Lovers of elegant, sleek four-door coupés have found since 2003 their superlative mount with the Mercedes CLS. This elegant car is now in its third generation, and the fluent lines are the logical evolution of the Sensual Purity design idiom: sharp edges and lines have been significantly reduced; the car is indeed more rounded, yet breathes the same sleek elegance of its predecessors. It is brimming with state of the art electronics, driving assistance systems and infotainment. But also it’s heart is rejuvenated: the engine range is completely new. It is available with three six-cylinder engines, 2 diesel engines and a gem of a petrol engine, a 3 liter six, which we drove for you here. The sound and fury of this velvety engine has the unmistakable Mercedes aura and character, and yes, it is a 3 liter, like in the 300 SL Gullwing… but of course, this is a car of another age, and edges marvelously close to absolute perfection. Just read further!
Hans Knol ten Bensel
The car we tested here for you is the Special Edition 1 model. This special model has numerous luxurious features as standard, which are only available on this Edition 1. The sleek exterior is based on the AMG Line.
Special features include MULTIBEAM LED headlamps as standard and 20-inch AMG multi-spoke light-alloy wheels painted in black with a high-sheen rim flange. “Edition 1” lettering on the front wings will tell ordinary mortals that this CLS has what it takes.
In the interior, its luxurious character is further continued. Our eyes fall on the stunning transverse seams of the seats, executed in nappa leather in a bengal red/black color combination. The front seats are sportingly and beautifully shaped. There are three seats in the rear.
The outer seats have the same appearance as the front seats, and this enhances the aura of posh sportiness in the cabin. But there is more. The dashboard support is also lined in black nappa leather, the centre console and dashboard support trim are in black open-pored ash wood. Of course, there is Chrome “Edition 1” lettering on the centre console and “Edition 1” display on the welcome screen.
I always liked the clocks in a Mercedes, remembering the nice square Kienzle clock sitting in the middle of the dashboard on my father’s first Mercedes, a 1954 180 D Ponton, where I looked upon for hours during our long drives, sitting in the middle of the back seat as a 6 year old boy. Here we are spoilt with an IWC Schaffhausen analogue clock.
But, as said, this is not your Uhlenhaut Mercedes, this is altogether a car of another age. So you are treated to ambience lighting including illuminated air vents in 64 colors, with ten color themes and two effects.
For the first time, the ambience lighting also includes air vents reminiscent of aircraft engine turbines.
When the temperature setting of the air conditioning system is changed, it briefly changes color to show whether the temperature is being made warmer (red) or cooler (blue).
Then there is the dashboard and instrument panel. The digital age has arrived. You are looking at a high-resolution “Widescreen” cockpit, with two massive 12.3-inch displays arranged beneath a shared, continuous glass cover. In the fully digital cockpit, the driver is able to feely configure the information content according to need and the driving situation. Three different styles can be selected depending on preference, mood or to suit the interior appointments.
The “Classic” and “Sport” styles have a basic structure with two tubes, while the “Progressive” style has one central, tubular instrument. All the info controls are concentrated on the steering wheel spokes, which have black touch buttons at their centers, which allow you to whisk through the menus literally with a slight stroke and nudge of the thumb. All this is truly intuitive and easy.
Driving experience: entering the world of the sublime
On all the comfort functions of the seats, we will tell you later, we tell you here more about how this superb automobile drives and feels…
Pushing the starting knob will let purr a marvelous straight 6 to life. Almost inaudible, certainly at idling speed, yet, if you jus brush the accelerator pedal slightly, the engine will smoothly rev up, and emits here a beautiful “Mercedes” sound.
With this we mean it sounds unmistakably like a Mercedes six cylinder, reminiscent of the Gullwing 300 SL, and all the other “Pagode” 230/250280 SL’s and more three pointed “stars” through the decades. It is also an in-line six, like its forefathers, in the best of tradition. However, this engine bears the state of the art hallmarks of its time: it is systematically electrified.Its performance data: 270 kW/367 hp and 500 Nm of torque, a further 250 Nm of torque and 16 kW/22 hp available via EQ Boost over short periods.
What does “systematically electrified” mean here? Some components are driven by electric power, such as the water pump and air conditioning compressor. It dispenses with the need for a belt drive for ancillary components at the front of the engine, which reduces its overall length. The slim design, together with the physical separation of intake/exhaust, creates space for near-engine exhaust after treatment. Therefore, a 48-volt on-board power supply serves not only this high power consumers such as this water pump and air-conditioning compressor, but also the Integrated Starter Generator (ISG), which also supplies energy to the battery by means of highly efficient energy recuperation.
Yes, you did hear well, the Integrated Starter Generator (ISG). It is another very clever element of this engine. This integrated starter/alternator (ISG) is responsible for hybrid functions such as EQ Boost or energy recuperation, while allowing fuel savings that were previously reserved for high-voltage hybrid technology.
