The original CLS broke the mould in 2004 when it blurred the distinctions between a coupe and a saloon with a swoopy four-door look with fastback styling.
The second-generation model didn’t win hearts like the original did, so Mercedes is attempting to return back to the CLS’s roots with the latest version. The CLS is aimed at those wanting something different to the more popular E-Class saloon, with a target to stand out from the crowd.
It’s fitted with the German manufacturer’s latest range of engines, as well as Mercedes’s latest infotainment that’s being rolled out across the brand’s cars.
Outside, it features the firm’s latest design language, with many similarities between it and the new A-Class hatch. Most changes that lie are under the skin, though, with a range of more powerful and efficient engines available. Interestingly the only powertrains available at launch are six-cylinder engines, with Mercedes clearly trying to move the CLS even further upmarket by not offering smaller engines.
There is also the introduction of a Mercedes-AMG CLS 53, designed to bridge the gap between the ludicrously powerful ‘63’ models and the regular engines.
Our test car was the 350 d model, which will likely be the best-seller. It produces 282bhp and 600Nm of torque, allowing it to get from 0-60mph in 5.5 seconds and onto a limited top speed of 155mph. Even with this performance on tap, Mercedes still claims the CLS will return 48.7mpg and emit 156g/km of CO2.
The car also uses 4MATIC technology, where power is sent to all four wheels via the silky smooth nine-speed automatic transmission. If you want even more power, there is the 400 d that offers 330bhp and a huge 700Nm of torque – yet still returns similar economy figures to the 350d.Save money on a new Mercedes-Benz today
Ride and handling
We should get it out of the way that our first drive of the CLS took place on snowy roads in Barcelona, where Mercedes had opted to stick 18-inch wheels with winter tyres on the CLS instead of the larger 19-inch wheels that come as standard. It still gave us a good indication of the car’s abilities, though.
The CLS has solid steering - albeit lacking in feedback - and the engine is punchy, even from low speeds, and refined at higher ones.
As you would expect from a luxury cruiser, the suspension is supple and composed, while the cabin is well-insulated and quiet at motorway speed.
Interior and equipment
The CLS’s interior has taken many styling cues from the E-Class and S-Class – no bad thing. The steering wheel has been lifted straight from the S-Class, with cruise control buttons now mounted here - rather than on a fiddly stalk mounted steering wheel like before.
While the CLS now comes with enough space for five, it does make the CLS feel not quite as luxurious as before when it had two dedicated rear seats. It has aided practicality significantly, though.
It feels exceptionally well made, with wood trim finishers helping to lift the quality of the cabin, too. The central plastic cubby does lack quality, although this is something we’ve noticed on other Mercedes models.
The Mercedes CLS costs from £57,510 – nearly £10,000 more than the model it replaces. For this jump in price, you’d like to think that the kit list justified this increase. Thankfully, it does.
Just one trim level is available – AMG-Line – that comes as standard with a full leather interior, 19-inch alloy wheels, a reversing camera and a 12.3-inch touchscreen. The latter is something that we’ve praised in other Mercedes models, and now that it’s fitted as standard, it’s an added bonus.
Options are as expensive as ever, though, so just choose carefully about any additional extra you want. It’s worth remembering that the vast standard equipment list lessens the need for options, though.
The CLS is a very attractive car, particularly when you put it alongside more run-of-the-mill saloons. It looks different, feels special inside and comes with an impressive standard equipment list. A varied range of powerful and efficient engines only adds to its range of abilities.
While we are looking forward to carrying out a snow-free UK test of the CLS, it’s currently one of our picks of the Mercedes line-up.Find great Mercedes-Benz deals today
Model: Mercedes CLS 350 d
Engine: Six-cylinder diesel
Max speed: 155mph
0-60mph: 5.5 seconds