Joining the Mercedes-Benz lineup for 2006, the new CLS-Class melds striking sheetmetal and a unique interior treatment with basic E-Class platform elements to create what is arguably the sexiest -- and definitely one of the most engaging -- four-door cars to ever wear the three-pointed star. Both the CLS500 and CLS55 AMG pack V-8 power and premium features galore, including individual seating for four and Airmatic II semi-active suspension.
Boldly contoured, the CLS integrates a coupe-like roofline with rising arc shoulder cues to make a singularly dramatic styling statement. Its rich family traditions come through just as strongly in the grille, taillamps, and subtle brightwork accents. The CLS500 has 18-inch staggered-width wheels with Z-rated 245/40 front and 275/35 rear tires that are upgraded to 255/40 and 285/40 spec in the AMG Sport Package. The CLS55 AMG goes plus-one, with unique 19-inch alloys wrapped in 255/35 and 285/30 rubber.
Distinctive variations on the classic Mercedes theme are found throughout the CLS interior. E-Class influence dominates the dash, easy-to-read instruments, and somewhat fussy control assemblage surrounding a central LCD display that provides a comprehensive array of readouts for the standard COMAND integrated control system and map displays for the optional navigation. The CLS boasts far more wood trim than the E-Class, in Matte Burl Walnut or optional Laurel. The largest single piece found in any Mercedes spans its dash, and lesser bits tastefully accent the car's full-length console.
Both the CLS500 and CLS55 boast 10-way power front seats with three-position memory. Hand-fitted leather upholstery is standard, with the AMG model upgrading to more-supple Nappa hides trimmed in Alcantara. The more highly bolstered AMG-spec buckets have heat and multicontour adjustability (both items optional on the CLS500), and our car also had M-B's primo Active Ventilated units. While the sloping roofline does impact rear headroom, each of the two individual seats will still accept, if somewhat grudgingly, a sub-six-footer.
The wide-ranging features list also includes a Mercedes-load of power assists, a multifunction display accessed via steering wheel controls, power tilt/telescoping steering column, four-zone digital climate control, SmartKey and TeleAid with Automatic Collision Notification and Stolen Vehicle Recovery. A nine-speaker AM/FM/CD audio system is standard, but the 12-speaker harman/kardon digital surround sound package from the CLS55 is optional. A locking glovebox, covered front and rear console, and door pockets provide storage for small items. There are two largely vestigial cupholders and a powerpoint in the forward console, a single larger holder and second 12V outlet in the aft section.