Mercedes-Benz launched the CLS400 for 2015, as the least-expensive member of the CLS-Class family. Featuring coupe-like styling, the luxury four-door sedan uses a V6 engine rather than the V8 used in other CLS-Class models. Essentially, the four-passenger CLS400 is close kin to the midsize E-Class sedan, but with a dramatically sloping roofline rather than the traditional squarish profile. Little has changed for 2016. More powerful CLS550 and CLS63 AMG models also are available.

Pricing and Equipment

Base-priced at $66,900 (plus destination charge), the CLS400 contains a 3-liter twin-turbo V6 engine that develops 329 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque. The higher-powered CLS550 has adopted Mercedes-Benz’s nine-speed automatic transmission; but for now, at least, the CLS400 uses a seven-speed automatic. The CLS400 comes with either rear-drive or 4Matic all-wheel drive ($2,500 additional). Fuel economy with rear-drive is estimated at 20/30 mpg (city/highway), but all-wheel drive sinks the estimate to 19/26 mpg.

A single trim level is offered. Standard CLS400 equipment includes:

  • Leather upholstery
  • Heated front seats with driver's memory
  • Wood interior trim
  • Sunroof
  • Auto-dimming mirrors
  • Bi-xenon headlights
  • Adaptive air suspension
  • 18-inch wheels
  • Seven-speed automatic transmission
  • Collision Prevention Assist Plus

The Premium 1 package adds ventilated front seats, a rearview camera, power-folding mirrors, power-closing trunk lid, and 14-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound. A Premium 2 package adds navigation, a power rear sunshade, adaptive full-LED headlights, and a DVD/CD changer. Active-safety features are available in Lane Tracking and Driver Assistance packages

Performance Pros

  • Accelerating briskly with its amply-powered V6 engine, the CLS400 never falters in urban traffic and is capable of passing or merging easily at any speed.
  • Occupants can expect relaxed, comfortable highway cruising.
  • When a curvy stretch of pavement looms, the CLS400 stands ready to breeze through it with a graceful air. For a sedan of this size, that’s no small achievement.

Performance Cons

  • Fuel economy isn’t the best, at least in city driving; but it beats that of the CLS-Class V8 models.
  • Mercedes-Benz’s new nine-speed automatic, if made available, could provide even smoother shifting than the seven-speed, as well as greater gas mileage.

Interior Pros

  • Front-seat occupants get as much space as those in a squarely-styled Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan. Fourteen-way power adjustment assures a comfortable position for a broad range of physiques.
  • Not only is the cockpit comfortable, it’s visually appealing, with genuine wood and metal trim, as well as high-quality plastics. Leather upholstery is standard, too.
  • Mercedes-Benz’s COMAND Online system operates through an 8-inch display screen, providing plenty of entertainment and information features.

Interior Cons

  • Back-seat riders get a bit less headroom, with smaller side windows than a conventionally-profiled sedan would have, though only taller passengers are likely to complain. Snugness is a direct result of the CLS400's arched, swooping roofline.
  • Not everyone is comfortable operating the COMAND infotainment system.

The Most Pleasant Surprise

The CLS400 is rather lavishly equipped, if a bit less so than V8 models. You can get nearly all the posh amenities and pleasures of a V8-powered CLS550 ($74,150), if not the seriously potent, six-figure CLS63 AMG, at a relatively reasonable (though undeniably hefty) price. Few makes spell attainable luxury better than Mercedes-Benz, after all.

The Least Pleasant Surprise

Limited back-seat space, especially headroom, is hardly surprising in view of the CLS roof profile. Though common in coupe-like vehicles, it’s a valid concern, especially if you often invite taller passengers along. Excellent active-safety features are available, but most come in extra-cost option groups.

The Bottom Line

Four-door “coupes” have been around for several years now, especially among the European luxury brands. They’re not really coupes, of course, but sedans with a curvaceous roofline that inevitably steals some head space in the rear. Is the more sensual profile worth that shortfall in space? Considering how much attention these models have been getting, for many, the answer must be “yes”.