In 2004, Mercedes-Benz
CLS arguably started the trend for swoopy-roofed, coupé-style rooflines on four-door saloons. Now they have launched a new CLS, which continues the theme of luxurious transport for four, but with a slightly different style.
I still remember wafting my way to St Andrews, the home of golf, in the previous CLS. It was a sleek saloon that made its style statement, not through its detailing (which was subtle) but through its overall sleek lines. The success of the original CLS is shown in the number of manufacturers who then adopted the coupé-saloon look, including Jaguar, Audi with their A7 and even Volkswagen with the CC.
But, the new Mercedes-Benz CLS is a little different. From its much more aggressive grille, with a giant Mercedes three-pointed star, to the heavy styling creases on the flanks, it is clear that this is a more assertive design. Maybe it has lost a little of its original purity, but it is still clearly a Mercedes-Benz and clearly a saloon with sporting style.
It almost goes without saying that the cabin will be luxurious and cosseting.
The seats are big and supportive. My test car – a Mercedes-Benz CLS 350 CDI Blue Efficiency Sport – had electric seats (£715) with the optional package (£1,310) that adds dynamic side bolsters and even a massage option. When selected, the dynamic option firms up the side bolster on the outside of corners to help keep you in place. Unfortunately, the left bolster on the driver’s seat seemed to be on strike.
Having rather overdone the lifting and carrying duties of a householder in the days before the Mercedes’ arrival, I was quite glad of the massage option which really does give your lower back a soothing workover as you drive along.
The interior is as luxurious and well-appointed as you would expect. My only quibble is the perennial one with Mercedes-Benz. When 90% of cars have a separate wiper stalk on the right, Mercedes adds the wipers to the left stalk. To compound the stalk confusion, the cruise control is higher up the steering column than the indicator stalk, when most other cars are the exact opposite. Regular drivers would soon get used to both.
The rear seats are individual shaped, so this is very definitely a four seater. But, despite the sweeping roofline, this is quite a spacious rear seat. Headroom is reasonable for me at just under six foot.
The boot is big and spacious, although the height of the opening could be a problem for larger boxes. A particularly neat device is the “Easy Pack Boot Box” a natty £160 option that slides out like a drawer but extends to provide a fabric storage box to keep shopping bags or other items organised, rather than rolling around in the boot.
Don’t be fooled by the 350 in the title, the Mercedes-Benz 350 CDI has a three-litre diesel under the bonnet, putting out 265 bhp. Acceleration 0-62 is 6.2 seconds. The combined fuel consumption is 46.3 mpg and my average of 33 mpg for mainly country driving seems quite creditable. Carbon dioxide emissions are 160 g/km, which puts the CLS into Band E for UK car tax.
As seems to be increasingly the case these days, the drive for ever-greater economy adds a slight hesitancy when pulling away under low revs, particularly in the economy mode. But, once the motor is really running, the performance of the CLS will be more than enough to satisfy most drivers.
If you want slightly sharper responses to match the ‘Sport’ in this car’s title, you need to press the sport button. A minor niggle is that you have to do that for every journey as the car defaults to the economy setting. On the other side of the centre console is the suspension button offering the option of a softer, more comfortable ride or a more taut, sporting set up.
During my time with the £54,210 Mercedes-Benz CLS 350 CDI, I took it on summer’s day A and B-road drive in the Cairngorm National Park. It was an ideal choice for the trip, having ample, effortless power for the mountain roads, combined with great poise and balance. The auto gearbox selected its own gears so expertly that I soon forgot about any manual options.
The ride, even in sports setting, is reasonably cosseting and yet the handling feels well-balanced and vice free. There is enough feedback through the steering and controls to make driving the SLS a suitably rewarding experience, even on narrow mountain roads.
Returning to base, my passenger and I agreed that the car had added to our enjoyment of the day and we joked about packing the boot and driving off to the south of France. Humour apart, it is just that sort of transcontinental journey that you know would prove this car’s grand touring ability.