2011 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class

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2011 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class Review

Note: This review was created when the 2011 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class was new.

The 2011 Mercedes-Benz CLS has an attractive exterior that automakers like Volkswagen have started copying. However, its coupe-inspired looks have some drawbacks: poor visibility and cramped rear seating.

Pros & Cons

  • Sexy exterior styling
  • Lush interior with first-class amenities
  • Smooth, controlled ride
  • Powerful V8 engine
  • Cramped rear seating
  • Poor visibility
  • Difficult entry/exit
  • Shallow trunk

Research & Ratings

Currently, the Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class has a score of 8.2 out of 10, which is based on our evaluation of 55 pieces of research and data.




Critics' Rating: 8.4
Performance: 9.2
Interior: 7.2
This model has never been fully tested for safety. Its overall score is being calculated without safety.
J.D. Power Ratings Logo

2011 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class Overview

It’s hard to dislike any luxury car. Their upscale interiors, powerful engines and bundle of standard tech features would make any Honda Civic owner jump at a chance to drive something like the 2011 Mercedes-Benz CLS. By itself, the CLS is a dream on wheels. It has a lavish cabin, a bunch of interior tech and a powerful V8 engine. But, when you start comparing the CLS to other super luxury cars, the industry finds that the competition doesn’t ask you to compromise as much as the CLS does.

For example, there’s the issue of rear comfort. The Mercedes-Benz CLS seats four, but thanks to its coupe-like body style, rear passengers don’t have much headroom. Then there’s its poor visibility, which is also a result of the CLS550’s design. That’s not to say that test drivers dislike the way the CLS looks, but it seems that the design creates a number of problems. Another issue reviewers have with the CLS is its confusing COMMAND system. They think the BMW 7-Series’ iDrive system is less frustrating.

With all these negative comments, you might get the impression that the CLS550 is a bad car. It’s not. But, at $74,000, you’re allowed to be picky. Motor Trend says the 2011 Mercedes-Benz CLS is like “gorgeous shoes that pinch your toes” – attractive on the shelf, but once you try it on, you’ll notice a few design flaws. 

Other Cars to Consider

The 2011 Mercedes-Benz CLS’s biggest drawback is its cramped rear row. If you need more comfortable seating and can afford to pay a bit more, go for the Porsche Panamera. It starts at about $74,500, just a few hundred more than the CLS550, and has some of the most comfortable rear seats in the class – they’re even more comfortable than the front seats. With the Panamera, you’ll not only get a comfortable seating for four, but you’ll also get better performance. Reviewers prefer the Panamera’s 3.6-liter V6 engine over the CLS550’s, even though it only makes 300 horsepower – 82 less than the base CLS.

You should also check out the BMW 7-Series, which has some of the best performance reviews and comfortable seating. Another bonus: BMW has improved its iDrive infotainment system that controls the 7-Series’ electronics. If you find the COMMAND system more frustrating than helpful, give the iDrive system a thorough look-see.

Details: 2011 Mercedes-Benz CLS

If you really want to buy the CLS, it will pay to wait. The 2012 model, which will be completely redesigned, is headed to dealerships later this year and it will have a new engine.  No one has tested it, but it looks like it will be more powerful than the current model’s 5.0-liter V8. Mercedes says it will make 402 horsepower – 20 more than the 2011 model.

But, if you’re satisfied with the current CLS550, here are the specs: It has a 5.0-liter V8 that produces 381 horsepower. The CLS550 starts at about $74,000. There is also a performance trim that costs nearly $100,000, the CLS63 AMG. It has a 6.3-liter V8 engine and makes 507 horsepower. This model is also on its way out. 

  • "Compared to the Mercedes E-Class on which it's based, the CLS trades svelte styling for typical sedan functionality  and a $9000 price premium. Furthermore, it lacks the E-Class' available all-wheel drive. But for well-heeled buyers who appreciate its dramatic design and can live with limited rear-seat room and reduced cargo versatility, the CLS won't likely disappoint." -- Consumer Guide
  • "Seductively styled and beautiful to behold, the CLS-class is built upon the bones of the last-gen E-class. The interior is as attractive as the exterior, but a smallish backseat may turn off some potential buyers." -- Car and Driver
  • "For the well-to-do who seek a vehicle as dynamic as it is expensive, the Mercedes-Benz CLS ranks among a select few that can truly be called ‘exclusive.’” -- Kelley Blue Book

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