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Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class 2005 Review

Perhaps this is a view of the Mercedes of the future — long, low and lean.

This is clearly a fake — some young designer's handiwork — and the heartless soul has

implanted a three-pointed star emblem atop the grille.

William Shatner, who owns a Mercedes, turns to me and says: "It's a Mercedes, Jim, but not as we know it." Which is pretty unusual, given my name's not Jim. Nothing, in fact, seems real.

The Mercedes-Benz CLS is very much a car out of left field, perhaps only the second time that Mercedes-Benz has publicly aired its quirky laundry. The other washday resulted in the A-Class.

But there's no denying that the lines of the CLS are pretty, assertive, distinctive and impressive — tempered only by borrowing some unfortunate styling cues from the ill-fated Ford Taurus.

Mercedes calls it a sedan coupe — suggesting it has the profile of a coupe with the extra benefit of four doors — but I'm putting more weight on Shatner's comments.

Perhaps this is a view of the Mercedes of the future — long, low and lean.

Look closer at the CLS and you see distinct overtones of the $1 million Maybach limousine, the flagship of the DaimlerChrysler range.

Go underneath and the CLS is all E-Class, borrowing all the running gear and some cabin treatments from the popular upper-mid-range Merc.

Mercedes-Benz has aimed the car at the more affluent buyer who demands a car that is an expression of individuality.

Perhaps that buyer is a long-time Mercedes owner, a touch jaded by the familiarity of the sedan and seeking a standout addition to the driveway.

The car is already proving popular. Mercedes Australia gets 400 cars this year, 450 in 2006. It recently boosted the CLS range to three models, with the introduction of the smaller-engined CLS350 to add to the CLS500 and the $347,900 CLS55 AMG.

For me, the pick is the CLS500, which picks up the Merc 5-litre V8, bolts it to a seven-speed auto gearbox and sends the power to the rear wheels.

Space efficient it may not be, but for spirited driving it's got the right formula that BMW — which makes no front-wheel-drive cars — knows too well.

That said, few CLS500 buyers have spent nearly $180,000 for a quick fang around the block.

This is a limousine of sorts, with seating for four — the rear seats are buckets — and a high level of interior trim, restrained to suit the car's target market.

The interior appears to be made to a higher level of quality than some other Mercs, with excellent attention to detail combined with attractive use of leather and faux woodgrain.

The foot-operated park brake is a pain, but if you're a Mercedes owner it will be quite familiar.

The chop-top roofline lowers the car's height, which makes it a bit harder to enter than the CLS's E-Class donor.

Getting into the car is made a bit easier by the frameless side windows — presupposing the glass is down when you enter the cabin — with the exception of the rear doors' fixed quarter panels, which can get in the way.

To suit its market, the CLS is supremely quiet, though for the driver, not especially engaging.

The seven-speed auto may

appear an overkill, but it's sweeter than honey and just as smooth — and it's perfectly mated to the fat torque of the V8.

On the freeway, or toddling around the suburbs, this is one silky carriage.

Get it on to winding roads, however, and it is a reluctant handler that shows its weight as it progresses through the bends.

It's not a bad feel, just that winding country roads aren't this car's bag. Here, it reveals a suspension design made with the US in mind.

The suspension is adjustable, but though that helps, it still doesn't involve the driver.

That's magnified by disinterested steering, though I'll give top marks to the brakes.

But I'm being too pedantic. This is a superb car with looks that turns heads.

Is it better than the E-Class on which it's based? I'm not sure. William Shatner, however, assures me it is.

Pricing guides

Based on 8 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
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Range and Specs

CLS55 AMG 5.4L, PULP, 5 SP $21,670 – 27,390 2005 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class 2005 CLS55 AMG Pricing and Specs
CLS350 3.5L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $11,110 – 15,290 2005 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class 2005 CLS350 Pricing and Specs
Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.