The 2006 Mercedes CLS500should be the most distinctivesedan you will noticeover the next year. It is apleasant surprise to see an instant classic.Over the last 3 decades, Mercedeshas wrestled away classic design leadershipfrom Cadillac. New luxury carslike Lexus, Infiniti, and Acura don'thold a candle to the European makersin classic styling appeal. While itsvalue will continue to go down overthe first decade of ownership, it surelywill begin to rise as it is accepted as amodern classic.
The most collectible model shouldbe the CLS55 AMG. AMG used to bean independent corporation that enhancedonly Mercedes models. A fewyears ago Daimler Chrysler boughtAMG, so now AMG works its magicon each company line. The roofline isthe most distinctive feature from a distance.The CLS55 AMG has soft lines,yet has a strong, muscular style thatcreates a handsome vehicle.
Powerful, Reliable Driveline
The CLS sedan is fun to be seen inbut even more fun to drive. The overhead-cam naturally aspirated 5-literV8 puts out 302 horsepower for fastacceleration. The smooth, powerfulengine with 7-speed automatic transmissionis consistent and quick torespond. We expect this driveline to beMercedes' most reliable. The automaticprovides two modes of operationand allows substantial control withtouch shift buttons on the far side ofthe steering wheel.
The AMG edition comes with a 5.5-liter V8 engine, which has a roots-typesupercharger mounted on the topcenter of the engine compartment. Thecasting for the supercharger is impeccable,and the supercharged V8 puts out470 horsepower. The launch from astandstill nearly snaps your head back.To handle this much power, the AMGdivision had to go with a 5-speed automatictransmission for this model.
The unitized structure is steel andgalvanized in zinc to prevent rust. Bothmodels are suspended by MercedesAirmatic. Many vehicles have adjustableshock absorbers, but very feware completely suspended by air replacingmetal springs like the CLS. In thefuture, more and more vehicles will besuspended this way because you canreturn more comfort while giving backmore performance.
All four seats are buckets on theCLS, and the center console runs theinterior length of the car. The seats arevery sophisticated in both models andtake a little education to get a comfortablesetting. Unfortunately, between thelow roof and the deep buckets, gettingin and out of the CLS is not luxurious.
All Mercedes controls, buttons, andfeatures work symmetrically and havea solid feel. The steering encouragestwo hands, especially for turns. Mercedesrelies on beautiful natural texturesin their interiors. The upper deckof the interior is dark to reduce glarefor the driver. The navigation system isjoyfully becoming standardized and isnow much easier to use with correspondingbuttons adjacent to the screenon both sides. The whole dashboardlayout is quite pleasant and easy tounderstand. The chrome trim aroundthe gauges adds a touch of elegance toan intelligent and finely designed panel.But while this car is simple to operate,it takes some studying to know it well.
As you would expect from Mercedes,the ultimate in safety featuresare built-in. While this performance-orientedsporty sedan does not offerall-wheel drive, it does offer precollisionsensors that tighten belts prior toa possible impact. Dynamic stabilityand traction control with ABS arestandard and almost impossible toshut off completely. The CLS is wiredwith Sirius satellite radio, a DVDnavigation system, and Tele-Aid, soyou are ready to explore the planet inhigh-tech luxury. The MercedesCLS500 starts at $65,600 and theCLS55 AMG starts at $87,300.
Jean Swenson and Ashly Knapp are independent research
reporters and the founders of AutoAdvisor.com.