Piston Slap: What Do I Spy With My Eyes?


James writes:

Hello, last year during one of my morning walks I passed a nearby home where an S-Class Mercedes was parked on its driveway. As I approached, the silhouette was that of an early 2010’s Mercedes S-Class with noticeably flared wheel arches. As I passed by I observed the model identification on the left side of the trunk. Instead of the anticipated S 550 badge, it displayed a CLS 550 badge.

I did eventually meet the owner, an elderly man who could not provide any information about his car. And by this time he had replaced this “CLS 550” with a newer S 580 Mercedes. I did research on the internet, but no luck with a possible CLS 550 S Class.

I am fairly certain with my identification that this vehicle is at least an S-class Mercedes. (As a previous owner of a 2014 CLS and a current owner of a 2022 CLS, I have some familiarity with Mercedes models.) So, are the trunks of this S-Class and the CLS Class of this era interchangeable, and a junkyard CLS trunk was used to repair a damaged S-Class trunk? Or, the S-Class Mercedes needed its trunk repaired and the repair shop put the wrong model identifier on the repaired trunk?

I seriously doubt there ever was a CLS 550 S Class Mercedes. What do you think?

Sajeev answers:

Dang, I really would love to see a photo of this machine. But I share your doubt, and I suspect someone with an S-Class Benz bought those CLS 550 emblems from a place like eBay to be cheeky.

2005 Mercedes-Benz CLS
The original CLS from 2004.Mercedes-Benz

I get the vibe, however. Both the W221 (2007–13) and W222 (2014–20) bodies of the S-class have a distinctly sleek, curvilinear CLS flavor to them. Once the CLS hit the ground running, all sedans (save for Rolls-Royce) had to re-think their position as being staid and stately. Perhaps the CLS offered the sedan a lifeline to coolness in the wake of CUV/SUV dominance. Even the S-class can’t be immune to this trend.

Adding a body kit to the S-class also aids in the CLS-ification of these flagship Mercs. But let’s focus on the phrase “flagship”, as that answers your other question. Sheetmetal on a flagship isn’t interchangeable with cheaper models from the same brand. Not that the CLS is a bad car, but it’s based on the smaller E-class: That trunk lid is unlikely to have the same hard points as an S-Class.

Even if it technically could bolt up to an S-class, the surfacing and cut lines would make absolutely no sense. There’s a good chance you saw an S-class with an aftermarket body kit that made it look sleeker, and the owner decided that it became a CLS in the process.

Prior Design Mercedes Benz S Class W221 Body kit
Prior Design

And the W221 makes a rather awesome CLS-daddy. It’s hard to tell what’s an actual “wide” body kit on these cars, as this era of S-class came with flared-out rear fenders from the factory. But there’s also the issue of looking at 2-D photos on a computer screen, which is my current conundrum.

What say you, Hagerty Community? Did James see a widebody S-class, a CLS-class, or just some CLS emblems on that big-body S-class Mercedes?

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