Mercedes-Benz CLS
(2011 - 2017)

  • The design
  • Interior fit and finish is excellent and wearing well
  • Vast levels of tech, equipment and features
  • Offering so much car for the money when used
  • Long lists of potential mechanical and reliability issues
  • Common electronic gremlins
  • Expensive parts and repair bills
  • Limited rear head room
Overview

While to many, the Mercedes Benz E Class may potentially represent an overly conservative image, the CLS Class exists to add some visual spice to this size of Mercedes Benz vehicle, taking the same platform and much of the technology of the W212 E-class and wrapping it in copious sexy curves and slightly more extroverted aesthetics.

This cheat sheet is focussing on the second generation 2011 to 2017 CLS Class and specifically on the non AMG models as they deserve their very own cheat sheet.

In terms of body styles, the CLS has been available as a 4-door Coupe sedan and a 5-door wagon or as Mercedes Benz call it, the Shooting Brake

Engine wise and depending on the year and specific model, in petrol form, the CLS has been available with a 3.5-litre naturally aspirated or 3.5-litre twin-turbo V6 or, unlike the AMG models 5.5-litre twin-turbo V8, a 4.7-litre twin-turbo V8.

Diesel power plants consist of a turbo charged 3.0-Litre V6 and a 2.1-litre four cylinder.

All engines have been mated to 7-speed automatic transmissions however, the 4.7-litre V8 received a 9-speed automatic after 2014. Here in Australia, all CLS models are rear-wheel drive only however some international markets also received all-wheel drive 4matic versions.

In terms of the CLS mid-life update which was released in October of 2014, the Series 2 CLS is easily identified by its new diamond radiator grille amongst some other more subtle visual changes while inside the dash featured a new larger free-standing colour display and new steering wheel design.

Underneath the visual changes, the levels of standard equipment and features were increased, model designations changed and even mechanically, the CLS, depending on the model, now featured Airmatic’ electronically-controlled dampers as standard while engines and transmissions were revised and improved.

In terms of the model range here in Australia, initially sedan variants were split across two petrol models, the 3.5-litre V6 CLS350 and 4.7-litre twin-turbo V8 CLS500, and two diesel models the 2.1-litre turbo four cylinder CLS 250 CDI and 3.0-litre turbo V6 CLS 250 CDI.

However, after the update just mentioned, the CLS 350 was replaced by the twin-turbo CLS 400 and the CLS 350 CDI was discontinued.

In terms of the Shooting Brake, the range was a simplified version of the sedans offerings, featuring just the CLS 250 CDI and CLS350. However, after the update, the CLS 350 was replaced by the CLS 500.

All CLS models had the ability to be optioned with a plethora of technology, equipment and feature packs so it is important to remember, very rarely are two CLS models ever exactly the same.

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What goes wrong

In terms of the exterior, it’s generally good news. there have been a few sporadic reports of electrical gremlins, these can range from issues with the automatic boot closing buttons not working to the rear window blinds not opening or shutting and the electric windows have also been known to become sticky and squeaky but again, the reports are so few and far between and not what we’d call common.

Inside there have been a few reports of rattling in the cabin, especially behind the dashboard and the odd sporadic report of certain buttons and functions not working but again, these aren’t common problems.

Mechanically, you are best to avoid any models with the 2.1-litre OM651 four cylinder turbo diesel especially prior to 2012, as they received a major fuel injector redesign from 2012 which were much less problematic. Also, in poorly serviced and high mileage examples, timing chains & tensioners can fail and this can become eye-wateringly expensive to repair thanks to the timing chain being situated at the back of the engine and it is near impossible to access.

The 3.0-litre OM642 V6 turbo diesel again suffers from more timing chain complications but at least on these they are at the front of the engine and somewhat more accessible. The hot V design, (that’s where the turbo is located in the V of the engine), have a lot of inlet system issues and can suffer from boost leaks that can cause a multitude of sensor complications and ECU headaches.

Also, all of the diesels can have EGR and DPF complications.

