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.