Smooth, quiet and comfortable, the CLS is a wonderful car for covering long distances at high speed, but it’s no sports car on tighter roads
There’s no such thing as a slow CLS. Even the least powerful model, the 350d, can dash off the benchmark 0-62mph sprint in less than six seconds. By the time you look at the range-topping Mercedes-AMG CLS 53, you have a car that hits 62mph in just 4.5 seconds. That puts it on a par with a Porsche 911 sports car.
The beauty of the CLS is that it’s so effortlessly fast. Having twin turbochargers on an engine is nothing too unusual, but in this AMG unit, the smaller one is driven electrically, so that it can respond really quickly when the driver wants some serious acceleration. And, as the car also has four-wheel drive for extra traction, you don’t waste any of the engine’s power spinning the wheels. Instead, the CLS just concentrates on putting all that power down onto the road and getting you to the other end of it very quickly.
It’s a similar experience in the 400d – also a four-wheel drive car, as is the full CLS range – which pulls at its strongest from an amazingly low 1,200rpm. The result, again, is super-quick responses as soon as you put your foot down, although what impresses you is not so much how fast the car can go, but how easy it is to get the car going very fast.
In some cars, you need thousands of revs to get the best from an engine, but in the CLS, the swift responses of the engine and the nine-speed automatic transmission mean you never have to work it too hard. Whether you’re in the CLS 53 or 400d, it’s wonderfully easy to get past slower-moving traffic.
The CLS accelerates so effortlessly its a bit like being picked up by the crest of a tidal wave
As you would only expect, that flagship AMG model is the least economical version of the CLS; but, given how fast it can go, the official economy of 32.5mpg and CO2 emissions of 200g/km aren’t too bad. Mind you, if you make regular use of the full performance, you can expect economy in the 20s.
Both the 350d and 400d diesel-engined models have official economy of 50.4mpg, which is very impressive. And, while you’ll struggle to get that much in everyday use, upwards of 40mpg is perfectly possible.
You might expect the coupe-like styling of the CLS to be reflected in a sporty drive and suspension that lets you feel every bump in the road, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Instead, when you drive a CLS, your abiding memory will be of just how comfortable it is. Mile after mile can pass on the motorway without you noticing any lack of comfort – and that impression is helped by just how quiet it is inside the car.
Admittedly, you will feel a few more bumps in the CLS 53, which has a slightly firmer suspension, but even so, it’s much smoother than you would expect of such a quick car.
Whichever version of the CLS you drive, it feels tremendously sure-footed in even the worst conditions – something that is helped hugely by the car’s standard ‘intelligent’ four-wheel drive system that ensures that all its prodigious power is sent to the most suitable wheel.
Overall, although the CLS is certainly more agile than a regular saloon, it’s most at home on fast, sweeping, open roads; and, if you’re expecting a full-on sports car, you might be a little disappointed. Truth is, this is a big car and once the road gets too tight and twisty, it’s out of its comfort zone.
But, as long as what you want is something that’s a little more sporty than a standard saloon, but doesn’t sacrifice too much in the way of comfort or practicality, then this car hits the spot perfectly.
You shouldn’t have any worries about safety. Although the CLS hasn’t been tested by Euro NCAP, every Mercedes tested since 2014 has scored the full five-star rating – and we’d expect the CLS to follow suit.
There’s certainly no shortage of safety kit, with an Attention Alert system, Lane Keep Assist and the Pre-Safe system (which takes precautionary action, if the system thinks an accident is imminent) on top of the usual selection of airbags, ABS and stability protection systems.
If you want more than that, go for the optional Driving Assistance Plus pack, which costs £1,695 and adds a whole host of extra features. This includes several ‘active’ functions, which will automatically steer or slow the car, if the system thinks an accident is imminent. There’s even an Active Lane Change Assist, which will automatically steer the car into the adjacent lane on the motorway when the driver activates the indicators, as long as car detects the lane is clear.