From £46,810
Merc’s defining four-door coupé offers even more in return for its compromise on rear cabin space
Matt Saunders Autocar
30 September 2010

What is it?

Mercedes' second-generation four-door coupé, the CLS – but also Merc’s first car to get a number of interesting mechanical ingredients, from engines to steering systems to headlamps.

First, let’s deal with the styling makeover. Designing a new, even better-looking CLS must have been a difficult brief. Merc’s design team attempted to meet it by adding an extra dose of visual muscle into the CLS’s bodywork.

“This is our James Bond car,” one company man explained. “And if the last one was Pierce Brosnan, this new one’s Danny Craig.”

Leaving the Brosnan vs Craig debate to one side, the new car certainly looks more contemporary, but there’s little doubt that some of the outgoing CLS’s grace and elegance has been sacrificed on the altar of visual athleticism. Which, to these eyes at least, seems a shame.

But now to less subjective considerations. The new CLS’s body is lighter than the old car’s, with aluminium doors that save 24kg each, and it’s 10 per cent more aerodynamically efficient, too.

This is Mercedes’ first proper production model to get automatic engine stop-start, its first to get electromechanical power steering, and the first road car in the world, Merc claims, with directional LED headlamps.

The 3.0-litre diesel version, which will account for most UK sales, gets a new turbo and a lower compression ratio for improved refinement.

The CLS 500 petrol, however – the car we’re testing – uses a brand new 4.7-litre twin-turbo V8, which produces 20bhp more than the old naturally aspirated 5.5, 52 additional pounds of torque, and is also 25 per cent more fuel efficient.

What’s it like?

This is a five metre, near two-tonne four seater, capable of better than 30mpg on the run, and yet that also has 402bhp and can hit 62mph in under five and a half seconds.

In those respects, it’s a very modern and appealing sports saloon indeed.


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Mercedes is proud of this powertrain, and with every right. The V8 is perfectly insulated under the long bonnet of the CLS. It has immediate throttle response.

There’s no compromise on mechanical refinement for the addition of the turbos. The engine even sounds great, making a soft-edged gargle around idle that becomes a gentle but melliflous howl later on.

It’s great to be back in a Mercedes sports saloon with forced induction. This car’s generous mid-range swell of torque makes rapid ground-covering effortless.

The engine’s very happy to be revved, but there’s no need to go after the redline now just to pull off that overtake safely. Credit to Mercedes for an excellent software optimisation on its 7G-Tronic gearbox too, which kicks down only when you need it to.

The V8 500 is the only version of the CLS available from launch, with Airmatic air suspension as standard. It gets 20mm wider tracks than the old CLS, as well as MacPherson strut/multi-link chassis hardware borrowed from the current E 63 AMG saloon.

The CLS 500’s chassis rates are lower than those of the AMG E-class, but still high enough for good body and wheel control during quicker driving on testing roads. That electro-mechanical steering is precise, responsive and direct.

All of which means that, while it’s easy to stray beyond the comfort zone of many ‘ordinary’ Mercedes models when you up the pace, the new CLS has got real poise and agility in its locker.

It’s an accurate and willing device when you want to stretch its legs, and yet it’s still a superbly quiet, comfortable and compliant machine the rest of the time.

If you were being picky, you might say that the CLS 500 could do with a natch more steering feel. You might also say that the ESP system, which has been modified to respond to the car’s quicker steering rack, could be a little more subtle and less intrusive. But these are very minor criticisms of a car that both handles and rides very capably indeed.

Should I buy one?

Mercedes has pulled off something very special with this car. It has created a saloon with dynamism to spare, but that also has all the refinements you expect from Mercedes.

Those back seats still feel a little confined for adults, but considering the extra responsiveness and driver entertainment that the new CLS offers relative to ordinary mid-sized execs generally, and to a standard Merc E-class in particular, you can’t really fail to be impressed by it.

You may not think it’s quite as pretty as the last CLS – this tester certainly doesn’t look it – but the new car is even more appealing underneath its panels.

Mercedes-Benz CLS 500 BlueEFFICIENCY

Price: £60,000 approx (tbc); Top speed: 155mph (limited); 0-62mph: 5.5sec (tbc); Economy: 31.4mpg (tbc); CO2: 210g/km (tbc); Kerb weight: 1890kg; Engine: V8, 4663cc, twin-turbocharged petrol; Power: 402bhp at 5000-5750rpm; Torque: 443lb ft at 1600-4750rpm; Gearbox: 7-spd auto

Join the debate


4 October 2010

The "Germans" idea of a Quattroporte. Ticks all the right boxes for someone who's looking for a 4 door luxury saloon thats *fun to drive

4 October 2010

So the germans do have a sense of humour, a 402hp twin turbo V8 with the BlueEfficiency badge

4 October 2010

I'm sure its a fantastic car, bit its lost that 'swoopy' outline that to me was a defining feature of the CLS. I Don't think the white paintwork does it any favours, either.

4 October 2010

Matt's been very kind in his admonishing of the CLS's styling. Look at pic four: how awkward and downright ugly does this new version look compared to the first? Such a shame.

4 October 2010

I wish the press cars would move awy from white, as I find it difficult to assess how good a car looks in white. Perhaps it's just me!

White aside, I do like the new 'muscular' look. Official 30mpg is mightily impressive for a large car with 400+ bhp.

Should I be in a position to afford such a car, this is one I would consider.

4 October 2010

Love it! Not sure about the colour. but in Black I would take one! Sub 225g Emmisions on a V8 :-D

Just a bit short on Cash.......

4 October 2010

[quote Autocar]Designing a new, even better-looking CLS must have been a difficult brief[/quote] Evidently so, as they have not succeeded here. Despite the favoured white paint job, it still looks clumsy and awkward, definitely not an improvement on the current motor. We seem to have been stuck with yet another car with that awful shut line across the front of the car between the bonnet and grille. Must look better in darker colours but even then the bulges and awkward conjoining of wings to upper surfaces will still look horrid. Mercedes were always rather elegant looking cars - seems they are catching up with the other German marques and just getting more "butch" and inelegant. Shame.

4 October 2010

I realize it must be hard to keep on coming up with original exterior elements and that the Chrysler association still hurts on the financial side of the ledger but did you have to try to recoup those costs buy stealing an American Dodge upright grill and replace the Ram with a three pointed star? No matter how good the drive, no matter how brilliant the interior, it's the exterior that makes the first impression and the new CLS is an Epic failure.

4 October 2010

Saw this in Paris on Saturday. I didn't think it was ugly, but it's definately a step backwards design-wise compared to the old CLS. In fact, I think it is one of the few cars in the world that looks slightly better in pictures than in the flesh. The new BMW 6-series concept was a much more interesting design and BMW will be launching a 4-door coupe version of that car.

What can't be disputed is Merc's latest technology. I actually feel they are now more technically proficient than BMW. I mean, a 2-tonne V8 twin turbo with over 30mpg and sub 225g/km without any hybrid rubbish is simply astonishing. Even more impressive were the specs of the new CL63 AMG at the Paris motorshow - with all that power, torque, weight etc, it still does 28mpg combined and sub 250g/km. Insane!!

4 October 2010

They've gone from a very pretty car to a very ugly car. WTF is going on with that side profile. It's hideous.


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