As I drove home in the CLS last night, I couldn't stop thinking about Jaguar's XF. The Mercedes has a dramatic presence that the XF is missing. I don't find the CLS gorgeous - especially the headlights - but it does stand out in the crowd. What a great concept Mercedes has. Build the E-Class for the more traditional Benz buyer and the CLS for the person who wants a bit more style. Unfortunately, the CLS doesn't drive as well as the Jaguar. The Mercedes V-8 is very strong but the seven-speed automatic is slow to downshift. I also find the air suspension really disconnects the driver from road. It is too floaty and I don't like constantly having to toggle the suspension switch to try to contain body motions. In the end, I wish the XF was more dramatic like the CLS but that the Mercedes drove as well as the Jaguar.
Marc Noordeloos, Road Test Editor
I know the CLS is basically a better looking E-class, but every time I look at a CLS I think it should be as large as an S-class inside. Then I try to put adults in the back seat and it's a bit too small for taller folks. The swooping lines of the coupe make the vehicle look longer than it actually is.
I didn't think about the XF at all when I was behind the wheel of the CLS, but I did miss the thrust of the CLS63 AMG that just graced our test fleet. The tip-in on this CLS550 isn't terribly aggressive. It's sort of a Mercedes trend, but this car felt just a little heavy and sluggish. That doesn't mean the car is slow, but the tactile sensations lead you to believe the CLS is more dignified than in a rush, even under full throttle. Buyers may not even care about this since the main reason to buy a CLS is for its looks and luxurious interior.
Phil Floraday, Senior Online Editor
To me, the CLS is all about styling. The first time I ever drove a CLS, a guy stopped next to me at a light rolled down his window and told me that it was the most beautiful car he'd ever seen. I've been driving test cars for close to twenty years now, and that's the only time I've ever had that happen to me. It's truly a testament to the emotions this car evokes.
So sure, maybe it doesn't handle with the precision of the XF, or with the aggressiveness of its AMG counterpart, but for pure presence, the CLS is hard to beat.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor