The model name of our CLS 450 test car may end in ‘AMG Line’, but it feels more ‘AMG Lite’ in the way the engine propels it down the road. This is a very quick car indeed, with excellent traction off the line and from low speeds from the four-wheel drive system.
It’s at low speeds when you really feel the extra shove of the 48V system, yet the way it blends with the engine is seamless. That’s also true when you select Eco from the driving mode selector toggle and the car enters its sailing mode; you don’t notice it, and there’s not exactly a sonorous engine note to miss anyway.
In-gear performance isn’t as razor-sharp as off-the-line performance, the nine ratios being better suited for efficiency than outright performance in the way they’re tuned in this car, nor does it ever sound as good as it should do.
It would also be wrong to call this an economical car with such force under your right foot — more economical than it would otherwise be is more accurate — yet it also shows the potential of such tech. Here, the 48V system is primarily used for performance, but you can see how it could also be used for a primarily fuel-saving purpose. The powertrain was first used in the S500 in a higher state of tune, so the drip down the range in different tunes and purposes is already occurring. The future’s well on its way.
After the powertrain, those 19in wheels interest most. While making for a quieter and more comfortable CLS, they can’t solve the harsh low-speed ride the CLS suffers from, particularly over road scars and potholes. Still, it’s a much more composed machine at higher speed and it's much better suited to fast, flowing roads than it is pottering in and out of the suburbs.
You’ll need to play around with the driving modes to find a CLS that feels ‘right’; our test car does without the optional air springs and adaptive dampers, and instead uses the standard steel set-up with selective dampers through different driving modes.
What the car really needs is a ‘normal’ driving mode between Comfort, which makes the car too fidgety and wafty and not sharp enough in its steering and handling, and Sport, which makes it feel too urgent and highly strung for everyday driving, particularly in the overly sensitive steering. Individual mode merely allows you to combine elements from other driving modes rather than offer anything more bespoke.
The rest of the experience is similar to that of our early drives in other third-gen CLS models; styling that’s better-looking than the second-gen car but not quite as pretty as the first, and an interior of the highest quality, comfort and usability (even if those steering wheel controls take some getting used to).