Mercedes CLS review
The sleek and stylish Mercedes CLS combines head-turning coupe looks with sensible saloon practicality
When the original Mercedes CLS hit showrooms in 2005 it caused an instant stir. By mixing four-door versatility, sleek coupe styling and a luxurious cabin, the CLS was a true trendsetter. Now in its second generation, the latest model adds sharper driving dynamics and efficient new diesel and petrol engines to its list of desirable attributes. All versions are well-equipped, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to avoid the expensive options list.
Our choice: CLS 350 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY
The new Mercedes CLS clearly takes its cues from its sleek predecessor. With a mix of sweeping curves and bold creases, the CLS packs more visual appeal than rivals such as the Audi A7. All versions get eye-catching LED daytime running lights, while AMG Line models are treated to 19-inch alloy wheels and a racy looking bodykit. Inside, quality is top notch, with classy and expensive feeling materials used throughout. What’s more, the attractively designed cabin is almost as stylish as its sleek exterior.
Drivers wanting the ultimate in sporty driving dynamics should look elsewhere. However, the Mercedes CLS’s fine ride and handling set-up strikes the right balance between fun and comfort. Adaptive damping is standard on all models, which means the Mercedes copes effortlessly with poorly surfaced roads.
Yet the direct and well-weighted steering, good body control and decent grip make the Mercedes a surprisingly agile choice. Along with a four-cylinder tuerbodiesel version, the most UK-relevant CLS is the CLS 350 V6 diesel, which now uses a nine-speed gearbox for greater fuel efficiency. It's all the CLS you could ever need, but for ardent power freaks, look no further than the 577bhp CLS 63 AMG, with its brawny 5.5-litre bi-turbo V8.
There has been no Euro NCAP test for the Mercedes CLS yet, but tha's not a worry since the CLS is based on the Mercedes E-Class, which is a five-star EuroNCAP car. Included in the raft of standard safety kit are six airbags, ESP and tyre pressure monitoring. Hit the eye-wateringly expensive options list and you can add hi-tech extras such as lane keep assist, adaptive LED headlights, blind spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control. Mercedes has a reputation for strong build quality and mechanical strength – and the Mercedes CLS certainly feels like it will last. Standard three-year warranty is joined by the firm’s Mobilo scheme, which delivers breakdown cover for up to 30 years if you continue to have your car serviced at a Mercedes main dealer.
It’s unlikely that buyers of the Mercedes CLS are in the market for a practical holdall, so it’s no surprise to find the newcomer lacks versatility. The CLS is a strict four-seater, although there’s plenty of head and legroom for occupants. Opening the bootlid reveals a generous 520-litre load bay, but you’ll have to hit the expensive options list if you want folding rear seats.
Buyers looking for an extra dose of practicality would be better of looking at the hatchback-equipped Audi A7. On the plus side, the cabin of the Mercedes is littered with useful storage, including a deep, lidded box in the centre console.
Owners who want all the flash without forking out lots of cash should stick to the CLS 220CDI. New for the facelifted CLS, the 220 variant is a 168bhp four-cylinder diesel engine. The engine is quieter in the new CLS than in the equivalent C-Class, but still feels spritely, hitting 62mph in 8.5 seconds.
It’ll be the cheapest CLS to run as well as buy, thanks to a claimed 56.5mpg and 129g/km of CO2 output. It’s a real pity, however, that Mercedes only offers the car with a seven-speed automatic gearbox in the UK. Left-hand drive markets get a new nine-speed gearbox, which shifts faster and more smoothly, making the car quicker and reducing fuel consumption at a cruise.
The petrol-powered V6 and V8 versions serve-up crippling running costs, however, while all CLS variants suffer from poor residuals compared to rivals such as the Audi A7 and Porsche Panamera. As you’d expect for a premium car, servicing costs are likely to be pricey. And while the level of standard equipment is decent, it will be hard not to hit the expensive options list. For instance, you’ll have to dig a little deeper in your pocket for ambient lighting and heated seats – kit we’d expect to be standard at this price.