Four-Door Looker is Easy on the Eyes and Wallet
Until now, the Mercedes-Benz CLS was offered exclusively with eight-cylinder engines. The 2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS400 breaks that tradition by downsizing to a more fuel-efficient six-cylinder and following in the footsteps of its two main rivals, the BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe and the Audi A7.
One huge advantage with the new engine is the big drop in price. Prior to the introduction of the CLS400, the CLS550 served as the base model with a price tag of around $73,000 USD. Now, the CLS’s price of entry drops by more than six grand. With a base MSRP of $66,915 USD, the 2015 CLS400 should also make anyone think twice about spending their dough on 2015 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, which starts at $79,250 USD. The CLS400 is cheaper than the A7 3.0T, too, by $2,310 USD. For folks on the fence between the CLS400 and the mechanically similar E400, the latter will cost you $3,640 USD.
The CLS400 trumps the E400 in the styling department, but those nice curves come with a few sacrifices. Trunk and headroom shrink a bit in the CLS, and there’s only room for four passengers versus five for the E-Class.
That said, the CLS is certainly a looker. The current second-gen CLS made its debut in 2011 with sheetmetal evolved from the original CLS that launched the “four-door coupe” craze almost 10 years ago. For model year 2015, the CLS received a few minor design tweaks, including a flashier front grille and bumper. Its sleek, coupe-inspired roofline remains, as does its curvy haunches, reminiscent of the Bentley Continental GT. But is it better-looking than the BMW Gran Coupe and the Audi A7? It’s a tough call because all three really are easy on the eyes. In a quick office poll among MT staffers, the BMW was declared the most handsome in the group — perhaps the memory of the stunning 650i Gran Coupe that spent a year in our #MTGarage was still fresh in their minds.
When it comes to driving the CLS400, smoothness is the name of the game. Power comes from a 3.0-liter, twin-turbo V-6 rated at 329 hp and 353 lb-ft of torque. Benz’s new nine-speed automatic has made its way to a few models, but the CLS400 sticks with a carryover but still-decent (and obviously cheaper) seven-speed automatic. On the track, the powertrain propelled our 4,218-pound, all-wheel-drive test car from 0-60 mph in 5.1 seconds before reaching the quarter mile in 13.7 seconds. For comparison, a 640i Gran Coupe we last tested ran to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds and made slightly less power from its 3.0-liter, twin-turbo I-6 (315 hp and 332 lb-ft). The BMW was also heavier at 4,281 pounds despite being a rear-drive model.
The 2016 Audi A7 3.0T, which posted a 4.7-second 0-60 mph time in our testing, was quicker than both the BMW and the Benz. The A7 benefited from a recent refresh that boosted power from its 3.0-liter, supercharged V-6 to 333 hp, 13 more horses than before.
Another reason for the CLS400’s relatively low price of entry is its basic steel-spring suspension. We previously drove a CLS400 with the standard suspension, noting it rode just as comfortably as versions riding on the fancier air suspension. Our test car, however, was fitted with the optional air suspension, allowing the choice between a Comfort and a Sport setup. The latter works to eliminate body roll and makes the CLS400 fairly fun to drive on the twisties. The CLS reacts quickly to steering inputs and is steady through the corners. Our test car ran the figure-eight course in 25.5 seconds, which is 0.8 second quicker than the BMW but 0.4 second behind the A7.
When the folks at Emissions Analytics took our tester to gather Real MPG numbers, they returned with good news. The EPA rates the 2015 Mercedes CLS400 4Matic at 19/26/22 mpg (12.4/9/10.7 L/100km) city/highway/combined, and the Real MPG results were pretty much identical at 19.6/26.1/22.1 mpg. The CLS550 4Matic is still in the queue for Real MPG testing, though its EPA numbers aren’t dramatically lower than the CLS400 at 17/24/19 mpg (13.8/9.8/12.4 L/100km) .
The 2016 Audi A7 3.0T returned slightly better Real MPG numbers, posting 20.2/27.9/23.1 mpg (11.6/8.4/10.2 L/100km) city/highway/combined (EPA-rated at 30 mpg – 7.8 L/100km – highway). Meanwhile, the 2015 BMW 640i xDrive Gran Coupe’s EPA numbers are 20/29/23 mpg (11.8/8.1/10.2 L/100km).
With an MSRP of $86,280 USD, our test car is definitely on the upper end of the CLS400’s price range. The biggest chunk of change goes to the $6,900 USD Premium 2 package, with a long list of goodies that includes LED headlamps, ventilated front seats, an electronic trunk closer, and keyless entry. The Driver Assistance package ($2,800 USD) has everything from lane keep assist to pedestrian recognition, and the Parking Assist package ($1,290 USD) is definitely helpful for frequent parallel parkers. The optional air suspension tacks on $1,610 USD, and the super-soft semi-aniline leather costs $1,370 USD.
So the BMW won our beauty contest, and the Audi is quicker. But the CLS400 offers attractive pricing and a smooth six-cylinder that’s more than decent for the stylish four-dour, coupe-inspired cruiser.
|2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS400 4Matic|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$86,280|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 4-pass, 4-door sedan|
|ENGINE||3.0L/329-hp/354-lb-ft twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve V-6|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||4,218 lb (54/46%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||194.5 x 81.7 x 55.8 in|
|0-60 MPH||5.1 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||13.7 sec @ 102.5 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||104 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.91 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||25.5 sec @ 0.75 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||19/26/22 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||177/130 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.90 lb/mile|