We had a chance to drive the 4-door coupe recently as it reeled out power, speed and refinement in a sumptuous package.
The third-generation CLS was introduced to Malaysia in August last year as part of Mercedes-Benz Dream Cars Collection.
Well, the marketing hook may draw ready nods especially from fans. But the fact is dream cars are different things to different people. There’s no wrong answer even if your idea of one is mainstream material like the Peugeot 3008, Ford Focus or Isuzu D-Max.
Now back to the car at hand.
At standstill, the CLS is a study in design flair.
Mercedes-Benz went on a fusion binge and created the CLS bodystyle in 2003, which sought to merge the elegance and dynamism of a coupé with the comfort and functionality of a sedan. The third generation CLS you see here continues to build on this foundation.
The CLS design language is characterised by a swoopy waistline, flat side window lines and low greenhouse. The eye is also drawn to the minimal use of sharp edges and lines to define the sheetmetal.
Striking front-end features include the diamond grille typical of Mercedes-Benz coupés, with a single louvre. The silhouette of the radiator grille widens towards the base, resembling the contours of the grille on the Mercedes-AMG GT. The very flat and wide headlamps with inward-slanting flanks follow the contour of the grille.
The forward-slanting front end, seen from the side, reminds one of a shark’s nose, and appears longer by virtue of a fully inset bonnet.
Also typical of the CLS are frameless side windows and a muscular rear shoulder line which blends into the flat rear end. Like the headlamps, the LED tail lights with Edgelight backlighting have a crystalline appearance and create a three-dimensional effect. Their low positioning accentuates the car’s width.
Despite larger exterior dimensions and larger standard wheels, the new CLS is said to be one of the most aerodynamic in its segment with a Cd figure of 0.26.
The test car we had for nearly two weeks was an Edition 1, which is Mercedes’ standard way of introducing a limited run version for a year following its market launch.
The Edition 1 packs more eye candy outside and inside than the standard CLS 450.
In this case, the Edition 1 is based on the AMG Line exterior. Edition-specific eye-catchers include the diamond grille with pins and matt chrome inserts, the MULTIBEAM LED headlamps (the CLS was the first model to use it) and 20-inch AMG multi-spoke light-alloy wheels in high-gloss black with a burnished rim flange. The special variant is also recognisable by the “Edition 1” lettering on the front wings.
The cabin emphasis is on full-on luxury. As befits its place in the Mercedes hierarchy, it is thoroughly modern and beautifully appointed.
The centrepiece is, of course, the dual digital widescreen that steps up the sophistication and versatility in the way information is displayed to the driver. If it looks familiar, it is as it’s the same as the latest E-Class on which the CLS is based.
The cockpit allows for a choice of three display modes: Classic, Sport and Progressive. We particularly like the Progressive style which seemed more purposeful and aligned with the “persona” of the car.
Like the exterior, the interior is also decked out in the AMG line that includes dashboard support lined in black nappa leather; centre console and dashboard support trim in black open-pored ash wood, IWC analogue clock, 64-colour ambient lighting including illuminated turbine-style air vents.
Edition 1 enhancements show up in the form of seats in black pearl nappa leather with centre sections in a diamond design and copper-coloured accents, copper-coloured topstitching on the centre console, seats, armrests, dashboard and door panels. To remind you further, the centre console, welcome screen and floor mats have “Edition 1” markers.
Other niceties on the list are powered sunroof, Command Online with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Thermotronic climate control, 360-degree camera with Parking Pilot, and air-balance package.
A coupe is never about equality of space and comfort for all. It’s about pampering the two privileged fellas in front; the rest will have to make do with what’s left.
Although the rear can now seat three people unlike before, headroom is limiting because of the roof curvature but legroom is fine since this is a big car. You will have to lean forward to see out the window better though.
Getting in is the easy part.
Getting out, however, requires more effort than those in front as you sit low and deep in the back.
Storage spaces are decent enough. There are two cupholders up front and two more in the rear fold-down centre armrest. The centre console with split covers is deep and there’s a small drawer in front to keep small items if you are too lazy to reach out to the glove box. All doors come with sufficient space to keep small bottles.
At 520l, the CLS boot volume is sizeable; we didn’t have any trouble loading up the month’s groceries for a family of four. Rear seats fold 40:20:40 if more space is needed.
