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Mercedes CLS 350 BlueEfficiency

Do the CLS's sharp new looks, improved cabin and cleaner engine line-up keep the Mercedes ahead of the four-door coupé pack?

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

The CLS’s reputation for refinement and cutting-edge design remains intact. While the body looks more muscular and the whole car is longer, it still stands out from the crowd in the same way as before. The handling is more precise and the Merc feels more agile, too. A new engine line-up boosts power and efficiency – this petrol V6 is ultra-refined, but the CLS 350 CDI is the pick of the bunch, with its extra torque and better economy.

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It’s the original four-door coupe – and now, the CLS is back for its difficult second instalment! Since 2004, a total of 170,00 customers have been seduced by the big Mercedes’ blend of luxury and striking good looks. And it’s inspired the likes of the Porsche Panamera and Audi A7. So can the all-new CLS pick up where its predecessor left off?
Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the Mercedes CLS
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The proportions remain as spectacular as ever. A long bonnet, pillarless side windows and sloping roofline make this unmistakeably a CLS, although the design is all-new. Most noticeable is the upright and prominent front grille. Taking cues from the SLS AMG and dominated by the huge central star, it gives the car a bolder and more aggressive appearance.
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Forming an integral part of the nose are the LED headlights – the first in the world to offer all functions using LED technology. A total of 71 bulbs make up the indicator, sidelight and main beam functions, while daytime running lamps are integrated into the lower bumper.
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The rest of the body trades the delicate flowing lines of the outgoing car for a more muscular stance. Flared wheelarches and wide hips give an imposing presence, while the strong crease around the rear wheelarch is taken from the E-Class Coupe.
The new cabin mixes a simple but elegant centre console with top-quality materials, and makes the CLS a supremely comfortable place in which to spend time. It can be tailored to the driver, with a choice of five interior colours, three qualities of leather, three types of wood and piano black or carbon fibre trim. Rear legroom is improved, but head space is still compromised – anyone over six foot tall should stick to the front seats.
Even though the car is 3cm longer and 1.5cm lower, overall weight has not increased. The new CLS is the first Mercedes to have frameless all-aluminium doors, which are 24kg lighter than regular ones, while the bonnet, front wings, bootlid and substantial parts of the suspension are made of the featherweight metal, too. New electromechanical steering uses energy only when the wheel is being turned, and helps to reduce fuel consumption.
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From launch, there is a choice of CLS 350 models with petrol or diesel V6 engines. Both provide major efficiency gains over the outgoing units. For the first time, there’s an entry-level CLS 250 CDI, with a 201bhp four-cylinder diesel returning 55mpg. Topping the range is the CLS 500; it has 20bhp more power, at 402bhp, but is 25 per cent more efficient.
The CLS 350 BlueEfficiency we drove provides the smooth, effortless and quiet acceleration buyers are looking for. It can’t match the in-gear pace of the torquier 350 CDI, but is a class apart in terms of refinement.
Handling is improved, so the CLS is more agile and precise, especially with Mercedes’ Airmatic adaptive suspension. This allows the driver to select between Comfort and Sport modes, and adjust the ground clearance of the car.
The brakes are strong and consistent, too, while the electric power-steering offers more feel than ever, even though it helps cut CO2 output by 7g/km. The only letdown is the 7G-Tronic auto box, which tends to hold on to gears a little too long.
If the A8 is still too anonymous for you then the A7 will fit the bill. Its curvaceous bodywork adds a helping of style to the Audi hallmarks of superb build quality and refinement. 
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