RE: 2018 Mercedes-Benz CLS: Driven

RE: 2018 Mercedes-Benz CLS: Driven

Thursday 1st March

2018 Mercedes-Benz CLS: Driven

Third generation CLS brings in straight-six engines, more technology and a new electrified AMG - better then, no?



When Mercedes-Benz revealed the Vision CLS Concept 15 years ago, it appeared genuinely radical from a company whose outlook often seemed to tend toward the conservative. It was radical for the market, too, creating the four-door luxury coupe sector that was soon imitated by BMW and Audi - it's not often that either steals such a significant march on the rivals.

Despite still occupying a relatively niche position, 375,000 CLS sales since 2004 makes it a significant model for MB. For this third generation car, Mercedes says it "pioneers the new design idiom" of the company, while also delivering the "very latest infotainment generation" and all manner of active safety and assistance technology. Arguably of more interest is to PHey types are the extensive aero work (resulting in a 0.26Cd drag co-efficient), a new range of straight-six engine and the electrified AMG 53 flagship, too.


That 435hp range-topper is where we begin, because where else would you head first given the choice? Sadly the conditions are not playing ball; Baltic Barcelona about as unsuitable for any car as you can imagine - cold, bleak and icy, with stationary JCBs hiding around corners clearing the way. For a near-450hp AMG they sound downright lethal. But we persevered...

Of course this is a new and vastly more accommodating AMG, boasting four-wheel drive and all manner of technology to prevent your enthusiasm getting the better of you. So actually, with the benefit of winter tyres as well, the CLS53 AMG allows the driver to make generous use of its remarkable powertrain.

The straight six is just as smooth and sonorous as you'd hope, but of course enhanced in this application by Mercedes EQ Boost and electric compressor also. It's tremendously complex technology, the EQ starter alternator providing a temporary 22hp and 184lb ft as well as supporting the electric compressor, the apparently seamless integration and calibration of it all being arguably Mercedes' greatest achievement.


While not entirely without delay, for the most part the 53 simply feels like it's powered by a far larger, atmospheric engine, which is presumably the point. Just a few years ago this sort of performance and response from a turbocharged 3.0-litre straight six would have felt like witchcraft; in fact the tech probably still is, even if the effects are no longer quite as incredible.

An on limit assessment will have to wait for another time, with as much of the test drive duration spent avoiding frozen slush as it is interpreting dynamic messages. For what it's worth the CLS53 rides beautifully, its plushness never entirely sacrificed regardless of the drive mode and the overriding impression one of extensive, thorough development and an adaptive set up that really should suit any situation.

That drag co-efficient helps it feel beautifully refined, the steering is good, the performance is strong... the CLS53 may not be the world's most exciting performance car, but it's a fantastic technical achievement and an entirely lovely product. One to return to in a less frozen UK soon, certainly.


Arguably of equal intrigue is the 2.0-litre CLS that's also available to drive, a model so fresh that it's waiting on full European emissions homologation. It uses a new four-cylinder turbo that Mercedes promises more than 300hp from, mated to the excellent nine-speed auto found elsewhere in the range. And you know what? It was a delight in snowy Spain, a lighter engine delivering the usual dynamic benefits of a more positive front end, a greater sense of agility and a lithe, athletic ride. It even sounds alright, too, vastly more pleasant than any recent Mercedes four-cylinder diesel, even if the noise from the outside doesn't really correlate with what your ears are treated to inside. An unexpected surprise, that one.

The CLS350d, using the straight-six OM656 diesel launched in the S-Class, is also bloody fabulous, although it should be said that came as less of a shock. The refinement is genuinely impeccable, the diesel revving fantastically smoothly and settling to a near-silent cruise once up to speed. Even the stop-start doesn't disturb the hush too much, which is so often a letdown for diesels. In the driving, freezing rain, the CLS350d is a joyous place to spend time, tangibly more so than the old V6 equivalent; if there was an opportunity right there and then to drive back to the UK rather than wait for the flight, it would have been a sorely tempting offer.

With the mechanical advances of those new engines, plus the additional style of the coupe body, combined with all that's so very good about the E-Class, the CLS presents a formidably strong case for itself. The semi-autonomous drive tech still feels to need some work, but the richness of the materials, opulence of the interior design and incredible comfort make the car a compelling luxury package.


In the UK a CLS350d costs the best of £10k more than an E350d equivalent using the old engine, with prices starting at £57,510 and £48,155 respectively. What the CLS does so well is make that premium feel entirely justified, largely thanks to that superb new engine but also with a level of desirability that even the very good E-Class cannot match. Not only does it entirely warrant its position against the best E-Class (and E-ClassCoupe) it has ever faced, the CLS questions why you would need to spend anything more on a luxury car - it's brilliant.


 

Mercedes-AMG CLS53 - Specifications
Engine 2,999cc, 6-cyl turbocharged
Transmission 9G-AMG Speedshift automatic, all-wheel drive
Power (hp) 435@6,100rpm
Torque (lb ft) 383@1,800-5,800rpm
0-62mph 4.5 sec
Top speed 155mph
Weight 1,980kg (EC)
MPG 32.4
CO2 200g/km
Price TBC (CLS350d from £57,560, CLS450 from £57,660 and CLS400d from £60,460)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   
Author
Discussion

KillerHERTZ

Original Poster:

538 posts

131 months

Thursday 1st March
quotequote all
Saw one of these (non AMG) last month in Amsterdam, as you can see from the photos virtually everyone was looking around at it.

Before anyone moans its ugly, its stunning in the flesh.