Of course, performance is nothing short from top class. Understandably, as you know that this engine features twin-turbocharging and an electric auxiliary compressor. What to think of a 0 to 100 acceleration time of 4,8 seconds? Top speed is electronically limited to 250 km/h. Of course, intermediate acceleration times are in the supercar league, as the 9 speed auto box reacts to your right foot with the greatest alertness.
Ultra smooth progress…
The abundant power is transmitted by the 9G-TRONIC automatic transmission. The broad ratio spread of gears one to nine allows a clearly perceptible reduction in engine speed and is a decisive factor behind the high level of energy efficiency. Indeed, at cruising speeds, revs are very low, at 120 km/h the rev counter hovers somewhere between 1000 and 1500 rpm.
Gear schift comfort has to be experienced to be believed. All this is the result of extensive measures. It includes the novel direct control system which enables short, barely perceptible gear changes. The combination of twin-turbine torsional damper and centrifugal pendulum technology in the torque converter ensures outstanding drive comfort. An additional, electric transmission oil pump is activated in start/stop operation, ensuring a basic supply to the control elements and actuators. The time delay between the desire to move off and the vehicle’s actual movement is reduced by the electric transmission oil pump. Need we say more?
Of course, the suspension can be set up to your wishes, and this comfortable five seater can also hurtle through sharp bends and mountain roads with utmost ease. Remember also that it has permanent 4MATIC four wheel drive…
State of the art “eco” driving…
In driving mode ECO, the gliding function assists the driver’s active fuel economy measures. When the driver’s foot leaves the accelerator, the combustion engine is decoupled from the drive system and runs at idling speed. The vehicle rolls for a measurably longer distance than when on the overrun.
When the accelerator is depressed again, the connection between the engine and drive system is re-established. In the CLS 450 4MATIC, the internal combustion engine is switched off depending on the driving situation and automatically recuperates with the electric motor. The battery is charged during the recuperation process. Fuel economy depends of course very much on driving style here, but with some careful anticipation and common sense driving, the results we achieved are nothing short of astonishing. Constant motorway cruising at legal maximum speeds between 120 and 130 km/h delivered consumption figures between 7,5 and 7,8 liters, which is by the way also the average consumption the manufacturer quotes. Town driving costs a lot more, as the laws of physics take their toll. But somewhere between 11 and 9,6 liters is very creditable indeed, we would say.
The superlatives continue when we speak about driving and seating comfort. The chassis and suspension are nothing short of superb, and will iron out all the road irregularities you might encounter. The same can be said about the seats.
Our test car came with ENERGIZING comfort control (optional), which links various comfort systems in the vehicle. It systematically uses the functions of the climate control system (including fragrancing) and the seats (heater, ventilation, massage), the surface and steering wheel heating as well as lighting and musical atmospheres, and allows a specific wellness set-up according to your wishes…
Of course, this CLS is fit for travel, like a true Gran Turismo. There is sufficient boot space. When required the backrests can be folded down in a 40:20:40 ratio, expanding the 520-litre luggage compartment.
Driving assistance systems galore
The CLS is equipped with the latest generation of driving assistance systems, with route-based driver support provided by the Driving Assistance Package.
The range of driving assistance and safety systems features a modular design and as standard includes Active Brake Assist, Lane Keeping Assist, ATTENTION ASSIST, Speed Limit Assist and the occupant protection system PRE-SAFE®. New and also part of the standard specification is PRE-SAFE® Sound (prepares human hearing for the anticipated accident noise when there is a risk of a collision).
The optional Driving Assistance Package consists of Active Distance Control DISTRONIC, Active Steering Assist, Active Speed Limit Assist, Active Brake Assist with cross-traffic function, Evasive Steering Assist, Active Blind Spot Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist and PRESAFE® PLUS. Active Distance Control DISTRONIC and Active Steering Assist now provide even more comfortable support for the driver to keep a safe distance and steer. The speed is now adjusted automatically ahead of bends, junctions or roundabouts. Active Lane Changing Assist has also been significantly improved (country-specific differences are possible for individual functions).
When the driver wishes to change lanes on multi-lane roads (recognised by the navigation system) at speeds from 80 to 180 km/h, it is now sufficient to nudge the indicator stalk. In addition, the Driving Assistance Plus package includes PRE-SAFE® Impulse Side. This system can brace the front occupants for a side impact by nudging them sideways to reduce the risk of injury. Then there is the Burmeister sound system, it has to be heard to be believed…
When you are looking for a five seater coupé with panache and which offers all the performance, driving comfort and safety you could possibly look for, just take a look (and drive) in this CLS. It embodies all the state of the art driving, communication and “eco” technology that is available at this moment, and this technology will warrant you years and years of superb transport. Is this Mercedes a classic which will make its mark as a five seater coupé for years to come? We are already convinced…
Hans Knol ten Bensel