The car’s hands-free tailgate opening is both convenient and practical when you have your hands full and need to gain access to the boot. It opened almost everytime, which can hardly be said of some cars with this feature that were iffy at best.
And we did mention the CLS is a five-seater this round, didn’t we?
Aside from a light yet rigid body set up to offer a high level of crash safety, the CLS offers a full suite of active safety features that includes nine airbags, ABS, as well as traction and stability control.
Top that with Active Brake Assist, Lane Keeping Assist, Attention Assist, Speed Limit Assist, Pre-safe Sound, Collision warning and the list looks mighty reassuring.
Two child seats can also be mounted in second row with the included Isofix points.
Ride & handling
In the latest CLS, Mercedes has revised the mechanicals substantially. The CLS is now a mild hybrid, packing an EQ Boost starter-alternator unit, which powers the car’s new 48V electrical systems and also provides 22hp and 250Nm of torque for short bursts during take-off and acceleration.
Mercedes has also gone with an all-new in-line 6-cyclinder mill instead of the usual V6 to motivate the CLS. The reason: it’s a simpler engine and runs much more smoothly in keeping with a luxury car.
The 3.0-litre turbocharged engine produces 367hp and 500Nm of torque. It enables the car to sprint from 0-100kph in 4.8 seconds, with top speed capped at 250kph.
No raucous ambience here. It’s all about power and speed delivered in a smooth and collected manner without any noticeable turbo lag. Set up the CLS in Sport+ and press on to add some muted exhaust rumbles to the soundtrack. If you want kick-ass thrills, prepare to pay more for an AMG stablemate.
Handling is acceptable with the steering offering some feel as you toggle up to the sporty modes.
On winding trunk roads to Kuala Selangor, with gears in Sport mode, the lowered comfort suspension and tiller firm up, and the car feels resolved and balanced as it propels through hairy bends. This is also in part due to an all-wheel drive that contributes to exceptional grip.
We noted that the CLS was better for highway cruising if the engine/suspension/steering settings were set to Eco/Sport/Sport via the Individual drive mode compared to the Comfort setting. However, such grumbles are offset by a well-insulated interior.
While the 20-inch wheels on run-flat tyres look aesthetically pleasing, it was quite jarring on rough surfaces; downsizing to 19 or 18-inch wheels would likely ease this effect.
The CLS can also drive itself semi autonomously via Steering Assist, which keeps the car in its intended lane even around gentle curves when in active cruise control mode.
But its effectiveness is still dependent on how clear the road marker lines are and weather conditions, just like Volvo’s Pilot Assist tech.
Anyone rich enough to afford the CLS shouldn’t be fussing over fuel consumption. But Mercedes provides one anyway in case someone bothers asking. Combined fuel consumption is rated at 7.8 l/100km. The integrated electric motor known as EQ Boost go some ways to boost fuel savings.
The fully imported CLS 450 comes with a 4-year warranty with unlimited mileage, whichever comes first.
The CLS is a style statement that has been updated to keep up with the times. It also marks an embrace of a very capable engine layout that endows this coupe with pace and grace.
The RM700K Edition 1 CLS is available only in limited numbers so start opening your wallet if you want a car that might one day become a collector’s item.
Mercedes-Benz CLS 450 4Matic Edition 1
Engine: 2,999cc, turbocharged, direct injection, in-line 6-cylinder
Maximum power: 367hp at 5,500rpm to 6,100rpm
Maximum torque: 500Nm from 1,600rpm to 4,000rpm
Integrated Starter Generator: 22hp/250Nm
Transmission: 9-speed 9G-Tronic automatic
Features: Multibeam LED, AMG Dynamic Select. COMAND Online, Burmester Audio system, Wireless charging, 360-degree camera, Android Auto, Apple Carplay, paddle shifters, Lowered comfort suspension, AMG Line Exterior, Night Edition, 9 airbags, Active Brake Assist, Lane Keeping Assist, Attention Assist, Speed Limit Assist, electric parking brake, ABS, ESP
Acceleration (0-100kph): 4.8s
Top speed: 250kph
Fuel consumption (combined): 7.8l/100km
Price: (OTR without insurance): RM698,888