If this car were a person, it would be Guy Laliberté. Like the canadian’s many talents for finer things in life, the Mercedes CLS W218 has received a consistent legacy that it has managed somehow to take to the next level.
No, I don’t have a Guy Laliberté shrine at home. He doesn’t even know who I am and probably doesn’t care. But I like what he’s done in the business area. Just like the Mercedes CLS W218 took the torch from the previous model and went to the next level.
Yes, it no longer has the visual impact of the first model because that was a revolution, it was a genuine Moet of the automotive world. And it’s hard to come up with two revolutions in a row, so here we have an evolution. I’m not 100% convinced it’s really an evolution though.
And that has more to do with the E Class W212‘s evolvement from the W211 and the evolution of Mercedes brand in general. So too the CLS has fallen into the mainstream trap (sort of, it’s still quite expensive), with the Germans trying to make it more appealing to more categories of buyers. We know exactly who the CLS’s clientele was – people who could get by without papers and contracts and taxes and other minor things like that. People who chose other paths in life. People who would cut off a finger if you were a week late on payment. And then the CLS went from being an underworld car to a car that makes you look richer than you are.
The Mercedes CLS W218 on the other hand wants to hang out with the business class. Whereas before you could tell the difference between the E Class and the CLS like you could tell the difference between a teacher and a junkie, the second CLS leaves you a feeling of a sportier E Class and that’s about it. It’s still based on the E Class platform, but now they’ve copied and pasted even the interior. At least the first CLS was different on the inside. And look how the CLS has turned from a mafia into a family car. We even have a station wagon version, but I have to admit it’s almost as beautiful as Sofia Boutella. I think I’m playing “A Dios le Pido” as I write the following lines, because this what this car is expressing to me – a more mainstream car than its predecessor.
Mercedes CLS W218 Engines
- 3.0 V6 Twin-Turbo of 330 horsepower – Glory to the CLS400 and its M276 engine. Gone is the old M272 which was notorious for rocker-shaft issues, but the M276 has retired it and comes in stress-relieving versions. And it’s civilized on the tax department.
- 3.5 V6 of 302 horsepower – We have the same M276 but in naturally aspirated form, kept especially for those who are scared of turbos. The kind of person who doesn’t have a smartphone and listens to ABBA. But is it worth paying more taxes and having 30 fewer horsepower, just because you’re scared of some spinning metal?
- 4.7 V8 of Twin Turbo 402 horsepower – No specific issues, just that the timing replacement costs so much you can easily buy a first-generation CLS for that money. But when you can afford a 400-horsepower CLS W218, a few thousand euros really do matter?
- 5.5 V8 of Twin-Turbo 518, 550, and 577 horsepower – Reserved for the CLS 63 AMG, this behemoth is surprisingly reliable. It only has timing chain issues, but that’s about it. Irrelevant anyway, if you can afford a CLS 63 AMG.
- 2.2 CDI of170 and 204 horsepower – This is probably the most popular engine in the Mercedes CLS W218 and one of the stars guilty of making the CLS mainstream. Everyone who wanted the CLS but couldn’t afford the CLS got the CLS 220 CDI or 250 CDI. The only difference is that the 204 horsepower version CLS 250 CDI has two turbos and follows the Team Rocket philosophy from Pokemon – prepare for trouble and make it double.
- 3.0 V6 of 255 and 261 horsepower – Probably the most balanced engine for the CLS W218 and that’s because the CLS is supposed to be a highway car, not a home-lap dance-club-golf club-home car. If you only drive it outside the city, it’s a very good engine. If you’re just driving it around town, get your bottom, wallet, a few injectors, and possibly a spare engine ready.
Mercedes CLS W218 General Issues
- Diesel engines are the stars in Europe so I’ll start with them. They are very good on the highway but very poor in town. If you only drive them around town you will have issues with the particle filter, EGR, and if you insist you end up with injectors and finally another engine on the bucket list. Oh yes, check the injector seals too. Then in 2014, the AdBlue system was introduced (it has a BlueTEC sticker on the back) and there’s another weakness because the AdBlue pump is more demanding than a freshly hit puberty teenager and changes its mind whether to do the job or not.
- In 2016 they’re transitioning from the hated 7G-Tronic to the 9G-Tronic, which is apparently more reliable as an automatic transmission. And here we are, standing outside with signs and protesting against 5G in 2022, and they’ve had 9G since 2016.
- Because it’s a CLS and not a poor-spec E Class, it’s quite possible that the car will have air suspension on all wheels, which isn’t necessarily a good thing. If it says “Airmatic” on it, either prepare yourself spiritually and financially or avoid it. The point is that the Mercedes air suspension is very comfortable, but it has a short life on less-than-ideal roads.
- Special mention for the Shooting Brake version and that’s because there was the option to install a wooden floor in the boot. I don’t think I need to tell you that it’s as much an aesthetic idea as a bad, sliding one.
Mercedes CLS W218 Verdict
As with any Mercedes, it’s recommended to always buy the newest year that your budget allows. Even on a Mercedes CLS W218 which is a pretty reliable car. Reliable, serious, boring, efficient. A mature car that has left the parties and the drugs and become a living monument to productivity. If this car were a person, it would be a corporate worker. In his youth, he sang against the system, capitalism, and corporations and now he has become exactly what he fought against. But at least it still looks good, even with that more unimaginative dashboard. I’m off to the pub.
What engines do you recommend? For petrol undoubtedly the CLS400 with its 330 horsepower 3.0 V6 Twin-Turbo, and for diesel the CLS 350 CDI 3.0 V6, in either power flavor.