Driving the all-new Mercedes-Benz CLS, the term that kept springing to mind was: “The world’s best”.
The latest CLS takes the four-door coupe to new levels with astonishing performance, luxury and stunning new looks. And, in keeping with its value-plus philosophy, Mercedes-Benz has loaded the all-new CLS with extra technology and inclusions which outstrip the modest price increases over the current range.
Mercedes-Benz CLS Overview
Mercedes-Benz astonished the automotive world back in 2003 when it revealed the first CLS. With its low-slung roof, aggressive looks and pillar-less doors the CLS launched the ‘four-door coupe’ genre with hallmark Mercedes-Benz style, luxury and performance.
Now the all-new lineup boasts even more muscle in the looks department, more performance and – as we’re in 2011 – significantly reduced fuel consumption. There’s even a diesel-powered version - the CLS 350CDI.
Entry-level is the CLS 350 ($159,200). The CLS 350 CDI is also $159,200, then there’s the V8 CLS 500 ($210,800) and the range-topper is the superb CLS 63 AMG ($263,500).
As usual with Mercedes-Benz there is an armada of options and packs, including the AMG sports pack ($3,700 on the CLS 500 or $5,700 on the V6s).
Mercedes-Benz CLS Engine
Big changes under the bonnet with the latest Mercedes-Benz CLS – more performance across the range and reduced fuel consumption.
The stunning CLS 63 AMG now gains the twin-turbocharged 5.4-litre V8 petrol engine with 386kW/700Nm (410kW/800Nm with the optional ‘Performance Pack’). Despite this extra performance, the new twin-turbo V8 provides a massive gain in fuel consumption over the previous naturally-aspirated unit – down from 14.5l/100kms to 10.0l/100kms.
For the CLS 500, Mercedes has switched to its BlueEFFICIENCY 4.7-litre twin-turbocharged V8 with 300kW/600Nm (285kW/530Nm in the previous model).
And the V6 petrol entry-level Mercedes-Benz CLS 350 also switches to a BlueEFFICIENCY 3.6-litre V6 with 225kW/370Nm (200kW/350Nm for the superseded version).
But the big news is the availability of a diesel-powered CLS – the CLS 350 CDI. Another BlueEFFICIENCY powerplant, the 3.0-litre, V6 turbo-diesel delivers 195kW/620Nm and returns fuel consumption of 6.2l/100kms.
All drive the rear wheels via seven-speed automatic transmissions – the CLS 63 AMG via the AMG Speedshift while the rest use the 7G-TRONIC PLUS.
Mercedes-Benz CLS The Interior
Mercedes-Benz has boosted the interior dimensions of the latest CLS and there are some detail changes, but the standout elegance of the interior remains. By any measure the four-seat interior of the Mercedes-Benz CLS is a styling standout.
The high waistline with one gentle curve from the front doors to the top of the dashboard has been enhanced and there is a new cockpit with a 3D TFT screen providing vehicle information. Naturally there is beautiful leather and a selection of wood and piano lacquer trims.
Harman Kardon provides the audio system with voice-control, a 10GB music register and hard-drive satellite navigation (now with the SUNA traffic channel).
The Mercedes-Benz CLS 63 AMG gains the AMG interior treatment including the glorious sports steering wheel, alloy pedals, instruments and side bolsters for the sports front seats which provide variable support as you corner.
Rear seat passengers enjoy their own individual, figure-hugging seats and centre console.
The technology list is massive and now includes Parktronic with Active Parking Assist, Adaptive Brake with a drying function (linked to the rain-sensing wipers it automatically brushes the brakes to keep them free of moisture), Attention Assist, and Active Blind Spot Assist.
Mercedes-Benz CLS Exterior & Styling
Incredibly, stylists at Mercedes-Benz have actually given the new CLS a shaper look than its predecessor…must have been a tough gig! The totally new model generation is altogether more aggressive than its predecessor.
It’s also lighter – 72 per cent of the panels are still steel but the frameless doors, bonnet, boot (and some suspension parts) are made from aluminium.
At the front, the new grille stands-out proud like the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG.
The Mercedes-Benz CLS is the first ever car with full LED headlights, indicators, DRLs, fog and brake lights – in total there are 71 LEDs per headlight. The headlights are dynamic with different settings for rural and city environments.
From the side, the long, low proportions of the Mercedes-Benz CLS remain but there’s a more muscular look with a bold ‘dropping line’ from the front fenders and a matching shoulder line above the rears.
Likewise at the rear with the hallmark CLS curved bootline and even more elegance from the new tail-lights.
Mercedes-Benz CLS On The Road
We sampled both the CLS 350 CDI and CLS 63 AMG in one day over a variety of roads in central Victoria, however a ripper storm came through the night before and showers were frequent while we were on the road. Ideal conditions to test the abundant technology which Mercedes-Benz has loaded into its four-door coupe.
The Mercedes-Benz CLS 63 AMG was just stunning. We loved the calibration of the traction/stability control which kept the 386kW/700Nm twin-turbo V8 leashed but, in ‘S’ mode, still provided enough feel and chassis balance to deliver the sort of driving dynamics demanded by performance drivers.
Same at the front end with the new AMG electromechanical power steering (more direct ratio and revised levels of assistance) providing crisp response and feedback. The Mercedes-Benz CLS is still close to two tonnes but it felt nimble and cohesive even at very high speeds in the wet, twisty going.
Naturally the taught chassis was firm in the ride department (just the way we like it) but, as you would expect, refinement levels were superb with just the right amount of roar from the tailpipes when you unleashed the twin-turbo V8.
Our return trip in the CLS 350 CDI showed why the latest generation European turbo-diesels are right on the money. Sublime refinement, handy acceleration and performance while delivering 6.2l/100kms fuel consumption.
The regular Mercedes-Benz CLS chassis, while not as sports car-like as the AMG version, is still right up there – taut, precise and wonderfully balanced.
Mercedes-Benz CLS Challenges
You know the Mercedes-Benz CLS is dominated by its coupe looks, so no-one should be surprised by its tight-ish rear headroom. In saying that, we’re not short and we found the rear seats superbly comfortable.
Mercedes-Benz CLS Verdict
Make no mistake, the Mercedes-Benz CLS remains the benchmark in four-door coupes and addition of the turbo-diesel powerplant is a smart move.
We’re stunned by the bold new styling (hey the current CLS was a beauty and the new lineup is even better).
In the wet, slippery going encountered on our day with the CLS lineup, the CLS 63 AMG emerged as one of the best cars we’ve driven this year – all that technology showed its worth with jaw-dropping performance and driving dynamics despite treacherous road conditions.
Mercedes-Benz CLS The Competition
The Audi A7 Sportback is a glamour and its supercharged V6 is a pearler…but not quite the cachet of the Mercedes-Benz CLS.
BMW’s 5 Series GT is a great drive and its turbo V8 is superb, but its styling is somewhat confrontational.