PH_77

23 posts

26 months

Friday 2nd March
quotequote all
I want to like it. I'd love one. Perhaps it's just from a bad angle that makes me think W211 crossed with a C117, and a W205 coupe backside.

gigglebug

890 posts

55 months

Friday 2nd March
quotequote all
It has gone back to being really attractive again which is good, didn't particularly like the styling of the previous iteration. That interior is very, very shiny though. Hopefully it can be specced in a finish that is a little less chintzy as looks like a nice place to be otherwise.

unsprung

2,395 posts

57 months

Friday 2nd March
quotequote all


All sinew and sculpture. The sort of car that would look even more fabulous with "door handle delete" from the factory.

sidesauce

758 posts

151 months

Friday 2nd March
quotequote all
I'm not generally in the market for a car like this but I have to consider it as a possible purchase - I think it's lovely!
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Milemuncher

172 posts

48 months

Friday 2nd March
quotequote all
Any exterior colour you like as long as it’s grey or black.

Any interior colour you like as long as it’s black.

I’m a serial CLS owner having had each of the previous generations.

I won’t be having this one unless MBUK realises buyers want a bit more choice. Other markets get it, why shouldn’t we?

BIRMA

2,383 posts

127 months

Friday 2nd March
quotequote all
At least they have dumped the 'stuck on iPad' and designed a nice flowing instrument binnacle.

CM954

491 posts

118 months

Friday 2nd March
quotequote all
Getting rid of the stuck on iPad look - tick.
Good looking from rear 3/4.
Probably inevitable - but a huuuuge gap between the rear tyre and the windowline. Makes it look anything but taut to me. Better than most but I'm not buying the marginal safety argument for a car that looks that ugly.

XMT

2,335 posts

80 months

Friday 2nd March
quotequote all
id luuuuurv the CLS53

corcoran

417 posts

207 months

Friday 2nd March
quotequote all
Such beautiful cars.

But the way that center console bumps into the dash with all that carbon fibre. Eeeeeh no.

sdiggle

46 posts

23 months

Friday 2nd March
quotequote all
Are these 5 seaters now?? Thought I saw a pic of the rear seats with no middle console....

RedRob67

25 posts

55 months

Friday 2nd March
quotequote all
Yes, 5 seats as standard.

big_rob_sydney

2,096 posts

127 months

Friday 2nd March
quotequote all
Hmm. Yes they did mention many things in the article, but they've mentioned its drag coefficient several times, so I have to ask the question; whats the big deal? Because they're only just short of TWENTY YEARS behind the competition in that regard. The Lexus LS430 was rated at 0.26 when it came out.

Quite frankly, I'm disappointed. With the benefit of almost twenty years, this should be better. Especially when you consider Lexus are such a conservative Japanese company and MB are supposedly pushing boundaries, along with such a prominent F1 effort.

Krikkit

12,991 posts

114 months

Friday 2nd March
quotequote all
big_rob_sydney said:
Hmm. Yes they did mention many things in the article, but they've mentioned its drag coefficient several times, so I have to ask the question; whats the big deal? Because they're only just short of TWENTY YEARS behind the competition in that regard. The Lexus LS430 was rated at 0.26 when it came out.
A 3-box saloon is easy to get the drag down - the W211 was 0.26 with a surprising number of curved, lift-generating surfaces. The CLS on the same platform was 0.3, because of its curvier profile.

tankplanker

2,348 posts

212 months

Friday 2nd March
quotequote all
BIRMA said:
At least they have dumped the 'stuck on iPad' and designed a nice flowing instrument binnacle.
While its a big step up from the "iPad in a dash mount" of the old car, it still isn't built into the dash fully, I really do not like the side angle on them as it looks like an iPad resting on the dash rather than properly built in. Here it is in the E Class:


I prefer the look of the new A7 dash as it is fully intergrated, even if the Merc dash is going to be easier to use as it has physical buttons for key things like climate:

J4CKO

25,051 posts

133 months

Friday 2nd March
quotequote all
I think they have done a good job with this, side profile evokes the original nicely, losing the daft rear quarter styling of the second gen model, the front improves on the original which to be fair had a bit of a sad face, its least successful angle, rear on a par, similar to the current C Class coupe.

Making it a five seater is a good idea as well, must have limited sales a little. Amazing how this version, not the most powerful still has well over 400 bhp.




1878

710 posts

96 months

Friday 2nd March
quotequote all
KillerHERTZ said:
Saw one of these (non AMG) last month in Amsterdam, as you can see from the photos virtually everyone was looking around at it.

Before anyone moans its ugly, its stunning in the flesh.



I think that looks better than the AMG version in the main article. Still going to be out of my range for the next 10 years though.

unsprung

2,395 posts

57 months

Friday 2nd March
quotequote all
Milemuncher said:
Any exterior colour you like as long as it’s grey or black.

Any interior colour you like as long as it’s black.

I’m a serial CLS owner having had each of the previous generations.

I won’t be having this one unless MBUK realises buyers want a bit more choice. Other markets get it, why shouldn’t we?
Is this just about the maths of RHD? Would a vinyl wrap provide some relief?

Patrick Bateman

10,251 posts

107 months

Friday 2nd March
quotequote all
Not ugly but a lot of these Mercs look very samey at the minute when compared with how much the first CLS stood out.

BIRMA

2,383 posts

127 months

Friday 2nd March
quotequote all
tankplanker said:
BIRMA said:
At least they have dumped the 'stuck on iPad' and designed a nice flowing instrument binnacle.
While its a big step up from the "iPad in a dash mount" of the old car, it still isn't built into the dash fully, I really do not like the side angle on them as it looks like an iPad resting on the dash rather than properly built in. Here it is in the E Class:


I prefer the look of the new A7 dash as it is fully intergrated, even if the Merc dash is going to be easier to use as it has physical buttons for key things like climate:
One thing that does stand out for me at least is that the Merc's dash is more in the 'line of sight' so you don't have to look down whilst adjusting things.