The 3.0-litre and 3.5-litre M276 petrol V6, both in naturally aspirated and twin-turbo variants are all prone to clogged inlet and PCV systems thanks to direct injection only and thanks to there being no port injection to help clean carbon build up as seen in a range of other modern high-performance engines.

Both the twin-turbo petrol 4.7-litre M278 V8 and M157 5.5-litre V8 suffer from timing chains and tensioner issues, oil leaks, valve train wear, wiring & electrical gremlins.
You may have noticed a common theme with the timing chain issues, however typically, this occurs far more often on high mileage or poorly serviced examples. These problems do not happen to all engines however, these are not the only issues they can suffer from as all Mercedes engines can all have the same old problems all cars often experience like water pumps, ignition coils, alternators & power steering complications.

The transmissions suffer terribly if not serviced properly. The service interval is recommended at 125,000km which we feel is a bit of a stretch, (and very often overlooked). If you want it to last, service the transmission every 50,000km simply makes more sense.

One thing all these engines and transmissions share is that they all very complex packages and the likely hood of something going wrong is quite high as is the cost of repairing them. However, you can mitigate the risk of failures by frequent and thorough servicing.

There are increasing reports of issues with CLS models fitted with air suspension. Problems ranging from Airmatic bag failures to compressor failures due to the motor burning out through to air strut failures, faulty lines, valve block leakage issues and relay or fuse failures are all becoming more common as the models age.

Finally, be warned, if history tells us anything, as used cars, by the time the second or third owner has them, they’re typically cared for much less and unlikely to have money spent on them to be fixed properly and will come preloaded with a bunch of issues.

Model range, pricing & features

CLS 250

  • Price when new: $114,900 - $129,000
  • Price used: $25,000 - $80,500

The CLS 250 (also known as the CLS 250 BE – BE standing for BlueEfficiency) is the entry-level model to the CLS range, and was available either in the 4-door coupé or shooting brake body styles.

There was only one engine choice, being the 2.1 litre 4-cylinder turbo diesel engine, paired to a 7-speed automatic transmission.

The CLS 250 was well-equipped, comprising of 18-inch alloy wheels (19s on the shooting brake), 11x airbags, electronic safety aids and assist technologies, electric mirrors, windows, steering wheel, seats; leather upholstery and a 7.0-inch colour infotainment display running COMAND APS.

An update in October 2014, brought along new styling updates as well as adaptive cruise control, AEB, active blind spot assist and active lane keeping assist (features that were previously only available on the CLS 500); as well as a 360-degree camera, multi-beam LED headlights, push-button start, redesigned three-spoke steering wheel, a larger infotainment screen (up to 8.4-inches), and the addition of a 14-speaker Harman Kardon Logic7 sound system.

Standard features:

18-inch alloy wheels (19-inch five-spoke AMG alloys on the Shooting Brake)
Body coloured bumper bars
Body coloured side mirrors
Chrome exhuast tips
Electric sunroof
Multi-link front & rear suspension
Driver and front passenger airbags
Front side airbags
Full-length curtain airbags
Driver’s knee airbag
Driver and front passenger pelvis airbags
Rear side airbags
3-point (lap sash) seatbelt for all occupants
Height adjustable seatbelts for driver and front passenger
Seat pretensioners and load limiters for for all passengers
Headrests for all occupants
Anti-lock braking system (ABS)
Electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD)
Brake assist
Dynamic stability control (DSC)
Tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS)
Pre-collision system (PCS)
Blind spot monitoring (BSM)
Lane keeping assist
Driver fatigue monitoring system
Front and rear parking sensors
Reversing camera – in infotainment system
Rear self parking
Electrochromatic rear vision mirror
Electrically operated and folding side mirrors
Electric windows – front and rear with auto up/down function for all windows
Cruise control
Bi-xenon headlights
Front fog lights
Automatic headlights
Daytime running lights (DRL)
Interior lights – reading lights (first and second row), entry/exit lamp, front footwell lamps
Interior ambient lighting
Rain sensing (auto) wipers
Rear wiper
Remote central locking
Engine immobiliser
Alarm
Speed sensitive door locking
Trip computer
Personal profile (customised control functions) saved into the keys
Gearshift paddles
Memory functions (front seats, mirrors and steering wheel)
Power steering
Steering wheel – electrically adjustable
Multi-functional Nappa-leather sterring wheel
Leather gear knob and handbrake
Dual-zone climate control
Rear air vents
Leather upholstery
Electrically adjustable driver and front passenger’s seat
7.0-inch colour infotainment display
COMAND APS infotainment system
AM/FM radio
6-stacker CD/DVD player
MP3 compatibility
Bluetooth connectivity – phone and audio streaming
Satellite navigation
Voice recognition
AUX (3.5mm) input
iPod connectivity
USB connectivity
10GB hard drive
12V power outlets
2x cup holders – front
2x cup holders – rear
Centre console storage
Glovebox
Front seat map pockets
60:40 rear folding seats
Cargo net

