2011 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class Performance

$16,353 - $28,429

2011 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class Performance Review

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


Performance: 9.2

While reviewers like the 2011 Mercedes-Benz CLS’s V8 engine and say it’s both refined and powerful, it seems like they’re looking for something more. Perhaps that’s why many suggest the performance trim, the CLS63 AMG, which has a 6.3-liter V8 engine. The CLS63 costs nearly $100,000, so turn to the Porsche Panamera or the BMW 7-Series if you’re looking for exceptional performance for less than $90,000.

But, it’s important to keep in mind that Mercedes designed the CLS to be a powerful city cruiser, not a sports car. With that in mind, the CLS is a great option for shoppers looking for a luxurious city car with a pleasant ride and ample power.

  • “Goes as good as it looks, with smooth steering, strong brakes, a compliant ride, a solid structure, and powerful V-8s.” -- Car and Driver
  • "It's not surprising that the CLS feels a lot like an E-Class on the road. Chassis is capable, but is more biased toward comfort than performance." -- Motor Trend
  • "CLS550's V8 provides ample power at any speed, aided by smooth transmission that kicks down quickly for passing." -- Consumer Guide

Acceleration and Power

The 2011 Mercedes-Benz CLS has a 5.5-liter V8 engine that makes 382 horsepower. Reviewers say this base engine is refined, plenty powerful and accelerates smoothly, but note that shoppers who want extra juice and don’t mind paying a premium for it should upgrade to the CLS63 AMG. This model starts at about $100,000, about $26,000 more than the CLS550, but you do get a lot more bang for your buck. The CLS63 has a 6.3-liter V8 engine that makes 507 horsepower – 125 more than the CLS550.

The CLS550 has EPA-estimated fuel economy rating of 14/21 mpg city/highway, a figure that is low for the class. Both the Porsche Panamera and Lexus LS net more: 18/27 mpg city/highway and 16/24 mpg city/highway, respectively.

  • "The Airmatic suspension does a great job of reducing body roll in sport mode. Acceleration is excellent -- even better in the AMG version -- and the seven-speed always seems to be in the right gear." -- Motor Trend
  • "Indeed, the CLS is generally more fun and involving than the typical Mercedes four-door, with a greater emphasis placed on driving enjoyment -- though the new AMG C-Class and E-Class models have certainly closed the gap in this regard. Even the base V8 engine provides more than enough thrust to make freeway entrance ramps and passing maneuvers simple affairs." -- Edmunds
  • "The CLS' head-turning good looks are backed by two engine choices, including a supercharged AMG creation capable of generating an eye-popping 507 horsepower." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "CLS550's V8 provides ample power at any speed, aided by smooth transmission that kicks down quickly for passing.” -- Consumer Guide
  • “Stellar acceleration, refined driving experience.” -- Car and Driver

Handling and Braking

The Mercedes-Benz CLS has an adjustable air suspension that responds to pitch, dive and roll during braking to make the ride more comfortable. The driver can also choose between Comfort and Sport modes. Auto writers say, however, that even the softest setting is firmer than what many super luxury buyers might expect.

Those interested in a softer ride might find the BMW 7-Series or Audi A8 a better fit. Both of those cars also offer sporty suspension modes, but have softer modes available. Reviewers say the CLS’ speed-sensitive steering feel is relatively light and responsive, but note that shoppers shouldn’t expect canyon-carving capabilities from the CLS because of its size.

  • "Too big to be really agile, but the CLS550 exhibits little cornering lean and provides strong grip in fast turns." -- Consumer Guide
  • "Left in its default "Comfort" mode, the standard adaptive air suspension provides handling stability as well as a supple ride over bumps. The two Sport settings facilitate more aggressive driving without overly compromising Mercedes' typical refined ride quality." -- Edmunds
  • "And, when a winding mountain road is part of the journey, the adjustable air suspension lets you dial in just enough stiffness to encourage a little coupe-like driving." -- Kelley Blue Book

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