The Mercedes-Benz CLS four-door coupe sits between the E-Class and the S-Class in the firm’s model line-up – and that placement is set to be clearer than ever with the third-generation model, due to go on sale next year.
The newest version of the four-door coupe, which will be unveiled at the Los Angeles motor show in November, is built on the same MRA rear-wheel- drive platform as the E-Class, but its engines, driver assistance systems and other interior options – such as the twin-screen ‘Widescreen Cockpit’ system - are taken from the S-Class.
That, according to Mercedes engineers, makes the third generation CLS an “explicit connection” between the two cars – while an exterior design overhaul is intended to further develop the machine’s unique, sporty character.
To get an early glimpse into how that has been achieved, Autocar was given passenger rides in both petrol and diesel versions of the first production trial cars on the North Yorkshire moors recently. While largely finished in terms of manufacturing, there is still fine-tuning to be done on set-up and systems programming.
Both cars were sporting camouflage elements, with certain interior details concealed, but it’s clear the CLS has been heavily revamped both outside and in. Mercedes promise that it will like “like no other Mercedes”, with a design that will highlight the sporting feel of the car.
Mercedes faces an interesting challenge developing the new CLS. The car has two distinct customer bases: those after a dynamic but luxurious four-door coupé and those (particularly in China) who want a luxury car with the style of a dynamic four-door coupé.
Technical details of the new CLS
The standard CLS range will be headed by inline six-cylinder diesel and petrol engines. The diesel will be available in 281bhp and 335bhp. The petrol unit features a mild hybrid EQ Boost 48V electrical motor and produces 362bhp.
Inline four-cylinder diesel and mild hybrid petrol engines will also be available, producing 241bhp and 295bhp respectively. An AMG version, featuring a 429bhp electrified petrol engine, will follow.
The 48V electric motor on the petrol engine works as an automated starter, turning the combustion unit off when not needed to maximise efficiency. In dynamic drive modes, the unit’s 20bhp output is used to boost acceleration.
The CLS will come with passive steel suspension as standard. Active steel and air suspension, featuring air body control, are available as options. While shared with the E-Class, all three systems have been tuned to the CLS, with the focus on ensuring an engaging, sporty drive. Wheels are 18in as standard, with 19in and 20in as options.
New CLS sports revamped interior Notably, the CLS gets three rear seats for the first time, the middle one suitable for a child. The control panel shares elements with the E-Class but features distinctive ‘turbine’ design air vents with colour-changing LEDs. From the passenger seat (like the driver’s seat, more supportive than that in the E-Class, reflecting the car’s more dynamic nature), it’s clear how Mercedes is appealing to those buying a CLS for style. The addition of a third pew in the back reflects demand, although only the young will likely be able to make use of it (and then in limited comfort).
The optional Widescreen Cockpit system from the S-Class gives the interior a high-tech feel, and design flourishes such as colour-changing LEDs on the new-look air vents certainly make a statement. Add in features such as the slightly surreal ‘energising comfort’ control, which links together functions such as the aircon, audio, massage seats and lighting to create a relaxing ambience, and the CLS can be specified with plenty of showy style.
An AMG styling pack will be available. The CLS is due on sale next year.
What’s the CLS like to ride in
Our ride took place on the bumpy, twisting roads of the North Yorkshire moors, and from the passenger seat the new CLS coped with them well. Our first run came in the 362bhp electrified petrol unit, fitted with 20in wheels and air suspension. The latter system is taken from the E-Class but has been tuned for the CLS. When the car tackles a big bump in the road, it is quickly settled by thesuspension.
The different drive modes were apparent too: in Eco mode, the 48V electric motor helped keep the car quiet – seamlessly turning off the petrol engine when not needed – but switch to Sport and Sport+ and the engine note picks up while, at the same time, the car’s ride stiffens notably.
Our ride suggests that the CLS remains a strong cruiser with dynamic ability, although we’ll have to wait to get behind the wheel to find out for sure.
The new CLS is due to go on sale next year.