Mercedes-Benz CLS450 Coupe:
A Mercedes Coupe – Post-911
Even with a fading memory, Mercedes-Benz and I go way back. Regrettably, I don’t enjoy a history of ownership, but recollections of the great (and sometimes not-so-great) cars from Stuttgart begin in the early ‘60s, and amplified from there. Lincoln, Nebraska’s 2nd Presbyterian supplied a fellow church member with a ‘60s-era diesel (it’s own form of religion…), the books of author Ralph Stein celebrated the glory of Benz’s pre-war years, while the exploits of the late, great Stirling Moss were embedded in its postwar glory. And that, Dear Reader, is a circuitous prolog to one of the latest Mercedes chapters, the CLS450 4Matic Coupe.
In a showroom that is absolutely slammed by its proliferation of models and model offshoots, the Mercedes CLS450 Coupe sits figuratively beneath the visceral luster of Benz’s AMG collection, and literally behind the physical heft of Mercedes’ sport utilities. Sharing its platform with the E-Class, the CLS represents the carmaker’s attempt to sex up its mainstream sedan, without resorting to more base visual embellishments (fake scoops/fake spoilers) – or removing two doors.
In the walk-up, I continue to remember the CLS sitting in an apartment parking garage a dozen years ago. Finished in silver, it was dazzling in a way the more prosaic E Class – a reliably attractive proposition – never was. Sitting on a wheelbase of 115 inches, and with an overall length of almost 200 inches, today’s CLS stretches the ‘midsize’ descriptive with a penetrating nose and significant rear overhang. The nose (presumably) enhances the CLS ‘aero’, while the rear sheetmetal allows for comfortable travel with a bag or two. (We know how Mercedes men love to pack.) Our test vehicle’s Polar White exterior didn’t do the shape any favors, but this is an attractive proposition, and one that – I think – will age well, long past the point where you’ve retired the payments.
Inside, a well-crafted interior is dominated by the CLS’ ‘schwarz’ leather, framed by brown ash wood. The overall impression isn’t oppressive, but some sort of lightness – or contrast – would have been welcome. But the front buckets strike that perfect balance between access and support; there’s enough ‘bucket’ to hold you in place, but not so much lateral support as to preclude larger types – you know, the ones with big billfolds – from sitting in the seat, and not on the seat. Rear seat room is comfortable for two and lunchable for three, but given the sloping roofline your NBA teammates will probably want the Escalade…or Mercedes’ own GLS.
If you like the exterior and enjoy the interior, you’re gonna’ love what’s under the hood. The engineering team at Mercedes once again offer an inline-six, boosted to 362 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. That, from a 3.0-liter displacement, is prodigious. Driving our 4Matic platform via a 9-speed automatic, 0-60 (according to Car and Driver) arrives in under five seconds, and will continue on to a governed top speed of 130. Available modes on the console include Eco (really?), Comfort, Sport (which felt comfortable – but better connected) and Sport+. And the CLS does all of this performance work in the most sublime fashion, something you won’t get in your buddy’s Hellcat.
Our test vehicle, with a base of $72K and an all-in window of $82,000, isn’t – by any stretch – for the financially faint of heart. But at a time when you can spend $60K on a Wrangler, and $90K on Jeep’s Grand Cherokee, the $80,000 Benz won’t wag many tongues. If shopping, I’d think one or two years old, with between 10,000 and 20,000 miles. That age and those miles should put the purchase closer to $60,000, and may save you even more. Park Place (Dallas) has an ’18 CLS400 – with 40,000 miles – for $35K, about what you’d spend on Hyundai’s new Sonata.
In its 10 Best Issue (January 2020), Car and Driver highlighted Porsche’s Macan as the best replacement for the Porsche 911 when your kids are grown, or – reading between the lines – when the Porsche prospect has grown up. With all due respect to the Car and Driver team, we’d opt for the CLS450. It has roughly the same horsepower as my ’08 911, and with a 26 mpg EPA (combined) estimate, about the same efficiency. Notably, from Point A to Point B my wife just seems happier in the Benz. And who can put a price on that?