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Mercedes CLS 350 CDI

Luxury Merc mixes performance and economy to great effect

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

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Not only is the CLS 350 CDI good to look at and great to drive, it’s also swift and  economical. It’s practical, too, and the rear seats are very comfortable. So it’s a shame there are some niggling issues with interior quality. For a car with a price that can approach £80,000 when you’ve added a few choice extras, the cabin is nowhere near as luxurious as you’d get from an Audi. Yet despite that, the big Mercedes is a very impressive machine.

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Few cars blend high-end style, practicality and desirability like the Mercedes CLS. Imitators – from the Audi A7 to the VW Passat CC – don’t come close. 

The big Merc boasts space to seat four adults in comfort and a generous boot, yet it also drives with the crisp responsiveness of a coupe like the CLK.

Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the Mercedes CLS

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A recent nip and tuck has worked wonders at the front, making the CLS appear much bolder. In our eyes, there is a question mark over changes to the profile but, on the road, there’s no doubt that the revised model turns heads. 

It’s a similar story inside, where surfaces are lavished with leather and chrome. It’s glitzy, in a way that cars such as the firm’s own E-Class or the Audi A6 aren’t. There’s also an updated LCD dash, which replaces the monochrome display seen in the rest of the Mercedes line-up.

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The driving position places you close to the floor, and the frameless electric windows automatically wind closed as you shut the door to block out the noise of the outside world.

Fitted with a powerful 3.0-litre V6 diesel, our CLS 350 CDI promises to be the pick of the range in terms of balancing performance and fuel economy. Claimed combined consumption is an impressive 47mpg, and top speed is limited to 155mph. The 0-62mph sprint takes only 6.2 seconds, thanks in part to the powerplant’s massive 650Nm of torque. 

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The sporty, leather-trimmed seats grip you firmly – our car had the £1,310 optional side bolsters that inflate and deflate as you drive around corners – and the CLS feels every inch the sporty coupe. 

Steering is light yet accurate, and the automatic gearbox swaps between its seven ratios quickly and smoothly under full throttle.

Paddles mounted behind the steering wheel allow you to take charge of gearchanges and make more of the driving experience. On top of that, our model was fitted with adjustable air-suspension and AMG-style wheels, which offer plenty of grip through corners. And when you want to stop, the CLS is fitted with reassuringly powerful brakes. Most impressive of all, however, is the model’s 

mighty in-gear acceleration.

In fact, negatives are hard to come by – until you start to focus on price. Fully laden, our top-spec diesel tipped the scales at an eye-watering £77,500. Even without the extras, it costs £52,993. 

For that amount of money, we were expecting a little more. The dash, for example, seems to lack the depth of material quality exhibited by rival Audi. 

And while there is no questioning how well this car is put together, we thought details such as the chrome plates on the end of the door trims looked a little out of place.

These are small criticisms but, at this price, still significant. As Mercedes itself says, it’s the best, or nothing...

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