Mercedes-Benz calls its all-new 2006 CLS a “four-door coupe”. The jury’s out on whether such a creature actually exists, but any company that can make a vehicle as beautiful as this can call it whatever it wants.
Based on the E-Class sedan’s architecture, the CLS500 uses a 306 hp V8. The CLS has also had a visit to the company’s performance shop; the CLS55 AMG carries the same engine but with a supercharger, turning out 469 hp. A six-cylinder version available in Europe is not sold in Canada.
The CLS500’s 5.0-litre V8 accelerates from zero to 100 km/h in 6.1 seconds, and 60 to 120 km/h in 5.6 seconds. It is mated to Mercedes’ newly-developed 7G-Tronic seven-speed automatic transmission, which allows for a wider spread of ratios than the five-speed used on other models. Direct downshift under rapid acceleration avoids the transmission having to move through the gears in strict order; it can shift down by as many as four gears instead of one at a time. Manual mode is available with shift buttons on the steering wheel.
The CLS55 AMG uses a five-speed automatic with SpeedShift programming and fingertip manual control. Its acceleration is zero to 100 km/h in 4.7 seconds.
Both versions are equipped with Airmatic DC (for “dual control”), the newest version of the air suspension currently used in the S-Class. Automatic damping regulates the shock absorber forces while rubber bellows in the spring struts result in a softer ride than with conventional steel springs. A microprocessor controls the air volume and makes rapid adjustments to stiffen the suspension during cornering or demanding conditions, or softens the ride for more comfort during normal driving. The CLS also features Sensotronic Brake Control, which positions the brake pads closer to the discs when accelerator pressure decreases rapidly, for faster emergency braking; it lightly applies the brakes during extended windshield wiper use to dry them; and it features Start-Off Assist, which prevents the car from creeping forward or rolling backwards when stopped on an incline.
The CLS500 comes with all the luxury features expected, including ambient interior lighting, leather interior, auto-dimming side mirrors, projector-beam headlights, rain-sensing wipers, mineral glass instrument covers, burr walnut wood trim, speed-sensitive steering, four-zone automatic climate control, and 18-inch alloy wheels. Options include multicontour seats with ventilation and massage function, a ski bag, Distronic radar-guided adaptive cruise control and Nappa leather interior.
The CLS55 includes AMG-specific front multicontour sport seats, 19-inch wheels, ivory-colour gauges, stainless steel pedals, active bi-xenon headlamps with curve-illuminating fog lamps, AMG-design front apron with mesh intake, and dual exhaust with four polished stainless steel tips.
A centre console runs the length of the seats, making this a four-passenger vehicle. The car’s low-swept roofline limits rear headspace and tall passengers will have to twist and bend to gain access through the sloping rear doors, but when it looks this good, it isn’t wrong if form occasionally triumphs over function.