2009 Mercedes Benz CLS550: Subtle changes in a powerful luxury car
By Mike Blake, Carlisle Events
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Mercedes Benz debuted its stunning CLS only three years ago, introducing the world to its first luxury four-door coupe. Barely in need of a freshening, Mercedes Benz has chosen not to mess with a good thing and has made only subtle changes in this exciting, lavish driver’s vehicle.
A sleek new nose and stunning 2-bar grille with a mesh background (replacing the outgoing 4-bar grille), larger exterior mirrors, built-in arrow-shaped turn signals and LED taillights, dual five-spoke wheels, trapezoidal exhaust pipes and a new rear bumper are the only cosmetic changes outside. Large rear doors, sleek lines and superior fit and finish remain the same from the earlier version of the CLS. This sleek, luxury ride measures out at 193 inches in length, 54.7 inches in height and 73.7 inches in width on a112.4-inch wheelbase.
Inside nuances include a sportier three-spoke steering wheel, new gauges in white with silver backgrounds and some high-tech improvements including a new COMAND display in the center console with Bluetooth for hands-free cell phone operation, a six-CD “stacker” unit and voice control of audio and phone. If the outside is elegant, it is only enhanced by the interior, bathed in plush leather and wood – the dash is bordered by chestnut trim. Three chronometer-type gauges and two LCD bar graphs in the instrument cluster are accented by chrome rings and more wood trim. Four-zone climate control regulates temperature separately for each front and rear seat and the rear passengers have their own digital control panel for setting a desired temperature and adjusting airflow.
Mercedes Benz is as proud of its history for making drivers’ cars as it is for making plush, quality-built luxury rides, and the CLS550 certainly fits in on the driving experience side.
Powered by a smooth 5.5-liter 32-valve aluminum V-8 engine that produces 382hp and a whopping 391 lbs.-ft. of torque, the CLS550 is EPA rated at 14mpg in city driving and 21mpg on the highway. Mated to a 7-speed automatic transmission with Touch Shift, the CLS550 is able to achieve a top speed of 155mph, and the manufacturer claims a zero to 60mph sprint in 5.4 seconds. Even with a gross vehicle weight of 5070 lbs., I was able to coax my test ride to a 5.7-second run, and I mused about how quick the 6.3-liter V-8 option version must be, at 507 hp and 465 lbs.-ft. of torque.
Fueled by 91-octane gasoline, the rear wheel drive CLS550 is EPA rated at 14mpg in city driving and 21mpg on the highway. A full week of highway and city tests garnered an average of only 17.6mpg, with Interstate miles making up about two-thirds of the test.
Fuel consumption might have been disappointing, but the smooth ride was all one expects from Mercedes Benz. Speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion steering with power assist make for responsive handling, and the sequential fuel injection, electronic throttle control, two-stage resonance intake manifold provide power when asked. An independent 4-link front suspension with antidive geometry and a stabilizer bar, and independent 5-arm multilink rear suspension with aluminum links and wheel-hub carriers, and geometry for antisquat and alignment control take the ruts and bumps out of the road and the feeling inside is that of a larger M-B sedan. Automatic level control, adaptive dampening system, electronic stability program, electronic traction system and active body control may not provide a sports-car feel, but most certainly creates the luxury ride upon which M-B has gained its reputation.
The cabin is roomy as well as plush, with front headroom of 36.9 inches and 36.1 in row two; front leg room of 42.1 inches with 35.0 in the second row and shoulder room of 56.3 in front and 56.0 behind.
Standard interior niceties include hard-drive navigation and a 12-speaker, 480-watt harmon/kandon Logic 7 digital surround system that includes a digital signal processor. The system adjusts volume automatically to compensate for ambient driving noise. Also inside are a multi-function steering wheel, 10-way power adjustable front seats with memory and intermittent wipers with rain sensor.
Safety concerns are addressed with a steel reinforced cabin with front and rear crumple zones, front dual-stage airbags, front and rear side window airbags, driver side knee airbags, 4-wheel disk brakes, anti-lock brake system with brake assist, roll-over sensor, anti-theft alarm with engine immobilizer, night security illumination, tire pressure monitoring system, the M-B Tele-aid system and 24-hour roadside assistance.
The four-passenger luxury coupe has a suggested retail price of $68,950, and my test vehicle came in with a bottom line of $78,225 after options and extra charges were added. The $3950 Premium Package includes iPod, MP3 interface, power rear window sunshade, ventilated front seats and headlamp washers. A wood and leather trim package adds $920 and the 219 Distronic (cruise control with radar) package costs $2230.The extra charges include a gas-guzzler tax of $1300 and destination and delivery charges of $875.
The 2009 Mercedes Benz CLS550 … it’s more of the same lavish excellence with some face-lifting and high-tech improvements added.
Visit www.CarlisleEvents.com for more on the automotive hobby.
Mike Blake, former editor of KIT CAR magazine, joined Carlisle Events as senior automotive journalist in 2004. He's been a "car guy" since the 1960s and has been writing professionally for about 30 years.
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