the color of the first CLS I saw. Mercedes calls the color “granite grey,” but it has blue undertones that are as subtle as the shape of the car.

And our tester was the 500, with a 5.0-liter V8 engine. There’s a CLS55 with an AMG-tuned supercharged 5.4-liter V8, but I feel that engine delivers almost too much power for a car that is more elegance than performance. TheCLS500’s engine delivers 302 hp, which is more than enough for excellent performance and smoothness. The CLS55, on the other hand, offers 469 hp, which is 50 percent more and I believe too much.

The engine drives the rear wheels through a 7-speed automatic transmission that is smooth as silk. It’s perfect for the car itself.

The engine/transmission combination delivered the power and it was just as much as I’d want, although by now you must realize that I was prejudiced from the start. Handling was excellent as well. We tried to toss the CLS through some of our favorite winding roads and hillclimbs and it performed like a champ.

The CLS is based on the E-Type, but is sleeker and more expensive. Like the E-Type, there are “halo lights” in front surrounding the overhead console. There’s another set of halo lights in the rear for rear passengers who want to use reading lamps or other advantages.

Needless to say, all seating is comfortable. Up front, the seats are heated and offer good side support. Several journalists commented that they felt there was reduced headroom in the rear, but I felt it was adequate. There is some sacrifice for the styling, but not so much that I was uncomfortable. I’m 5-11, and I had at least two inches of clearance over my head. The rear seats have individual heating and cooling, as do the fronts.

I had also heard complaints about reduced trunk space, but it’s only 0.1 cubic foot smaller than the E-Class.

Like the E-Class, the CLS is luxurious. It has wood-and-leather trim and white-on-black instruments. I felt the wood-and-leather steering wheel was too slippery, but with more use it might “roughen up” a bit.

I was dazzled the first time I saw a CLS and I was dazzled after driving it for a week. Mercedes-Benz wants to call the CLS a four-door coupe, but whatever they call it, I call it beautiful and desirable.

© 2006 The Auto Page Syndicate

Complete specifications on the 2006 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class CLS500 4-Door Coupe and other vehicles are available at the New Car Buyers Guide!

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