October 2014 update:

New pronounced front bumper
Larger air intakes
Darkened tail-lights
Adaptive cruise control with brake warning (Distronic Plus)
Autonomous emergency braking (AEB) – low and high speed
Active Blind Spot Assist
Active Lane Keeping Assist
360-degree camera
Multi-beam LED headlights
Push-button start
Redesigned three-spoke steering wheel
14-speaker Harman Kardon Logic7 sound system
8.4-inch infotainment display
Electrically operated, heated and folding side mirrors

CLS 250 CDI Avantgarde 10 Edition

  • Price when new: $114,900 - $124,000
  • Price used: $35,000 - $52,000

The CLS 250 Avantgarde 10 Edition was a limited edition model that commemorated the tenth anniversary of the CLS-Class and was available in the coupe or shooting brake body styles; and featured an AMG styling pack, LED headlights, heated front seats and a 14-speaker Harman Kardon Logic7 sound system.

Additional features:

19-inch five-spoke alloy wheels
AMG styling pack
Electronically controlled dampers
LED headlights
Heated front seats
14-speaker Harman Kardon Logic7 sound system

CLS 350/CLS 350 CDI

  • Price when new: $158,700 - $173,000
  • Price used: $27,000 - $47,000

The CLS 350 and 350 CDI were both the mid-range models in the CLS range and were offered with either a 3.5 litre V6 petrol engine or a 3.0 litre V6 turbo diesel engine respectively.

Additional features included 3-zone climate control, LED headlights, DAB+ digital radio, TV tuner and 14-speaker Harman Kardon Logic7 sound system.

The CLS 350 models were discontinued with the October 2014 update and replaced with the CLS 400.

Additional features:

LED headlights
3-zone climate control
Multi-contour front seats with inflatable air chambers
14-speaker Harman Kardon Logic7 sound system
DAB+ digital radio
TV tuner

CLS 400

  • Price when new: $139,827 - $140,400
  • Price used: $42,000 - $63,500

The CLS 400 was introduced as the new mid-tier model to replace the CLS 350 and 350 CDI models; and featured a new 3.0 litre bi-turbo V6 petrol engine.

Standard features from the CLS 350 carried over to the CLS 400 (excluding the TV tuner feature) and added AIRMATIC electrically controlled dampening system, “Passion” Nappa leather upholstery, combination Nappa leather/wood steering wheel.

Additional features:

AIRMATIC electrically controlled dampening system
“Passion” Nappa leather upholstery
Combination Nappa leather/wood steering wheel

 

CLS 500

  • Price when new: $169,900 - $210,800
  • Price used: $30,000 - $78,000

The top-of-the-range CLS 500 comprising of the 4.7 litre bi-turbo V8 petrol added an AMG styling pack, 19-inch five-spoke AMG alloy wheels, adaptive cruise control, AEB, active blind spot assist, active lane keeping assist, keyless start/stop, motion-sensing alarm, wood/leather upholstered steering wheel, “Luxury” front seats with seat heating and ventilation and brushed stainless steel pedals.

