The third generation of the Mercedes-Benz CLS features a design that shines once more and highlights the sporty side, even though, at the launch, two of the three engines available are diesel units. This is actually the message sent out by Mercedes, that the diesel era still has a lot to show. Test-driving the Mercedes CLS 400 d.
The four-door coupe is a Mercedes-made invention from 2003 and the idea perfectly fits the DNA of the brand, as it puts blends the elegance and dynamics of a coupe with the comfort and functionality of a sedan. The first generation of the CLS was launched in the Cinecitta studios in Rome in 2003, where Federico Fellini shot the famous La Dolce Vita. That is pretty much the essence of the Mercedes-Benz CLS: a lifestyle car that provides a comfortable and relaxing ride, but which when necessary, it responds in a sporty manner like a high-performance coupe.
The first generation impressed by concept and design, but the second one never managed to get that ”wow” when you got to see it out in the street, since the design was just a development of the first generation, one which was not quite sucessful.
The third generation coming this year brings a fresh air in terms of design, but also technically, because Mercedes emphasized the sporty nature and implemented the MRA platform with four-link front axle from the C- and the E-Class which improved dynamics.
At the front, we point out the diamond radiator grille with a single horizontal chrome louver that widens in the lower area, reminding of the AMG GT. From the side, the CLS keeps the high belt line concept and the small glasshouse, while at the back, we notice muscular shoulder-line that blends into a fluid flat rear that slightly resembles that of the S-Class Coupe, quitting on the very sharp edge of the former generation.
The interior of the test car benefitted from the Designo touch (the Designo package comes for 5,533.60 Euros), that provide it with a 5-star lounge-like atmosphere. The Nappa leather in Tizian red at the upper side of the dashboard and on the doors and Macchiato beige on the seats, combined with mat light brown elm wood make up a tasteful combination and look simply fabulous. By tone and ambience, this interior makes the difference from the BMW and Audi rivals. And by night, you can experience the 64 color of the ambiental lighting, an option that offers the ability to mix colors, for exemple purple for the air vents and red for the rest. And the four air vents feature the same diameter as those of the E- and of the S-Class, but feature a different turbine look, similar to those of the E-Class Coupe.
But if for the first generation, the dashboard was caved at the right of the passenger and featured different lines from those in the sedan (there was no classic coupe at that time), now it identical with that of the E-Class Coupe. And from the sedan, the only difference is the dissimilar design of the air vents. Globalization has its way.
Inside the CLS we thus find the 12.3-inch central display (the Comand Online comes for 2,142 Euros), the digital instrument panel displayed on the second 12.3-inch screen (1,011.50 Euros) that enable the choice of one of the three modes (Classic, Sport, Progressive), the touchpad and the controller that commands the menus now reorganized in a more intuitive manner.
It comes as a surprise that, even those the roof is abruptly plunging towards the rear and the interior rear height seems small, a person of 1,80 tall such as myself still has one finger’s length left to the ceiling. The explanation: the inflection point between the seating area and the backrest is positioned very low, still the comfort is exceptional, because the seating area is not horizontal, but slightly lifted forward, so that the passengers don’t need to sit with their knees up in the air. Besides, the seating area as well as the backrest are excellently profiled.
The central tunnel is massive and the central sector is narrow so that a 5-person ride is out of the question, but the CLS is not a car for five people. Actually, by definition, the 4-door coupe provides four individual seats. Instead, the practical figures values are not excluded, because a 40/20/40% split rear bench can be ordered (517.65 Euros), very practical for going skiing or for transporting long items and the boot features a volume of 520 liters, quite big for a coupe. But due to the rear tilted window and to the small windows, visibility towards the rear is limited, for which Mercedes standardly offers a rear-view camera.
