New Mercedes CLS Diesel - stylish, fast and frugal

Road Tested by Hugh Maguire.

Road Tested by Hugh Maguire.

THIS story begins back in early 2000 when it was rumoured that Mercedes were going to produce a radical looking 4 door saloon with the lines of a coupé. Back then many pundits predicted that it would not sell to the conservative Mercedes customer base. They were wrong. Since its launch back in 2004 the CLS has carved out a nice little niche for itself.

The original CLS was created from a blank sheet of paper and the designers had no limits imposed upon them in terms of imagination and creativity. Their aim was to “inspire fascination at a glance” and in that thy certainly succeeded, for the CLS proved uniquely different and a big departure in terms of shape for a Mercedes saloon.

The latest new CLS builds on that success, with revised engines, lower emissions, better performance, and some major styling revisions. This week I am road testing the Mercedes CLS 350CDI Blue Efficiency.

First Impressions

The CLS is a dramatic looking car with sweeping lines and curves that go to create a distinctive and appealing style. Looking at the car front-on it really is dramatic with a wide low nose that still retains traditional Mercedes styling cues in areas such as the front grille with the large centrally mounted 3-point star. From the side it really has a coupé-like appearance, with a sweeping roofline, which gets progressively lower towards the rear.

Overall I really liked it and the individuality it portrays is something I find very appealing.

Behind the wheel

The cabin of the new CLS is one of the best I have seen of late. My test interior car was finished in beautiful cream leather with judicious use of piano black trim. The whole style and design of the interior is really faultless. The attention to detail is equally impressive right down to the ambience interior lighting front and rear which softly illuminates the interior. The dashboard is a model of clarity, with the instrument cluster being large and easy to read, with a big centrally positioned speedometer and a rev counter to the right. The heating and ventilation controls are all electronic and are easy to use.

The driving position is excellent and the seats prove very comfortable and less firm than some Mercedes seats of old. Headroom and legroom in the front is generous while wide-angle opening on the doors makes access to the cabin very easy. Rear space is good though that sloping rear roofline will compromise rear headroom a bit for taller passengers. It is great to see the now comprehensive list of standard equipment on a Mercedes in comparison to the past. The CLS comes very well equipped and includes as standard, ABS, BAS (Brake assist), SBC (sensotronic brake control), ESP (Electronic stability program) with ASR, front, side and side curtain airbags, Thermatic air conditioning, light alloy wheels, multi function steering wheel, rain sensors, 7G-Tronic seven speed auto transmission, multi- speaker stereo system, with 6 stack in dash CD changer, engine immobiliser, central locking, four one-touch electric windows, and an outside temperature gauge. There is more but I am running out of space. Really it has just about everything as standard.

My test car featured some lovely options including, full leather upholstery, LED intelligent lighting, 19 inch alloys, heated seats, Media interface with iPod compatibility, metallic paint and a fabulous Harman Kardon sound system.

Performance

The latest diesels from the like of BMW and Mercedes are so incredibly good that they make the argument for petrol powered big cars almost null and void.

The CLS 350 CDI is powered by a super smooth 3.0 litre 261 bhp V6 turbo diesel mated to an excellent 7 G-TRONIC gearbox. This really is a hugely refined diesel and is so smooth and quiet that it really is difficult to believe it is a diesel. Furthermore in reality the CLS is, despite its size, an impressive performer. Acceleration through the 7 automatic gears is seamless and there is loads of mid-range torque. Should you wish a more sporting driving experience the steering wheel mounted paddle shifts can be used to change gear manually 0 to 100kph takes just 6.2 seconds while top speed is a whopping 250 kph. Surprisingly it’s also very economical for an engine of this size burning on average 7.6 litres/100km over my test period, giving a health range of almost 900 km between refuels.

Road behaviour

Probably the single most impressive aspect of this car is the dynamic way in which it handles. It handles and corners with aplomb. No matter what the conditions the CLS has limpet like grip through the corners inspiring great confidence in the driver. The precise steering allows the driver to accurately place the car in a bend making it a pleasure to hustle along a twisty country road. Should you push it too far the host of aforementioned electronic stability aids kick in to re-stabilise the car.

The other area that I was immediately impressed by is the high level of refinement. No matter what the speed, wind, engine and road noise are almost non-existent.

Verdict

The CLS is truly a rewarding car to drive, the dynamics are such that you look forward to finding some challenging roads.

The style is truly head turning and the interior is superb cosseting the driver and passengers in a quiet, safe, and luxurious environment.

This car is truly sublime. I like it so much it is the luxury car I would choose were I currently in the market for one. It is daringly different yet very much a Mercedes, it drives beautifully, performs like a sports car but rides as just a luxury saloon should. It really hits the spot.

Entry to the new CLS ranges starts with the CLS250CDI at €65,750, the CLS 350CDI starts at €71,700 while the car tested including the aforementioned options costs €89,000.