First Drive: The Mercedes CLS offers coupe looks in a four-door package
The latest incarnation of Mercedes’ CLS four-door coupe promises better quality and equipment levels. Jack Evans heads to Barcelona to see what it’s like
What is it?
Here’s the latest incarnation of the Mercedes CLS – the German manufacturer’s swooping, elegant saloon with coupe styling. The original CLS broke the mold in terms of what a saloon could look like and, while the second-generation failed to set hearts alight this latest model looks to take on a little inspiration from the car that started it all.
Fitted with Mercedes’ latest range of engines as well as a much-praised interior already seen in the E-Class, it’s there for people who want to stand out from the crowd and don’t fancy a ‘conventional’ saloon.
There’s quite a lot going on here, actually. The exterior of the car uses Mercedes’ latest design language, and it’s easy to see the similarities in looks between this and the upcoming A-Class hatchback.
However, the biggest changes are going on underneath the skin – a range of new engines have been selected for the CLS, giving buyers better performance – but importantly more efficiency – than ever before. All three powertrains available from launch have six cylinders, and all have a 0-60mph time of under six seconds yet can deliver economy figures of up to 47.9mpg. There’s also an all-new 3.0-litre engine in the Mercedes-AMG CLS 53, designed to bridge the gap between the uber-power ‘63’ models and the regular Mercedes line-up.
What’s under the bonnet?
Our test car was the 350d model, which will undoubtedly be one of the most popular. Here, it produces 282bhp and 600Nm which allows it to hit 60mph in just 5.5 seconds before reaching an electronically limited top speed of 155mph. Despite this decent performance, Mercedes claims that the CLS will return 48.7mpg on the combined cycle, while emitting 156g/km CO2.
This car also uses 4MATIC technology, meaning drive is sent through nine-speed gearbox to all four wheels – this provides better traction in slippery conditions. If you’re after a little more punch then there’s a more powerful 400d version, which produces over 330bhp and an impressive 700Nm of torque, despite returning similar economy figures to the less potent 350d we’re driving here.
What’s it like to drive?
First and foremost, we have to admit that our Barcelona test route was unseasonably covered in snow. Such thick snow, in some places, that Mercedes opted to put all cars on winter tyres and smaller, 18-inch alloy wheels.
As you’d expect, this does change the way the car rides – all vehicles use 19-inch wheels as standard, after all. So, the ride was just a touch softer than you’d expect. However, it was still clear to feel that the CLS has solid steering – if lacking in feedback – and the engine is punchy enough from low speeds, and refined at higher ones – we did get a stretch on the motorway that was clearer than the country roads we’d been tackling. The suspension is supple and composed, and the cabin is impressively quiet at speed, too.
How does it look?
The new CLS certainly moves things forward from the previous edition and, if you look at the images of the next A-Class, it’s easy to see where the CLS got a lot of its looks from.
The headlights are flatter than before, giving it a more aggressive front end while the long, rakish roofline famed from the original remains. It’s instantly recognisable as a Mercedes, however, but perhaps lacks the drama of design that we’ve seen on models such as the E-Class Coupe. The rear of the car remains – in our eyes – one of the car’s weaker points; it just seems a little less punchy to look at than the front of the vehicle.
What’s it like inside?
The interior of the CLS takes a lot of design cues from the current E-Class and S-Class models. The steering wheel, for instance, is straight from the flagship S-Class – buttons for the cruise control are now found here, rather than on a stalk mounted to the steering column.
Also, the CLS now comes with space for five rather than four. Though this does make the rear of the car feel a little less luxurious than it did before with two dedicated rear seats, it makes the CLS far more practical. Everything feels exceptionally well made, and the wood trim finishers used on the dashboard help lift the cabin, too. The central plastic cubby remains a little less high-quality, but this is something we’ve noticed on other Mercedes models.
What’s the spec like?
Here in the UK, CLS buyers will only be able to choose AMG-Line specification vehicles, featuring a more dynamic exterior look. For a base price of £57,510, you’d hope that there was plenty of kit – and thankfully the CLS delivers.
A full leather interior comes as standard, as do 19-inch alloy wheels, reversing camera and a 12.3 infotainment screen. This final feature makes the biggest difference – we’ve already praised it in the E-Class Coupe, and having it fitted as standard is a real bonus.
The CLS certainly makes for an attractive option compared to other more run-of-the-mill saloons. It looks different, feels special inside and comes equipped with an impressive amount of standard equipment. A fine range of engines mean there’s something for everyone too, with even the base diesel as tested here feeling punchy enough for most circumstances. We’ll have to test it back in the UK to see how well the ride deals with British roads, but for now the CLS certainly appears like one of the most attractive cars in the Mercedes line-up.
Facts at a glance
Model: Mercedes CLS350d
Engine: Six-cylinder diesel
Max speed: 155mph
0-60mph: 5.5 seconds
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