2008 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class


$9,020 - $12,418

2008 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2008 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class was new.


Performance: 8.6

The CLS550 provides plenty of power, comfortable handling and a serene ride in a luxury cruiser.

Car and Driver reports: "We feel all of 13 because we just got finished driving the Mercedes-Benz CLS550, and it just sort of does that to you. Jittery nerves, sweaty palms, dry mouth -- we're in love with that sultry sheetmetal, those curvy flanks, that rakish rear end. Smitten, we tell you." Edmunds says the CLS is not only "fast-looking," it also does "run pretty well." Lastly, Kelley Blue Book says, "Not surprisingly, the CLS550 is both powerful and comfortable on the open highway."

Acceleration and Power

The 2008 Mercedes Benz CLS550 comes with a 32-valve V8 engine that delivers 382 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 391 pound-feet of torque. The vast majority report the CLS550 has plenty of power and delivers it in a smooth and refined manner. Edmunds says the engine is always "smooth and serene" and the vehicle "leaves little to complain about when you call up maximum thrust on the road. It launches hard, shifts crisply and feels strong." Consumer Guide reports the CLS has "strong immediate power, and it doesn't taper off as speed increases, making for no-sweat highway passing and merging." Car and Driver says the V8 is a "full-fledged bombshell sent from heaven on a pillow made of pure awesome." They also say the engine's "labors produce enough volume to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand at attention, but the sound remains refined by staying at some remove." The CLS has an Environmental Protection Agency estimated fuel economy of 14 miles per gallon in the city and 21 on the highway.

The CLS550 comes with an electronically-controlled touch shift transmission, which allows the drivers to downshift manually and upshift with a slight left or right adjustment of the lever. Cars.com says that shifts are more noticeable in the CLS compared to others in its class, "but they're reasonably crisp and quick." Car and Driver reports that gear changes are "smooth and fast" and that with "seven gears, however, downshifting just one ratio often isn't enough to adequately perform the task at hand, whether it be passing, tackling a grade, or simply accelerating." Motor Trend says the transmission "slices up the engine's output with the deftness of a seasoned sushi chef, dishing out smartly sized portions of torque with scalpel-sharp precision (buttons on the steering wheel allow self-serve shifting as well)."

Handling and Braking

The CLS' ride is collected and smooth. Road and Track summarizes: "Thanks to the quicker ratio rack-and-pinion steering, the firmer suspension tuning, the wider track and grippier tires, the car responds to driver inputs quickly but in a very composed manner." Motor Trend reports the CLS delivers a "solid yet luxurious balance of ride and handling."

The CLS has independent four-link front suspension with antidive geometry and a stabilizer bar and independent five-arm multilink rear suspension. The CLS also comes with Airmatic Semi-Active Air Suspension with Adaptive Damping System, which electronically responds to driving changes while adjusting the damping to one of the four settings and continually providing a more comfortable ride. Cars.com says the CLS provides "a comfortable ride in the true luxury sense. The suspension might be taut, but its operation is largely concealed as you drive on smooth surfaces." Car and Driver explains that the adjustable suspension offers "three shock settings -- comfort, sport 1, and sport 2 -- enabling the driver to tailor road feel to his or her mood." Edmunds says the continually adjusting springs "reduce pitch, dive and roll, while affording a comfortable, compliant ride. The driver can firm things up with two selectable Sport modes," and all of it "works beautifully, giving the CLS a serene and polished feel on the road as well as surprising agility for its size and weight."

The CLS comes with rack-and-pinion speed-sensitive power assist steering, which Car and Driver says feels "less cumbersome than the E's, as if it were feathered a step or two, delivering a deliciously light effort at low speeds but still a relatively firm, responsive feel as the digits climb."

But there are mixed impressions of the CLS' brakes. Some say they are advanced and powerful, yet some find they are not smooth and confident enough. The 2008 CLS comes with dual-circuit power-assist four-wheel disc brakes, an anti-lock braking system and brake assist.

Automobile Magazine says a "vast array of electronic gear helps the driver maximize braking performance and keeps the nose ahead of the tail during evasive maneuvers." Consumer Guide reports the brakes "have exceptional pedal feel and erase speed with no drama." But Car and Driver says although the CLS' brakes are "powerful and fade-free, the brake-by-wire binders are not easy to modulate smoothly, often causing lurches even when we were consciously judicious with our pedal input." Edmunds reviewers "pick a similar nit with the brake pedal, whose faintly wooden, not-quite-linear feel again suggests electronics that aren't completely natural in their feedback."

Performance Options

The 2008 Mercedes Benz CLS63 AMG comes with an eight-cylinder engine that accelerates from 0 - 60 mph in 4.3 seconds. The CLS63 AMG comes with a seven-speed automatic transmission with AMG SPEEDSHIFT and an Airmatic air suspension. Additional standard features include ABS, BAS, ESP and six-piston brake calipers. The CLS63 AMG also comes with rack-and-pinion power steering.

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