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.
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