Used test: Audi A7 vs BMW 6 Series GT vs Mercedes CLS
A used Mercedes CLS is a highly desirable four-door coupé, but is it a better second-hand buy than its German rivals?...
What are they like inside?
While the CLS’s driver’s seat is part-electric, the A7 and 6 GT have full electric adjustment as standard. Both the CLS and A7 have all-important adjustable lumbar support included, something we’d definitely suggest searching for on the 6 GT.
If you do, the 6 GT has the best driving position. That’s because the CLS and to a lesser extent the A7 have a slight bulge in the footwell by your left leg and offset pedals, skewing your legs slightly to the right.
All three incorporate many functions into their infotainment screens to keep the switch counts down, but only the A7 does without physical climate control buttons. This forces you to look away from the road just to change the temperature. This is also the case with the infotainment system, which has done away with its fantastically simple rotary dial controller and replaced it with a fiddly two-tier touchscreen layout. Yes, it keeps the button count down and makes the dashboard look clean, but is that really worth sacrificing usability for? We think not. On the plus side, the screens are quick to react and you get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring as standard.
These days, plenty of premium cars come with digital instruments as standard, and of these three, the A7’s are the most configurable and easiest to use; the CLS’s are good but more of a faff to alter. Meanwhile, it’s very difficult to see what the 6 GT’s digital dials do differently from regular analogue instruments, making them feel like a case of style over substance.
With its taller glass areas, the 6 GT is the easiest to see out of, although all three come with front and rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera that help take the stress out of parking.
Unlike Audi, BMW has stuck with its rotary dial infotainment interface between the front seats. It’s really user-friendly; you just twist the dial to scroll through what’s on the screen and then press down to select. There are even some handy shortcut buttons to take you straight to specific functions, such as back to the sat-nav after you’ve changed radio stations. Apple CarPlay was available as an extra. Overall, it’s a brilliant package.
In some respects, the interior of the Mercedes is the most flamboyant, with swathes of chrome and dark-stained wood veneers. Look a bit closer, though, and you’ll discover some iffy-looking plastics, which you simply won’t find in the supremely well-finished A7 and 6 GT.
The CLS has a similar rotary dial interface to the 6 GT, but it isn’t quite as user-friendly, due to its less logical menus. You also have to find the Premium Plus Package if you want the range-topping Comand infotainment system, which is also the only way to get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring. The package does include plenty of other kit, though, such as a Burmester stereo, keyless entry and fully electric front seats.
Each of our test cars came with a head room-reducing sunroof (standard in the 6 GT, optional in the A7 and CLS). You barely notice its effect in the 6 GT, but in the lower-slung CLS and A7, those over 6ft tall will feel hemmed in for height. At least front leg room is plentiful across the board.
It’s in the rear that the differences really tell. The CLS and A7 are wide enough only for two adults, and while there’s reasonable leg room for six-footers, again, head room is tight. The 6 GT is massive by comparison, with plenty of head room and more knee room than you’ll find in the 5 Series, so you can really stretch out. It’s wider, too, so it can easily seat three abreast when required, while the optional electric reclining rear backrests in our test car make it feel more akin to a limo than a stylised coupé.
The 6 GT also has the biggest boot, capable of swallowing up to nine carry-on suitcases. Mind you, the A7 managed eight cases and the CLS a still praiseworthy seven, although being the only one with a saloon-style bootlid (rather than a hatchback tailgate), it struggles to accept bulkier items. All three cars have 40/20/40 split-folding rear seats for added flexibility.