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Mercedes-Benz CLS Coupe engines, drive and performance

2005 - 2010 (change model)
Performance rating: 4 out of 54.0

Written by David Ross Published: 6 June 2019 Updated: 11 May 2023

The entry-level engine in the CLS range is the only diesel – the CLS 320 CDI. As you’d expect it’s by far the most economical and is a popular choice – not least because it delivers plenty of punchy performance. Quiet and refined the V6 unit will sprint from 0-62mph in 7.0 seconds so it’s no slouch. The CLS 350 with a V6 engine was available from launch, but in 2007 was replaced by the CLS 350 CGI which offers more power and better fuel economy.

The CGI is a real gem – smooth in everyday situations, it’s responsive and alert when you want it be and delivers a lovely deep engine note too. Finally there’s the CLS 500 which is powered by a 5.0-litre V8 which manages the 0-62mph sprint in 5.4 seconds. Like the rest of the range it uses a seven-speed automatic gearbox which makes for effortless acceleration.

In July 2009 a new 350 CDI engine was introduced which replaces the 320 CDI. At the same time a Grand Edition model was launched which uses this engine but with power upped by 48bhp and in increase in pulling power too. As a result, 0-62mph takes 6.5 seconds while economy remains unchanged at 37mpg.

Long, low and wide, the CLS resists body-roll well, although you feel it lean into corners when pushing on. The steering is accurate but there’s not much feedback through the wheel, however on twisting roads the Mercedes feels safe and reassuring. The CLS 500 comes with a system called Airmatic that adapts the suspension to deal with road conditions, weight and driving style.

It has three settings – one for comfort and two focussed on sportier driving – the latter certainly makes a difference to the amount of body roll although the CLS is never a particularly nimble car.