Though not a huge seller in Canada, the Mercedes-Benz CLS series distinguished itself by being one of the most eye-catching sedans sold by the company.
Originally introduced in 2004, it was an instant sensation and, in 2009, came in two versions: the CLS 550 and CLS 63 AMG. Both were stunners, and their simple yet elegant styling could also be found in Mercedes’ CL and C-Class and E-Class models. You could even argue that the CLS went on to spawn imitators such as the Volkswagen Passat CC and the Hyundai Genesis sedan.
Power for the 550 model was delivered by a punchy 5.5-litre V-8 that developed 382 horsepower and, if you wanted an additional performance kick, you could get the uber-exclusive AMG treatment. AMG is Mercedes’ performance skunk works and was founded in 1967 by former Mercedes engineers, Hans-Werner Aufrecht and Erhard Melcher. Mercedes acquired the company in 1998, and it has been rolling out high-performance coupes, sedans, sports cars and SUVs ever since.
The CLS 63 AMG was essentially the CLS 550 with more muscle and a heightened presence. Power was more than amply provided by a 6.2-litre V-8 that banged out 507 horsepower.
Transmission for both models was a seven-speed automatic and the AMG version had a Speedshift manual shift feature with two settings: Sport and Comfort. Choose the former and you were on the receiving end of 35 per cent faster gear changes, according to Mercedes.
For all their beauty, both the 550 and AMG 63 could be absolute hellions around a track – especially the latter. And both featured Mercedes’ unique air suspension, which could be adjusted for firmness.
Of course, both models were loaded with convenience features and engineering goodies. Leather interior, one-touch up-and-down power windows, climate control system, cruise control, heated seats, wood trim, power tilt/telescoping steering, Bluetooth adaptability, a hard-drive navi system, tire-pressure monitoring, a full roster of airbags and all the stuff you’d expect to find in a an automobile of this calibre.
The AMG also had tasty little extras in the form of special badging, glitzy alloy wheels and sexy “trapezoidal” chrome exhaust tips.
On the other hand, fuel consumption was beyond excessive – especially the CLS 63. Both versions would only run properly on premium gas and Natural Resources Canada set the AMG 63 at 17.7 litres/100 km in town and 11.2 litres/100 km on the highway. But if you drove this car the way it was meant to be driven, those numbers were virtually meaningless.
No safety recalls to report, from Transport Canada or the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, but the latter organization has 25 technical service bulletins on file for both versions of the 2009 CLS. These include potentially leaky air suspension components, unco-operative front seat belts, possible “play” in the steering system, and a range of software and electrical issues. The air suspension, in particular, is an area of concern with this model.
Consumer Reports doesn’t have a lot to say about the CLS. It likes its handling and “swoopy” styling, but has misgivings about the controls and interior layout. Comments from owners include “Adjustable ride feature is nice,” “Smaller trunk, but still holds golf clubs and luggage” and “Would buy another one in a New York minute.”
As far as market research firm J.D. Power is concerned, 2009 was Mercedes’ year to shine. Although it only gave the CLS an “about average” predicted reliability rating, J.D. Power awarded the company top spot in its overall APEAL study. This charts the satisfaction index of owners in the first three months of ownership, and Mercedes scored 887 points out of a possible 1,000. Areas such as driving characteristics, exterior and interior design, functionality and storage room were looked at and this was the third year in a row Mercedes finished on top.
Today, the 2009 CLS has dropped precipitously in value. From a base price of more than $93,000 three years ago, it’s priced at $40,000-$45,000 for the 550, to the mid-$60,000s for the AMG. That’s less than half of what it cost new. The AMG, especially, would have to be considered a bargain – if you can find one.
2009 Mercedes-Benz CLS 550/AMG 63
Original Base Price: $93,500 and $128,300; Black Book: $40,675-$64,475; Red Book: $42,675-$52,950
Engine: 5.5-litre and 6.2-litre V-8
Horsepower/Torque: 382 hp/391 lb-ft for 5.5; 507 hp/465 lb-ft for 6.2
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic
Fuel Economy (litres/100 km): 15.1 city/9.5 highway (CLS 550); premium gas
Alternatives:Audi S8, BMW 760Li, Bentley Brooklands, Jaguar XJR, Maserati Quattroporte, Aston Martin Rapide