- Fine and Luxury Designo interior
- Great design
- Extremely quiet and refined diesel engine
- High-performance diesel engine
- Low fuel consumption
- Generous space at the rear for a coupe
- Big boot
- Rich standard equipment
MAX vs MIN
- The lack of interior design difference from the E-Class Coupe and sedan
- Expensive optional equipment
The CLS is built on the rear-wheel drive MRA platform, also used for the C- and the E-Class. First of all, this means the new 4-link multilink front suspension, that significantly reduced the understeering and a 5-link rear suspension. Customers get to choose from three types of suspension: the standardly-fit classic one, the adaptive Dynamic Body Control (1,178.10 Euros) and the Airmatic Air Body Control (2,261 Euros), the latter also present in the test car, allowing the adjustment of the suspension stiffness in modes such as Comfort, Sport and Sport+, but also of the ground clearance.
The CLS is standardly fit with a Dynamic Select switch with five adjustment modes for the response of the engine and steering – Eco, Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Individual, in the latter one the driver being able to separately adjust the response of the engine and of the gearbox (Eco, Comfort, Sport, Sport+, Manual), of the steering (Comfort, Sport), of the ESP (Comfort, Sport, Sport+) and of the suspension, if the latter is optionally ordered, like it was in the test car.
In the Comfort mode, the ground clearance comes with the standard figure and it lowers by 15 mm in the Eco, Sport și Sport+ modes or if the speed exceeds 138 km/h and it raises by 15 mm by the push of a button, but only at speeds below 120 km/h.
The Air Body Control suspension is not set like in the S-Class, but stiffer. Even in the Comfort mode, it is pretty stiff, combined with the 19-inch AMG wheels shod with mix tyres of 245/40 R19 at the front and of 275/35 R19 at the rear. But we wished for it to be a bit softer, because comfort when passing bumps does not reach the level of the E-Class. In the Sport+ mode, the CLS turns into the rival of the BMW’s 6 Series Gran Coupe, displaying a prominent sporty character, especially that the steering is extremely sharp in the zero point area and provides great feedback. It doesn’t come with the spontaneity of the Porsche Panamera, but still it provides plenty of comfort and driving pleasure.
When traveling by a car with such a dazzling interior and with a breath-taking exterior design, the engine comes second, but it would be unfair, as the new 6-cylinder 3.0-liter 340-horsepower turbo diesel, launched with the S-Class last year, is absolutely monumental and gives proof that, just like in the S-Class, it is the world’s quietest and refined such unit. Even though the CLS may not be as well insulated as the S-Class sedan, the sound of the engine doesn’t come through inside the CLS when the engine is cold and it is incredibly refined and balanced.
Beyond the sophistication, it features a splashy torque of 700 Nm that develops linearly and the generos push force also comes forth in the high rev zone, around 4,000 rpm, a pretty rare thing for a diesel. As a matter of fact, at hard acceleration, the ESP works hard on avoiding the wheels skid and efficiently transfer the output to all four wheels. The front/rear 45/55% all-wheel drive traction distribution provides an awesome dynamics. Besides the colossal torque, this engine also supplies exceptional dynamics. It runs from a standstill to 100 km/h in just 5 seconds and the 180-220 km/h throttle run seems to be performed just as fast as the one from 80 to 120 km/h.
The 9-speed automatic gearbox provides plenty of comfort and can quick-shift when needed if the shift paddles are used and it contributes to the incredible efficiency thanks to a very wide nineth gear. At 130 km/h, the maximum speed allowed on most European highways, the revmeter only showed 1,750 rpm and the dashboard computer only 6 l/100 km! The average fuel consumption for the 600 kilometers of the test was around 7.8 l/100 km, quite a great figure.
The new Mercedes-Benz allures with its design and looks sportier and more elegant. The interior is superbly customized with the Designo package, but too bad that it doesn’t come with its very own touch, different from that of the E-Class Coupe. The all-new 3.0-liter 340-horsepower turbodiesel is an inspired choice, even for a luxury coupe, as it is refined and quiet like a gasoline engine and features incredible linearity and flexibility.
|CLS 400 d 4Matic
|Engine/No. of cylinders
|Max. output/revs (HP/rpm)
|Max. torque/revs (Nm/rpm)
|9 gears, automat
|Boot volume (l)
|Acceleration 0-100 km/h (s)
|Top speed (km/h)
|Mixt consumption (l/100 km)
|CO2 emissions (g/km)
|Price (euro with VAT)