2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class

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2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class Review

Note: This review was created when the 2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class was new.

The 2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS sports a freshly redesigned interior and exterior, as well as a more powerful engine. Most auto critics love the changes.

Pros & Cons

  • Powerful twin-turbo V8
  • Attractive interior design
  • Folding rear seats increase utility
  • Divisive exterior styling
  • Light steering feel
  • Inadequate headroom for tall occupants

Research & Ratings

Currently, the Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class has a score of 8.0 out of 10, which is based on our evaluation of 10 pieces of research and data.




Critics' Rating: 7.6
Performance: 8.4
Interior: 8.0
This model has never been fully tested for safety. Its overall score is being calculated without safety.
J.D. Power Ratings Logo

2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class Overview

The Mercedes-Benz CLS has been completely redesigned for 2012, and Mercedes says that the new CLS is more fuel-efficient, thanks to a new 4.6-liter twin-turbo V8 and seven-speed transmission.

So far, reviewers say that there’s no turbo lag, and that the engine is powerful and quiet. “The V8 has a nice little growl when pushed hard but quiets down at cruising speed,” writes AutoWeek. “A stop-start feature to save fuel and reduce emissions is standard, and it worked seamlessly on our test drive in Tuscany." The new engine is smaller than the previous model’s 5.5-liter V8, but it’s also more powerful thanks to twin turbochargers, and the automotive press generally likes the performance.

Although Mercedes boasts that the redesigned 2012 CLS is bolder, sportier and sleeker than its predecessor, many reviewers think that the outgoing model’s groundbreaking design is a tough act to follow. However, one aspect of the redesigned exterior that automotive journalists love is the optional LED headlights with adaptive high beams and Active Curve Illumination. “These are the slickest all-singing, all-dancing lamps you've ever seen, with every adaptive lighting function you can imagine being provided by LEDs: they bend in turns, swivel to look ahead when you turn onto side roads, automatically dip the high beams for oncoming traffic-but only on the left side so you can still see to your right,” says Automobile Magazine.

Most test drivers are pleased with the 2012 CLS’ interior, but some think the back seat can be cramped for some passengers. The interior of the 2012 CLS features a chunky, leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather seats and either burl walnut or optional black ash wood trim. Test drivers generally like the look, and say the standard navigation and COMAND system are relatively easy to use. That’s a big deal for Mercedes, since the first few generations of its COMAND infotainment and navigation system were blasted for being confusing and counterintuitive.

Other Cars to Consider

If you’re looking for a sleek sedan with a sexy exterior design, the CLS is no longer the only game in town. Starting at about $73,000, the Jaguar XJ is about $2,000 more than the CLS550, but boasts an attractive exterior design, as well as a powerful engine, nimble handling and a large trunk. Still, the base model’s 385-horsepower V8 isn’t quite as powerful as the CLS550, and many reviewers say that the XJ shares some of the CLS’ pitfalls. These include rear seats that are a little short on head and leg room, as well as a navigation/entertainment system that some reviewers think is difficult to use.

If you prioritize passenger comfort and prefer a nimble-handling super luxury car, the Porsche Panamera might be worth test driving. However, not all reviewers like the Panamera’s looks, and the base model costs nearly $4,000 more than the CLS550. It’s not as powerful either. The base Panamera’s 300-horsepower V6 is 102 horses shy of matching the CLS550 in terms of power, and while the Panamera S’ 400-horsepower V8 is a close match in terms of performance, it’s also about $19,000 more than the CLS550.

2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS: The Details


Starting at about $71,000, the CLS550 features a 4.6-liter twin-turbo V8 engine and a seven-speed automatic transmission. Standard interior features include 14-way power-adjustable front seats, navigation, Bluetooth, dual-zone climate control and a 14-speaker Harman Kardon surround sound stereo with satellite and HD radio, a six-disc CD changer and 40 GB internal hard drive.

Notable options include Mercedes’ Premium 1 Package, which adds interior features such as heated and ventilated front seats, rearview camera, power rear sunshade, electronic trunk closer and an iPod connection. A 4matic all-wheel drive option is expected in the near future.

  • "The CLS is still an expressive machine, and it remains a stylish alternative to an E550 sedan. We just wish it had a little more fire." -- Car and Driver 
  • "Compared with the Mercedes-Benz E-Class on which it's based, the CLS trades svelte styling for typical sedan functionality - and a stiff price premium. 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 disappoint." -- Consumer Guide 
  • "The 2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS550 has a different story to tell. After all, the original car invented the so-called "four-door coupe" design aesthetic that so many others have copied with varying degrees of success. The new CLS550 is a stunning performer that should have no problem carrying the mantle." -- Motor Trend 

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