Key updates that arrived in October 2014 were the introduction of a 9-speed automatic transmission, “Exclusive Passion” Nappa leather upholstery and “Active” multi-contour front seats.

Additional features:

AMG styling pack
19-inch five-spoke alloy wheels
Adaptive cruise control with brake warning (Distronic Plus)
Autonomous emergency braking (AEB) – low and high speed
Active Blind Spot Assist
Active Lane Keeping Assist
Keyless start/stop
Motion-sensing alarm
Wood/leather steering wheel
“Luxury” front seats
Heated and ventilated front seats
Brushed stainless steel sports pedals
Electrically operated rear window blind

Additional features:

AMG styling pack
Single-louvre diamond radiator grille with chrome pins
“Exclusive Passion” Nappa leather upholstery
“Active” multi-contour front seats
TV tuner (previous standard on CLS 350 and higher)

CLS 500 Avantgarde 10 Edition

  • Price when new: $159,430
  • Price used: $60,000 - $65,000

The CLS 500 Avantgarde 10 Edition was a limited edition model that commorated the tenth anniversary of the CLS-Class and was available in the coupe body style, and added an AMG styling pack and the Easy-Pack Quick Fold rear seats.

Additional features:

“Easy-Pack Quick Fold” rear seats
AMG styling pack
Electronically controlled dampers

Should you buy it?

While there is no denying that the CLS is one hell of a car in nearly every way and thanks to the immense levels of depreciation, they do offer so much car for the money, the money is the issue.

If you are on a tight budget, meaning you’ll be searching through the more affordable end of the market and your financial position means that finding the extra cash to maintain and quite potentially fix a CLS could be a challenge then god no, do not buy a CLS.

Unfortunately unless you are highly mechanically literate, the potential financial heartache that can occur if something were to go wrong is just too high in our opinion.

However, if you are swimming in cash and can easily afford to buy a premium example and you have the finances to not only maintain the CLS in the way it deserves but couldn’t care less if a faulty component costs you thousands of dollars to repair, then absolutely you should buy a CLS.

For what these now cost on the used market, the CLS offers so much car for the money.

Just remember the old saying, the most expensive thing in the world is a cheap Mercedes.

Warranty & servicing

Warranty:

3 year/unlimited kms

Servicing:

12 months/25,000kms

Tech specs

Body style:

4-door sedan – coupé (CLS 250, CLS 350, CLS 350 CDI, CLS 400 – From 2014, CLS 500)
5-door wagon – estate/shooting brake (CLS 250 CDI BE, CLS 350 BE, CLS 500 – From 2014)

Engines:

2.1 litre 4-cylinder turbo diesel (CLS 250 CDI BE)
3.5 litre V6 petrol (CLS 350)
3.0 litre V6 turbo diesel (CLS 350 CDI)
3.0 litre bi-turbo V6 petrol (CLS 400) – from 2014
4.7 litre bi-turbo V8 petrol (CLS 500)

Power:

150kW – 2.1 litre 4-cylinder turbo diesel
225kW – 3.5 litre V6 petrol
195kW – 3.0 litre V6 turbo diesel
245kW – 3.0 litre bi-turbo V6 petrol
300kW – 4.7 litre bi-turbo V8 petrol

Torque:

500Nm – 2.1 litre 4-cylinder turbo diesel
370Nm – 3.5 litre V6 petrol
620Nm – 3.0 litre V6 turbo diesel
480Nm – 3.0 litre bi-turbo V6 petrol
600Nm – 4.7 litre bi-turbo V8 petrol

Transmission & drivetrains:

7-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive (RWD)
9-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive (RWD) – CLS 500 (from 2014)

Fuel consumption:

5.1 – 10.1L/100km

Length:

4940mm (sedan)
4956mm (wagon)

Width:

1881mm

Height:

1416mm

Kerb Weight:

1735 – 2005kg

Disclaimer

Information correct as of November 04, 2022.

The advice provided on this website is general advice only. It has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on this advice, you should consider the appropriateness of the advice, having regard to your own objectives, financial situation and needs.

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