What is it?
Despite being billed as a ‘new generation’ model, this Mercedes-Benz CLS is actually more of a thorough refreshing.
It gets new engines (including a 168bhp C220 diesel and a 328bhp, twin-turbocharged 3.5-litre V6 in the CLS 400) as well as the option of a new nine-speed auto gearbox for the three diesel engines and the petrol-powered CLS 500.
As well as the transmission updates, the cars get a new front bumper and grille design, an 8in freestanding colour screen on the dashboard, and a new steering wheel.
The biggest news is probably the new Multibeam LED headlamps, which are standard on the new CLS range. They are made of 24 individual LED units (which are dimmable in a remarkable 255 stages) and are controlled by the stereo camera mounted in the windscreen and also receive information about the approaching road conditions from the sat-nav.
Mercedes says the lights can stay in permanent main beam mode, while adjusting the beam length so rapidly that on coming traffic is not dazzled.
The new headlights also have an advanced cornering feature, which allows the light beam to swivel in anticipation (from between 60m and 90m) of an approaching bend. On roundabouts, the headlamps also active both the left and right-hand cornering modes, so both edges of the road are illuminated.
All CLS models now have a Command Online, a sat-nav and infotainment system connected to the web by an embedded SIM card. This also means that owners can now log onto the Mercedes.me website and see an individual page dedicated to information about their own car.
What’s it like?
In some ways, purchasing a car like the CLS goes beyond any kind of rational purchasing decision. This Mercedes is a dramatically styled luxury car and one that is beautifully made and finished, especially inside thanks to switchgear of the highest quality.
Indeed, the V6 diesel CLS 350 we tried on a long route between central London and Goodwood in West Sussex costs £49,950 on the road and with a standard spec that lacks only the Harmon Kardon sound system and keyless go (another £2395) and an electric roof, seat memory and reversing camera (another £3595).
If you do without the options, this is a very smart and distinctive four-door coupe that’s less than half of the cost of, say, a Bentley. So, it would have been tempting not to try and find fault with the CLS proposition.
Such is the level of engineering and plushness of its fit and finish, this model could have recommended on the sole basis of its neat niche position as a sharp-cut machine that balances luxury with a decent amount of get-up-and-go.
Luckily, I got out of the CLS 350 and into the new Mercedes C220 diesel and drove the latter on roads in the same area. There’s no doubt that the C-Class now delivers remarkable ability in a couple of areas that the CLS just can’t. So there is room for improvement.
While there’s a great deal to be said for the CLS’s new V6 diesel and nine-speed auto combination is first-rate. The engine is refined, and the new ‘box beautifully integrated. The only time that there might have been a hint of extra ratios was when the box was downshifting as the driver braked.
However, compared to the new Mercedes C-class, there are two areas where the CLS is lagging. Firstly, tyre noise is more pronounced on the CLS, especially on the UK’s notorious surfacing of stone chips laid on bitumen. Even the super-refined C-Class struggles slightly with these surfaces, but the CLS generates more noise as well as a background hint of ‘hollow’ tyre casing noise.
More importantly, the CLS still has more than a touch of Mercedes’ traditional chassis indolence when you are pressing on. While the new C-class is much more fluid and willing to change direction quickly at the driver’s whim, the CLS exhibits more resistance to being rushed by a driver who wants to push on a little.
Should I buy one?
The CLS is clearly a heart-over-head buy. It looks great – especially in Shooting Brake form – and is beautifully built and finished. It’s also, arguably, notable value compared to other outright luxury cars.
Have no doubt that the next-generation model will see big improvements in road noise and agility, but not to the degree that if you want a CLS, you’ll wait another three years. Few people would complain about getting behind the wheel of this car every morning.
Mercedes-Benz CLS 350 Bluetec
Price £49,950; 0-62mph 6.5sec; Top speed 155mph; Economy 52.3mpg; Co2 142g/km; Kerb weight 1790kg; Engine V6 diesel 2987cc, turbocharged; Power 255bhp at 3600rpm; Torque 457lb ft at 1600-2400rpm; Gearbox 9-spd automatic
What is it?