Mercedes CLS Problems (C219/W219: 2004-2011) – Common Problems

The first rendition of the Mercedes CLS-Class was a revelation. Its 4-door coupe styling was incredibly attractive, not only to the buyers, but also to other brands (we already talked about the Volkswagen CC, which was clearly inspired by the C219 CLS). The first CLS-Class, dubbed the C219 was based on the facelifted W211 E-Class. We already covered the problems of the W211 E-Class which is why many of the Mercedes CLS-Class problems tend to be the same. Both cars share many parts and engines. The C219 CLS is still in an incredibly good looking car today which makes them very appealing for used car buyers. But beware, buying a badly maintained C219 CLS-Class will not only drain your wallet, but your nerves too. Here are the common Mercedes CLS-Class problems.

Mercedes CLS Problems and Major faults

Early models suffer from the infamous SBC unit failure

One of the biggest Mercedes-Benz recalls in history also affected the early (2004- mid 2006 models) of the C219 CLS-Class. The Sensotronic Brake Control (SBC) pump was only designed to withstand a certain number of brake pedal usage which means it is going to fail sooner or later. If it gives out while you are driving, you are left with a lot less braking power. A new SBC pump is not exactly cheap at 1000$, so make sure this problem has been resolved.

Airmatic issues and problems with high mileage CLS-Class vehicles

We have covered AIRMATIC suspension issues in great detail before on Lifeonfour.co. Common Mercedes CLS-Class problems include issues with the Airmatic suspension which are commonly present on higher mileage vehicles (120,000 miles or 200,000 km +). If the car has not had any of the Airmatic components replaced, you can expect some issues in the future.

M272 and M273 engine problems (CLS350 and CLS500)

M272 engines made between 2004 and 2008 have problems with the balance shaft gears and idler gears. The sprockets of the gears are prone to premature wear which first leads to check engine warning lights and eventually leads to a loose engine timing chain. If any of the components, balance shaft gears, idler gears or a timing chain fails, you can expect major engine damage. If you buy a car that was affected by this issue, make sure it has been taken care of. Mercedes-Benz offered new, updated gears which solved the issue. Fixing the problem is incredibly complicated so we would recommend looking at cars that have this issues resolved. The M273 engine does not have balance shaft gears, but it still has faulty idler gears that can lead to the same issues. Both engines made before June 2008 also suffer from cam plug leaks. You can see more on this issue here on MercedesMedic.

M272 and M273 variable intake manifold problems

Intake manifolds on M272 and M273 engines are incredibly complex, incredibly sensitive and at the same time made almost entirely out of plastic, which you can imagine leads to nothing but trouble. When the plastic flaps and other brittle plastic of the intake manifolds fail due to carbon and oil deposits you can have a big mess and engine damage on your hands. There are repair kits available which reduces the price of this repair greatly. Owners also report failing actuators for the variable intake manifold. This causes the engine to lose power and have a rough idle. It is easily diagnosed as the car reports many error codes.

To avoid this issue, make sure that the EGR valve and CVS system of the engine are in good condition, which prevents oil and carbon deposits in the first place. Consider getting the engine cleaned of all carbon deposits.

OM642 diesel engine problems (320cdi, 350cdi)

We have written about OM642 diesel engines before, they are plagued with a number of problems which means reading this article is a must! Do not skip if you plan on buying a diesel powered Mercedes-Benz C219 CLS-Class.

7G Tronic Automatic Transmission problems

7G Tronic automatic transmissions are prone to rough shifting problems which are commonly linked to failed sensors on the Transmission Control Module. Make sure that the transmission fluid has been regularly changed to avoid future problems.

M156 engine problems (CLS63 AMG)

M156 engines that were fitted to the CLS63 AMG variant of the C219 CLS-Class suffer from two major issues: head bolt corrosion and excessive camshaft wear. Head bolts are responsible for holding cylinder heads in their place. As they rust, cylinder heads do not hold the seals between them and the engine block. This leads to coolant leaking into engine oil and combustion chamber which creates sludge and can eventually lead to a complete engine failure due to hydrolocking. As this happens, coolant level starts to drop and engine oil levels start to mix due to the before mentioned coolant leaks. Be on the lookout for any missing coolant and sludge on the oil cap. See why the M156 engine is both loved and hated by many AMG lovers.

Camshaft wear problems are rarely talked about with these engines but they do appear to be a common problem. Especially on vehicles that were poorly maintained. Symptoms include ticking sounds when the engine is cold and the worse this problem gets, the more persistent is the ticking noise.

OM642 diesel engine problems (320cdi, 350cdi)

We have written about OM642 diesel engines before, they are plagued with a number of problems which means reading this article is a must! Do not skip if you plan on buying a diesel powered Mercedes-Benz C219 CLS-Class.

7G Tronic Automatic Transmission problems

7G Tronic automatic transmissions are prone to rough shifting problems which are commonly linked to failed sensors on the Transmission Control Module. Make sure that the transmission fluid has been regularly changed to avoid future problems.

Minor faults and other Mercedes CLS Problems

Noisy front brakes

Front brakes on C219 CLS-Class Mercedes-Benz are known to cause noise due to weak brake pad pressure springs that retain the appropriate pressure.

Check engine light signal due to a faulty air pump relay

A faulty air pump relay is often the cause for a check engine light warning. The bad air pump relay causes a malfunction in the secondary air injection system.

Fuse box leak

Many owners had problems with leaks in the fuse box after it was left improperly clamped. This can lead to all kinds of electronic problems.

2006 mercedes cls problems

Body and interior problems

Malfunctioning air conditioning due to a failed fan or blower

Many owners report this issue, the fan or blower stops working and requires replacement. That seems to be the only interior issue on the C219 CLS Mercedes.

Sunroof leaks

Many owners of vehicles that are equipped with sunroofs report interior leaks due to aged seals that need replacing.

Electronic problems on the Mercedes CLS (w219/c219)

Speed-sensitive steering problems

Owners report common electric problems with valves on the rack and pinion steering systems or faulty connectors which are necessary for the “vario” speed-sensitive steering system on the C219 CLS-Class

Frequently asked questions about the w219/c219 cLS Mercedes

Are Mercedes-Benz CLS (C219/W219) reliable?

We would only say yes if you get the chance to buy a later model CLS with a rich maintenance history. These cars are complicated and come with all sorts of parts that will eventually need replacing. Never buy a CLS with little to no maintenance history records.

Is it better to buy a diesel or a petrol Mercedes-Benz CLS (C219/W219?

Depends on the state of the vehicle, but generally, we would choose the petrol powered version because it has much less issues, especially after June 2008. OM642 diesel engines are prone to all kinds of issues and the petrol version is not that fuel hungry as you might think.

Is Mercedes-Benz CLS (C219/W219) expensive to maintain?

Yes, the CLS is a premium car and so are the repair bills for the problems we described above are high. Do not buy a CLS if you are not ready for its maintenance.

Conclusion and recommendation

We absolutely love the C219 CLS-Class generation, it managed to withstand the test of time like almost no other car out there. The biggest downside to buying a C219 CLS today, is that many of them changed owners and none of them did any of the necessary maintenance. Buying a car like that means you will have the full “Mercedes CLS Problems” experience, and believe us, you do not want to experience that rollercoaster. If you want to avoid the high maintenance costs of the Airmatic suspension, you can always go for the regular suspension which was also offered on the C219 CLS coupe and it is not that bad compared to the Airmatic.

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