In some ways, purchasing a car like the CLS goes beyond any kind of rational purchasing decision. This Mercedes is a dramatically styled luxury car and one that is beautifully made and finished, especially inside thanks to switchgear of the highest quality.
Indeed, the V6 diesel CLS 350 we tried on a long route between central London and Goodwood in West Sussex costs £49,950 on the road and with a standard spec that lacks only the Harmon Kardon sound system and keyless go (another £2395) and an electric roof, seat memory and reversing camera (another £3595).
If you do without the options, this is a very smart and distinctive four-door coupe that’s less than half of the cost of, say, a Bentley. So, it would have been tempting not to try and find fault with the CLS proposition.
Such is the level of engineering and plushness of its fit and finish, this model could have recommended on the sole basis of its neat niche position as a sharp-cut machine that balances luxury with a decent amount of get-up-and-go.
Luckily, I got out of the CLS 350 and into the new Mercedes C220 diesel and drove the latter on roads in the same area. There’s no doubt that the C-Class now delivers remarkable ability in a couple of areas that the CLS just can’t. So there is room for improvement.
While there’s a great deal to be said for the CLS’s new V6 diesel and nine-speed auto combination is first-rate. The engine is refined, and the new ‘box beautifully integrated. The only time that there might have been a hint of extra ratios was when the box was downshifting as the driver braked.
However, compared to the new Mercedes C-class, there are two areas where the CLS is lagging. Firstly, tyre noise is more pronounced on the CLS, especially on the UK’s notorious surfacing of stone chips laid on bitumen. Even the super-refined C-Class struggles slightly with these surfaces, but the CLS generates more noise as well as a background hint of ‘hollow’ tyre casing noise.
More importantly, the CLS still has more than a touch of Mercedes’ traditional chassis indolence when you are pressing on. While the new C-class is much more fluid and willing to change direction quickly at the driver’s whim, the CLS exhibits more resistance to being rushed by a driver who wants to push on a little.