Bring a Trailer Bargain of the Week: 2006 Mercedes CLS 500

For those who want to ball on modest budgets, a used Mercedes-Benz is often an appealing option. True, inexpensive secondhand luxury cars sometimes become expensive headaches, but used Mercedes, especially E-Classes, are more reliable than some assume. And while styles come and go, some of the German brand’s cars still look fresh today. Both notions apply to this week’s Bring a Trailer bargain: a 2006 Mercedes CLS 500.

The first-gen Mercedes CLS introduced the stylish ‘four-door coupe’ concept to the world

A black 2005 Mercedes CLS 500 driving down a country road
2005 Mercedes CLS 500 | National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images
2005-2007 Mercedes CLS 500
Engine5.0-liter ‘M113’ V8
Horsepower302 hp
Torque339 lb-ft
TransmissionSeven-speed automatic
Curb weight4050 lbs
0-60 mph time5.5 seconds (Car and Driver)

While a ‘four-door coupe’ is an etymological oxymoron, it’s a concept that’s spread throughout the car world. And the car that started the trend of giving sedans sharp, coupe-like rooflines was the C219 Mercedes CLS.

Despite having a similar name to Mercedes’ CL-Class, the CLS-Class isn’t based on the S-Class. Rather, the first- and second-gen models ride on the contemporary E-Class platform. However, to make things more confusing, it’s positioned between the E- and S-Class lineups, Car and Driver explains. So, while the C219 CLS shares a lot with the W211 E-Class, it’s a bit more luxurious, even in base form.

That base model, initially, was the Mercedes CLS 500. Despite its sleek roofline, the CLS 500 isn’t necessarily less practical than the equivalent E-Class. Sure, it only has four seats instead of five, but that means “no one has to ride the hump,” Car and Driver notes. However, the CLS packs even more leather and wood into its cabin. Also, speaking of, it has just as much interior and cargo space as the E-Class.

There is one area where the Mercedes CLS 500 improves on the standard E-Class, though, and that’s handling. Its bigger wheels and tires offer more grip, while its re-tuned steering “feels less cumbersome” but just as communicative, Car and Driver says. Also, its standard adjustable air suspension settings, especially the stiffer ones, are better-tuned than in the E-Class. And while the roofline does limit periphery sightlines somewhat, it also enhances the sporty feeling. The CLS-Class’s different hood shape does improve forward visibility, though.

A 2006 CLS 500 is up for auction on Bring a Trailer

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In addition, even 15-plus years after its introduction, the C219 Mercedes CLS still looks stylish. Admittedly, that might stem from how prevalent the ‘four-door coupe’ body style is today. But that also means an inexpensive used example, like the 2006 CLS 500 currently listed on Bring a Trailer, looks almost as fresh on the road as a new expensive one.

Besides its adjustable air suspension, this CLS has heated and ventilated front seats, quadruple-zone automatic climate control, navigation, and a Harman Kardon audio system. It also has a power sunroof, power-retractable sunshade, a six-disc CD changer, and fog lights. And, as mentioned earlier, plenty of leather and wood-grain interior trim.

Although this 2006 Mercedes CLS 500 has an open recall regarding its sunroof bonding, it’s in great shape overall. It has a zero-accident history and is a one-owner corporate car listed by the selling dealer. Plus, it has extensive service records and less than 39,000 miles on the clock.

Is this used luxury car bargain worth considering?

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As of this writing, this 2006 Mercedes CLS 500 is listed at $6000 with two days left in the auction. That’s less than half the price of the cheapest one currently listed on Autotrader with similar mileage. And keep in mind, the base MSRP in 2006 was $74,500; that’s roughly $104,800 in today’s money. Or, in other words, almost what a fully-loaded 2022 E-Class costs.

Since this CLS is a used high-end luxury car, potential bidders should consider getting a pre-purchase inspection. And as noted earlier, it has an open recall. But in terms of long-term reliability, the C219 is pretty stout. For one, it shares many parts with the W211 E-Class, one of the most reliable used Mercedes out there. And U.S. News gave the first-gen CLS-Class overall a better-than-average reliability rating.

In terms of potential problems, Mercedes’ air suspension can fail over time, though this car appears to be trouble-free. Fortunately, the latest aftermarket replacement parts are actually more durable than the original OEM ones, FCP Euro claims.

As for the drivetrain, the naturally-aspirated M113 V8’s only notable ‘flaws’ are age-related spark plug and gasket failure. Meanwhile, some of Mercedes’ early seven-speed automatics can suffer conductor plate and/or valve body failure. However, this CLS 500 doesn’t appear to have any such faults. But then, that’s what a PPI is supposed to uncover.

Still, if you want a low-mileage, affordable, stylish luxury car, this CLS might be worth considering.

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