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.
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.