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2013 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class Overview

Just when I finally got used to the phrase “4-door coupe” Mercedes-Benz has to go and create a wagon version of the CLS and start calling it a “5-door coupe.” My mind still recoils at the concept let alone the utterance of such a silly thing, as well as any reference to it being a “shooting brake.”

It’s a wagon.

Thankfully those of us in the U.S. won’t have to deal further with this latest confused creation in the Mercedes stable, as we get the same CLS lineup from 2012: CLS500, CLS550 4MATIC and CLS63 AMG.

The CLS550 starts the lineup off, with its now-famous profile and sloping rear end allowing 4 doors to be shoehorned into a coupe layout. Unfortunately, this has its drawbacks, as you’ll similarly have to shoehorn yourself into that back seat as it lacks a proper amount of head- or legroom. What it doesn’t lack is power.

A 4.6-liter, bi-turbo V8 pumps out 402 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque, and is attached to a 7-speed automatic. Hitting 60 in just 5.1 seconds, it’s hardly a slouch. But if that doesn’t fit your needs, the handcrafted AMG 5.5-liter bi-turbo V8 stands ready to get you there in just 4.4 seconds, leaving you 0.7 seconds to check your mirrors or change the station. Still not enough? An optional AMG performance package will pump up the psi and get you a total of 550 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque as opposed to the lackluster 518 and 516 in standard form. The same package will raise the top speed to 186 through limiter adjustment, as well as fit the vehicle with an AMG sport suspension and performance steering wheel, carbon-fiber engine cover and red-painted brake calipers. Besides that, it’ll drop the already impressive 0-to-60-mph time down to 3.8 seconds, offering you another 0.6 seconds to quickly read a text. Don’t let the cops see you do it, but they couldn’t catch you even if you did.

But this was all a part of the CLS package previously. For 2013 Mercedes has added some tech to make it even more attractive. The mbrace2 system shows up to combine emergency assistance services with local search functions, system diagnostics and remote vehicle access. This is an upgraded version of the 1st-generation mbrace system, now with enhanced remote vehicle and internet access.

And that’s just a taste of the tech you get standard with the CLS. A Harman Kardon, 14-speaker 5.1 Surround Sound system is standard, along with a 10GB hard drive, Bluetooth and HD & satellite radio. You can connect your iPod/iPad or MP3 player of choice and even enjoy a movie or two on dual 7-inch rear-seat screens for the DVD system. You get a sunroof and leather upholstery with walnut trim, the Attention Assist system, navigation and more airbags than should fit in a coupe/sedan/whatever. You’ll even get the Pre-Safe system, which closes the sunroof and places the seats in the “safest position” when an unavoidable crash is detected.

Both the CLS550 and the CLS63 AMG utilize 7-speed automatic transmissions, but the AMG gets a Speedshift dual-clutch setup with Start/Stop technology. Both units help in the efficiency department, but don’t expect much. CLS550s will return 17 mpg city/25 highway in RWD configuration, while 4MATIC AWD will penalize you with 1 mpg in the city. The AMG gets a predictably worse 15/22 rating.

It's doubtful that numbers like those would sway many potential purchases in this segment—or any mpg numbers at all—but the government does like to keep tabs on such things. Regardless of efficiency or lack thereof, if you’re looking for a 4-door coupe (and who isn’t these days?), the CLS was the first and is still the best.


A CarGurus contributor since 2008, Michael started his career writing about cars with the SCCA - winning awards during his time as editor of Top End magazine. Since then, his journalistic travels have taken him from NY to Boston to CA, completing a cross-country tour on a restored vintage Suzuki. While his preference is for fine German automobiles - and the extra leg room they so often afford - his first automobile memories center around impromptu Mustang vs. Corvette races down the local highway, in the backseat of his father's latest acquisition.

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What Specifically Does The CLS Stand For? Looking At A CLS550.