A ground-breaking car when it launched in 2004, the CLS is no less unique and polarising in appearance almost 15 years later. But the four-door coupe sedan manages to find enough garages around Australia to make it viable, and with a bevy of the German brand’s latest technology introduced from connectivity to drivetrains, the third-generation CLS might even pick up a few new owners.
This is a sleek, coupe-like sedan for those that think the E-Class is too stuffy and the C-Class isn’t enough vehicle. It has an acre of room inside and almost all of the latest technology found in flagship cars like the S-Class.
Mercedes admits this is a low-volume selling vehicle but the clientele that are attracted to it want something which stands out without immaturity.
This is also the most aggressive CLS yet, appointed with the German maker’s newest design language that incorporates what it calls a predator face with overhanging shark nose and diamond-pattern grille.
The 450 sits in the middle of the CLS range which will include the entry-grade 350 and top-end AMG 53 later this year. But sharing the same six-cylinder in-line engine as the AMG with a little less power and torque the 450 exhibits enough brawn to match its mien.
Pricing for the CLS 450 4Matic starts from $155,529 plus on-road costs which sits almost right in the middle of the range. The four-cylinder-powered 350 without 4Matic all-wheel drive starts the range at $136,900 and the AMG CLS 53 with 4Matic plus tops the range at $179,529 plus on-road costs.
An Edition 1 variant will be available from launch that costs an additional $7900 and includes additions such as black 20-inch AMG alloy wheels, matt chrome diamond grille insert, Edition 1 badging, black Nappa leather seats with copper stitching, open pore black Ash timber trims and bespoke key fob.
Further options include the $7100 comfort package that adds heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, heated arm rest and active seat bolstering control.
Standard grade CLS 450 models are equipped with an AMG exterior styling kit, 20-inch alloys, led multibeam headlights, adaptive air suspension, leather interior trim with heated front seats, open pore timber trims, 64-colour ambient interior lighting, twin 12.3-inch displays, Apple Carplay and Android Auto connectivity, Burmester 13-speaker sound system, reverse and 360-degree camera, adaptive cruise control and automatic steering assist.
First impressions are that every panel and part has been strung together well and with a fine eye for detail. The doors don’t bang shut, they close with an automatically controlled hush, and the cabin feels as solid as the real timber and cow hide fitted throughout.
The twin 12.3-inch display system is a marked departure from the traditional separate infotainment and driver’s cluster that brings all of that information onto bright, glossy and crisp screens.
It doesn’t integrate with the finesse of a sculptured binnacle cowl but for pushing forward technology it does stand out compared most rivals.
The touch pro steering wheel further compliments the twin-display setup with navigation of both screens and settings possible by using either hand while still on the wheel.
For a coupe sedan the CLS offers expansive leg room front and rear but the raked roof does sacrifice headspace in the back. Major touchpoints and controls all fall at a natural rest and a deep two-cup holder bin in the centre console is good for storing sundry items.
New features to the CLS such as energizing comfort and 64-colour ambient lighting are used to create a range of atmospheres that are effective in making the cabin a relaxing space. Some of the pre-configured modes include comfort and vitality, each taking over the climate control, media system and lighting in the cabin to create a suitable mood. Song playlists can be configured to each mood via the file library that’s loaded with music already or can be further filled from a USB drive. The standard 13-speaker Burmester sound system is punchy and powerful too.
On top of technology, the seats are ergonomic and comfortable and offer huge legroom up front and the passenger seat will almost unfold into a business seat-style lie flat mode.
ON THE ROAD
The CLS is the first Benz model to debut an all-new 3.0-litre six-cylinder twin-turbo petrol engine that features a mild 48-volt hybrid electric motor between it and the nine-speed automatic transmission. It’s the same hybrid setup used on the new 1.5-litre three-cylinder C200.
Output of the straight six is 270kW and 500Nm that’s augmented by an additional 250Nm from the electric driveline.
However, that extra torque can’t be used higher in the revs so it’s only effective as an additional shove off the line, moving things along before the turbos spool up for high-rev grunt.
The outcome is that the 450 will accelerate from 0-100km/h in 4.8 seconds which isn’t far off the new AMG 53’s 4.5sec claim.
Where the new hybrid really shines however is in cutting fuel consumption by shutting the engine down when coasting – known as glide mode – and regularly stopping and starting the engine much like a conventional engine will stop and start. The added benefit of the 48-volt system is that its generator is mounted between the engine and transmission which means there’s no need for a serpentine belt on the front and kicking the engine over is smoother.
The in-line six-cylinder engine configuration produces a sweet growling soundtrack over 3000rpm that matches a kick in acceleration as the nine-speed transmission shifts up through cogs quickly. The exhaust note picks-up slightly in sport plus mode and the car turns a little more wild though remaining stable and hard to upset on its well-balanced all-wheel drive system.
In comfort setting the steering and acceleration input feels right for most situations but the driveline can hesitate to kick down a gear and overtake on the highway quickly – a quick trip into sport mode fixes this.
Economy mode does what it describes and will engage the trick glide mode, also showing when it’s active on a customised display screen in front of the steering wheel on one of three different cluster displays. Over the course of a few hundred kilometres the system said we saved over 20km of petrol by gliding on the highway but sport mode sucked away any great fuel savings. The 48-volt system works well and it’s hard to discern any difference in driving feel as the engine is turned off and on, which is surely the way to bring hybrid technology to the masses.
The 450 rides on air suspension and it has three levels of firmness according to comfort, sport and sport plus driving modes. Comfort is the most forgiving and it disguises bumps surprisingly well through 20-inch alloys that might otherwise feel brittle. Sport mode is the best blend for stability and compliance as sport plus feels too firm for all but smooth road surfaces, transmitting road marks with too harsh response to be enjoyable.
But for comfortable cruising, the CLS is every bit as plush as the E-Class and has a well-damped cabin from road and wind noise. The automatic driving aids passed down from the pioneering S-Class are also featured as standard equipment and offer some of the best semi-autonomous driving ability available right now, tracing poor country roads with good accuracy and finding a naturally paced distance to traffic when using adaptive cruise control.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
As a luxury outlier the CLS feels right on point. It compromises some back-seat space to be a sleek predator but it’s well-appointed and one of the most comfortable in its segment. The new mild-hybrid driveline is a technological marvel too but for most buyers they won’t even notice it’s there.
- Interested in buying Mercedes-Benz CLS? Visit our Mercedes-Benz showroom for more information.