Testing out the new Mercedes Benz CLS

Mercedes Benz CLS 400

Mercedes Benz CLS 400 - Credit: Archant

The new Mercedes Benz CLS 400 hits the sweet spot with grace and pace says Mark Whitchurch

The Mercedes Benz CLS created a new niche market when it was launched in 2004. An instant success, this executive saloon combined the versatility of a four door profile with sleek coupe styling and an alluring cabin. Now in its second generation format and recently refreshed, it remains ahead of its rivals as the most desirable variant of this class of stylish executive saloons.

Tested in a Designo Moca Black hue with black and polished alloy 19 inch wheels, the CLS looks a classy motor with a menacing undertone designed to appeal to those needing the practicality of an E-Class, but who aren’t quite ready to give up the credentials of an elegant coupe. The signature swooping roofline and tight rear haunches create an appealing form that both BMW and Audi have subsequently tried to emulate.

Open the door to reveal the frameless windows that help to accentuate the credentials of a sporting coupe. Step within to experience a cabin that only seems to amplify the dynamic yet sophisticated stance of the exterior form. Swathes of black leather are accented with red stitching and together with seductive lighting, create a slightly racy ambiance.

In line with the rest of the Mercedes Benz range, LCD displays merge with traditional dials to form an informative driver’s binnacle. A column gear selector and the Mercedes Benz trademark combined stalk for wipers and indicators flank the sports orientated steering wheel, leaving the centre console clutter free. A large LCD display seemingly floats at driver eye level in the centre of the dashboard displaying media and sat nav functionality.

Chrome detailing and a piano black fascia, combined with the traditional analogue clock in the centre of the dashboard epitomises the modernistic yet classic styling of the CLS’s triumphant interior design.

Whilst maintaining impeccable quality of fit and materials, Mercedes Benz have certainly moved away from the conservative interior designs of their past to challenge Audi for creating some of the most exciting interiors on the market today.

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Thumb the starter button and the CLS experience just keeps building. Tested in 400 guise, a silky smooth 3.5 litre V6 petrol motor complete with twin turbochargers fills the void below the curvaceous bonnet. With 333bhp on tap and 480Nm of torque, performance through the 7G-TRONIC Plus automatic gearbox is effortless, with just a hint of a mechanical grumble when full power is requested for swift overtaking.

With its desire to keep you in lane on the motorway thanks to ATTENTION ASSIST the steering can take some getting used to as the resistance appears to vary. However, combined with SPEEDTRONIC radar assisted cruise control, long motorway journeys are a relaxing, near tranquil experience.

Multi-link front and rear suspension, incorporating air spring technology can be adjusted to provide compliance to suit your mood: comfort for that luxury limousine experience or sports for when you engage sports mode on the gearbox.

With a 0-60mph time of 5.3 seconds and a limited top speed of 155mph performance is more than adequate for the CLS to live up to its rakish good looks. With a combined mpg of 39.1 and EU6 emission, it appears the CLS delivers the cake and allows you to eat it too!

For those who prefer diesel there are two CLS options for you: a 220d, with a four cylinder 2.1 litre variant or a beefy six cylinder 3.0 litre variant boasting 620Nm of torque.

However if your need for speed is at a Mad Max level then the AMG CLS 63 S range crowning model could be the fix you have been looking for. With 585bhp and combined with the AMG Driver package, your CLS would have the ability to scorch to 186mph! However with a kick off price of £86, 510 you will need deep pockets.

For me the CLS 400 with a starting price of £55,855 hits the sweet spot, with grace and pace.

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