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Is the Mercedes CLS is as exciting as it looks?

The new version of the Mercedes CLS looks as distinctive as ever. Graham Courtney gets behind the wheel


The CLS was the first of the four-door premium coupés when it was launched in 2004, but since then most of the top-end manufacturers have followed suit. However, whereas the design of many of its peers often looks like a bit of an afterthought, the Mercedes CLS has the appearance of something that wasn’t just a revamped saloon or squashed estate.

From a design perspective, there’s no doubting the CLS is a standalone model. That said, it’s really a four-door coupé of the Mercedes E Class which means there’s also a two-door coupé, saloon, estate and cabriolet in the range. They all sit on the same platform.

The latest CLS starts at £56,095 and at the moment you can choose from a pair of petrol engines and a pair of diesel engines. All are 3.0-litre, six-cylinder units although you can guarantee that a four-cylinder, energy-efficient variant will appear eventually to help out company car drivers. A 9-speed automatic gearbox comes as standard as does 4MATIC all-wheel drive. AMG trim is fitted to every model.

The entry level petrol CLS 450 4MATIC AMG Line Coupé comes with a 363bhp engine which has a mild hybrid system that gives you an extra 21bhp of shove when accelerating, while the thumping AMG model has a 429bhp lump.

If you prefer the economy of a diesel engine, the entry level CLS 350d oil burner develops 282bhp while our favourite, the £59,195 400d, churns out 336bhp.

The Mercedes CLS is a wonderful place to sit and a rewarding car to drive

The CLS 400d has the happy knack of providing effortless performance while still managing close to 48 mpg. A 0-60mph time of 5 seconds is only half a second behind the storming AMG 53 CLS. These are hugely impressive figures for what is a sizeable vehicle. The top speed of every CLS is restricted to 155mph.

You get adaptive driving modes (Comfort, Speed and Speed Plus) but to be honest, this is a car for cruising rather than being hustled along country lines. Leave it in Comfort mode. On a motorway the CLS feels like a classic Gran Tourer while in towns and on narrow, twisty roads, you can still have fun.

The interior is a stunning example of classy contemporary design. It oozes quality. Try the ambient lighting; it’s wonderful. You can match the interior colour to whatever you’re wearing – .should you be so inclined.

Each model is fully loaded with goodies that you’d expect in a car of this quality and price. There’s full leather trim, climate control, reversing camera, parking assistance, and a terrific colour touchscreen and brilliant Map Pilot sat nav. You get twin-screen, 12-inch displays as standard; E Class owners have to pay extra. The heated front seats are comfy yet supportive. The multi-function steering wheel has new touch pads – they’re initially quite tricky and fairly sensitive, but once you get the hang of them, they’re extremely handy.

The Mercedes CLS is a brilliant all-rounder and hugely desirable. Granted, if you were going to use the car as frequent transportation for five adults, you’d be better off with the E Class Saloon. The sloping roofline of the CLS does eat into the headroom. However, as a comfortable, ultra-stylish, long-distance cruiser that really does stand out from the crowd, the Mercedes CLS is a wonderful place to sit and a rewarding car to drive.

For more info, see Mercedes