There will always be leaders and followers. Of all the four door coupes out there, the Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class is the only one that can look the others in the eyes and say “I was here first” without even blinking. That’s one thing that will always belong to the Mercedes-Benz CLS. Still, the good news is that Mercedes isn’t resting on its laurels and so the new facelifted CLS is now better than ever. Test with the CLS 350 BlueTec facelift.
Not better looking, though, as a lot of people have complained. Indeed, the first generation was a bit of a shocker in the best way possible but then, for the second one, people were already expecting something great. Mercedes delivered but the initial awe was lacking. This prompted some to say that Mercedes had gone soft design-wise and that the new CLS wasn’t as daring as the first model.
Starting a debate about design is a dangerous business for one reason and one reason only: everybody has an opinion and, worse of all, everybody’s right. I hope that’s something we can agree on. Just like we should be able to agree on the fact that the new Mercedes-Benz CLS facelift is a looker. No matter where you look at it from, this car is both elegant and sexy, both athletic and grand. Once the car is set in motion, the soothing lines and shapes become a flurry of wavy surfaces that draw the mesmerised looks of everyone around.
Exterior design changes are few and focus mainly on the new radiator grille – similar to that of the CLA – and the fabulous LED headlamps that could very easily be the USP of this new Mercedes-Benz CLS. Not only do they look like a shiny torture instrument used by the aliens on their abductees, but the amount of light they project on the road is phenomenal. And the way they do it is even more astonishing.
The idea is, indeed, very close to that of the Matrix system in the Audi A8 limousine, but Mercedes does it differently. The Multibeam LED headlights is said to be faster, more precise and more anticipative. While our senses aren’t sharp enough to judge any potential differences on their own, the new headlights of the CLS surely are hugely impressive when deployed on the dark country roads.
The new headlights of the CLS surely are hugely impressive when deployed on the dark country roads
A few years ago, having a car with xenon headlamps was about the best you could get. Nowadays, LEDs are slowly becoming the norm while the laser headlights are stalking from behind a corner, ready to cut in front and become the first choice. You get the impression the LEDs haven’t lived their life yet and it would be too early for a switch to lasers.You can’t help but wonder what your car might look like for the oncoming traffic because the road is so brightly lit that you expect them to either start flashing you, or to drive blinded into the side of the road. But that’s the beauty of the Multibeam LED headlights – the intelligent system projects a tight cone of shade around the oncoming cars that allows you to keep the high beam on at all times for an excellent visibility. The new lights also offer extended support during cornering or when negotiating a roundabout.
It might seem strange to talk about the lights of a car for so long, but you have to see them at work to realise how truly impressive they are. And so is the powertrain of the CLS 350 BlueTec, a 3.0 liter V6 diesel with 258 hp and 620 Nm of torque. Power comes in the form of a continuous surge that fulfills your every wish, provided you find yourself in the right gear. This puts you in a very relaxing state of mind, helped by the excellent soundproofing that only lets in a whiff of engine sound.
However, should you set the transmission into Sport or Manual modes and allow the engine to rev a little higher, you’ll be surprised of the sporty engine sound, very different from what would generally be expect of a diesel. I did find myself checking the red zone on the rev counter just to make sure this wasn’t, actually, a petrol CLS. It wasn’t and, frankly, all the better for it.
If you can make a diesel just as refined as a petrol engine then, aside from the ecological point of view, there’s nothing you can hold against it. It’s torquey, responsive, pulls away in a hurry and, at the end of the day, doesn’t burn as much fuel as the gasoline counterpart.
In fact, at the end of a busy day which saw me drive the CLS 350 BlueTec on all possible road types, the on board computer read a little over 10 litres per 100 kilometers. That’s not bad as far as real fuel consumption goes (5.4 is the official average consumption figure) for a car this size (1.815 kg).
The CLS is also pretty nimble. The steering is perfectly calibrated and gives you all the feedback you need from the front wheels. It lacks that meaty weight of a BMW but we all know that’s an artificial feature now and Mercedes decided that actual feel is more important than a simulated sporty attitude. And the CLS delivers.
While it can very easily pretend to be a GT and swallow hundreds of kilometers of freeway at once, show it a nice twisty road and the CLS won’t shy away from it. As long as you show the laws of physics their due respect, you can really have some fun in the CLS on a narrow mountain pass. It turns out to be surprisingly agile and composed, skipping from turn to turn with natural ease.
Enter a turn too hastily, though, and the CLS won’t oversteer, as you might expect, but show signs of slight understeer. Nothing too scary that can’t be addressed with a little help from the brakes and the steering wheel. At the same time, push the throttle too hard while still turning and you will get that powerslide RWD cars are so famous for.
- (The same) great exterior design
- Subtle ride and very quiet interior
- Superb new LED intelligent lights
- Torquey, powerful engine
MAX vs MIN
- Only four seats
- Minimum head room for the rear seats
- Not a lot of novelties for the facelift
All this talk of oversteer and sportiness seems somewhat out of place once you step inside the Mercedes-Benz CLS. There, you’ll find something that’s closer to an S-Class than a more aggressive AMG model. The four seats require very careful family planning on the owner’s part while those two rear seats, in conjunction with the dropped roofline, are a real nightmare for anyone taller than 180 cm. You mustn’t forget this isn’t exactly a practical car.
Well, take that with a pinch of salt. The boot has a decent size (475 litres) and some practical features (there’s an adjustable folding stowage unit that can hold up to 10 kg and hides away when not in use). And don’t forget that you’ll also be able to have the CLS as a Shooting Brake which turns it into… what? A four door tourer coupe? Who cares, really, as long as it’s still a very beautiful car.
Back to the regular Mercedes-Benz CLS and I feel it’s time for a conclusion. The real threat for the new facelifted CLS comes not from the competition, but from within the Mercedes range. Sure, they don’t make more four door coupes of this size but the fact is that the major selling point of the CLS is its design and Mercedes has a lot of beautiful cars on offer. You can go for something less showy, like an E-Class, and you would still get a darn good looking car.
The CLS isn’t the design icon the first generation was. There are several other options on the market now (the BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe, the Audi A7 Sportback or even the Porsche Panamera) and they all make for decent propositions. But the CLS somehow manages to feel like the most sorted out of the lot. It’s got personality, it’s got very good powertrains, it’s got excellent handling and offers a superb ride with the perfect compromise between firmness and comfort.
Foto: Adrian Cobzasu
VerdictThe facelift doesn’t offer a lot of new features, but it does add something to an already impressive package and that can only be a good thing. Aside from the Multibeam LED headlights, the facelift also brings a new petrol engine and a nine speed automatic transmission 9G-Tronic, the last one present on our test car. You don’t feel like there’s much of a change while driving it (the display has grown an inch and has popped out of the dash) but despite its life span of nearly four years, you don’t feel like it actually needed to change. It just needed a bit of fine tuning and some updates here and there – and that’s exactly what Mercedes-Benz have done. And they’ve done it really well.
|Model||CLS 350 Bluetec|
|Engine type||V6, turbodiesel|
|Max. power/revs (HP/rpm)||258/3600|
|Max. torque/revs. (Nm/rpm)||620/1600-2400|
|Transmission||aut., 9 gears|
|Boot capacity (l)||475|
|Acceleration 0-100 km/h (s)||6.5|
|Max. speed (km/h)||250|
|Combined fuel consumption (l/100 km)||5.4|
|CO2 emissions (g/km)||140|
|Price (euro with VAT)||61,463.50|