Buyers Guide Mercedes-Benz CLS55 AMG C219
There had to be an M113K-powered four-door in this guide and it came down to either the W211 E55 or the CLS55 and, as you can see, the CLS was our choice.
WHY YOU WANT ONE
There are several reasons – first of all, while it may be a larger and heavier car, the CLS is also 30% stiffer than the E-Class, it’s lower and it has quicker steering for a more responsive helm, and while the W211 did eventually receive the quicker steering, all CLSs had it from the off. Then there’s the styling and while we appreciate not everyone is a fan of the C219, we love it and think it looks fantastic – people may have scoffed when Mercedes launched a four-door coupé but soon after just about every car manufacturer had followed suit with something similar. It looks long and low and elegant, it’s ageing beautifully and it has a tonne of road presence, especially in AMG form with the three-slat grille, aggressive front bumper and quad exhausts. Arguably, the CLS also represents better value in terms of what you’re getting for your money – new it was more expensive than the E55, costing just over £70,000 at launch, yet is now about the same price used and it feels like a more luxurious machine.
C219 CLS55 AMG
ULTIMATE PERFORMANCE MERCEDES BUYING GUIDE
The interior architecture is beautiful, with that huge swathe of wood that runs across the whole dashboard fascia, the dashboard top is covered in soft, stitched artificial leather while you also get some Alcantara accents throughout the cabin that add a further level of luxury to proceedings. The cabin of the CLS55 looks and feels special and it’s a wonderful place to spend time. The car itself is also incredibly quiet and refined and you can happily spend hours behind the wheel cruising in near-silence and supreme comfort, and the ride is excellent, even on the optional 19s. The CLS may only have four seats but, rear headroom aside, everyone has plenty of space while the boot is cavernous and as an all-round proposition, it’s exceptional. Of course, you don’t buy an AMG for its comfort and refinement – though they are welcome bonuses – and when you wake up the M113K things get very exciting. With 476hp and 516lb ft of torque on tap, the CLS55 is brutally fast and the way it gathers pace even on part-throttle is truly astounding, but when you open the taps it flies and it’s just epic, and all that is overlaid with a soundtrack that combines both supercharger whine and V8 rumble. It handles surprisingly well, too, thanks to the flexibility of the Airmatic suspension and while it can never hide its size or its near-two-tonne weight, you can drive it harder and with more enthusiasm than you would ever have thought possible.
WHAT TO PAY
Prices of CLS55s vary quite wildly but prices for good ones have been creeping and while they do crop up in the sub-£10k price range, by shopping for cars in this price bracket you’ll be able to pick up an extremely tidy, low-mileage example. At £10,500 we found a car with 76,000 miles on the clock, there was a 72,000- mile example up for a whisker under £14,000 and at £5 under £15,000 we spotted a car with just 69,000 miles, so there are some very good CLS55s available at this price point.
WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR
The good news is that generally speaking, there’s not actually that much that goes wrong with the CLS, though there are a few big-ticket items to watch out for. The first one is Airmatic – it’s not quite as bad as ABC, but it can still hit you with some big bills.The compressor itself is around £200-300, the front struts are around £900 each while rear air springs are around £700 each; there are cheaper alternatives that cost around half the price of each, but we’ve read mixed reviews so we recommend doing some research first. The SBC brake-by-wire pump eventually gives up the ghost after a set number of brake applications and that leaves you with two options – you can buy a new one, which will set you back around £1500, or you can get your old one refurbished for £375. Other common problems include the window regulators, which will cause your windows to make a squealing noise, the air conditioning duo valve can stick, which will cause hot air to come out of one set of vents, and parking sensors also have a habit of failing – new ones are expensive at around £80 a pop from Mercedes, but you can find unused ones for much less on eBay. Engine-wise, the main thing to look out for is a failing intercooler pump, which will result in reduced performance – the recommended Bosch 010 pump can be had for around £100. Beyond that, the valve cover gaskets can leak, and rear main seal can also leak, which is around a five-hour job to fix so it’s only really recommended to get it done if it’s very bad.
With its sleek, four-door coupé styling, exceptional levels of refinement and comfort and monster performance courtesy of its supercharged V8, the CLS55 makes a very compelling case for itself. While it is, for the most part, a reliable proposition, there are a few potentially expensive repairs to be aware of and to be prepared for as well as a few annoying niggles you’re likely to deal with. Go into a purchase with your eyes (and wallet) open and you’ll have yourself one of the finest four-door performance machines out there and driving it will always feel like an event.
Swooping four-door coupé styling has aged extremely well. Cabin looks and feels special. C219 CLS is a stunning machine.