We drove the Mercedes CLS 220 d: your stylish star…

You want a Mercedes with the panache of an elegant sedan with a coupé like character? Then the brand with the star has the car for you: the CLS.

Over the years, it has had its share of faithful followers, which has thinned somewhat due to the SUV trend.

But Mercedes is not forgetting this faithful clientele, and is offering now a latest facelifted generation of its elegant car with the star. We drove for you the smooth, lively and frugal 2 litre Diesel version. Indeed, tradition and timeless elegance go hand in hand here with durability and economy. Making it a true Mercedes-Benz automobile!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The CLS is sleek, and its front end got even more impressive with this facelift, with the car gaining also overall in sheer elegance. The front bumper and air inlets breathe now the same styling language as the C, E and S-Class or other recent models in the MB range, and one also finds a star pattern in the grille. In the interior, the electronic age has also arrived. Two large screens under one single glass panel present you the wonders of the MBUX, providing indeed a delightful user experience.

MBUX actually means Mercedes-Benz User Experience. The whole system has a quite logical buildup, it is largely intuitive, and makes interacting with the car the proverbial breeze. The system is however so comprehensive that it is time well spent to familiarize yourself with it.

The system is touch based, but the user can use different ways to choose the functions, and use what suits her or him most. So you can use the central touchpad instead of the touch screen to swipe, touch or pinch and get the function or info you want.

This touchpad also features handwriting recognition for instance. Then you can also control the system functions via the steering wheel if you prefer that. Of course there is also voice control. The system will also save your personal settings, like for your seat, mirrors, etc. It can manage not two, but up to seven different user profiles!

The CLS doesn’t have the large central screen as in the latest C or S Class, but then you are spoiled with a palette of veneer/wood finishes, and by the way, the excellent seats can be had in a wide array of leather qualities and stitching patterns.

The legendary qualities of a state-of-the-art diesel…

Under the hood of our 220 d sits a… 2 liter diesel engine, 1950 cc to be exact, which develops a (very) healthy 143 kW or 194 PS at merely 3800 rpm. Even more important is the impressive torque of 400 Nm at 1600 rpm. Don’t forget, this sleek (almost) 5 meter long sedan does not have to lug around a battery pack, and weighs a slender 1800 kg. Performance is therefore impressive: 0 to 100 km/h is absolved in merely 7,5 seconds, top speed is 235 km/h. You guessed it, this Mercedes is decidedly an “Autobahnmeister”, or freely translated master on the Autobahn. High cruising speeds are indeed its absolute forte.

But it is equally well at home in tight urban traffic and the CLE will absolve quiet boulevard rides with utmost ease. The silky smooth 9 speed automatic sees to that. It shows again how outstanding modern diesel engines have become. Because they are not only quiet and docile, they are frugal too. It proved no trouble at all to achieve consumption figures between 5 and 6 liters/100 km, the manufacturer quotes an average consumption of 5,5 liters/100 km, according to WLTP standards. With a 50 litre tank, this means a useable range close to 900 km, and let’s admit, it is an outright blessing to see this range figures on your screen.

The engine is smooth, but then it’s not a six cylinder, but when you don’t use the full power, it remains as we said, quiet and unobtrusive enough.

That Mercedes is still offering diesel engines in its range has good reasons, besides its excellent qualities.

When we look more closely at our environment, and notably the “Green Europe” plan with its energy transition, we have to agree that, if this transition wants to gain speed and momentum in the coming years, it HAS to include the existing combustion engined cars presently on our roads. The German Automobile Association ADAC relies on the long term on e-fuels and hydrogen from renewable sources to achieve this inclusion. The good storage capacity and synergy effects in the context of the sector coupling of electricity, heating market and transport speak also in favor of both alternative fuels.

ADAC technology president Karsten Schulze says it clearly: “Millions of combustion engines are on the road in Germany (and the whole world) and have a long service life ahead of them. If the climate protection goals in traffic are to be achieved, a solution is needed for this inventory.”

Apparently, the German Ministry of Transport also sees it that way. In January 2021, it announced a renewable fuel subsidy program. Around 1.54 billion euros are available for this until 2024. According to the ministry, 640 million euros of this will flow into development and demonstration projects for the production of renewable fuels. Another 900 million euros are for the retrofitting or the construction of new generation plants as well as for the market launch of Bio or Electric energy based fuels…

The CLE 220 d breathes this philosophy, in the purest sense of the word. No plug-in hybrid version is available so far.

Superb comfort

This Mercedes with its elegant, classic styling scores of course very high in suspension comfort . The CLE rolls on the E Class platform, but here it comes very close to the flagship S Class. Even large potholes are absorbed superbly and the ride offered is truly sublime. Also the sound insulation is of top level. The aerodynamic qualities of this Coupé shaped sedan are excellent, and only the road/tire noises are heard when on the move. The steering is rather direct, and this big sedan/coupé is engaging to drive on winding roads, with some sporting driving pleasure to be had.

Of course, there are more powerful versions of this sleek CLS. Two more six-cylinder diesel engines are offered, of 265 and 330 PS respectively. Petrol engine versions are also possible, with 367 or 435 PS.

Due to its excellent comfort and sound insulation, the CLS is very relaxing car for hours on end, with of course the excellent seats also helping a lot. Admittedly, with its coupé shape, the passengers in the rear have less headroom, but when you are not taller than say 1,80 m, you are fine.

There is more than enough room for your luggage, with 520 liters available.


A fine, classic Mercedes, timelessly styled as a coupé/sedan, embodying all the superb qualities of the brand. Comfort, workmanship, luxury, state of the art electronics, infotainment and a drivetrain built for eternity. Add to this performance and economy, and you can agree with us that this car has it all.

Of course, it is not electrified (in the base diesel version) nor is it an SUV. But – in the light of what we said about the coming of age of E-based synthetic fuels – it certainly has a future and makes (a lot of) sense. It will give you many years of proud, noble and joyful ownership behind its wheel with that star…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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