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The Top Gear car review: Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class
For:Crushingly capable all-rounder, that looks good, too
Against:So-so interior doesn't feel special enough
CLS 350 CDI AMG Sport 4dr Tip Auto
A great four-door GT made better. Don’t buy that Panamera until you’ve driven this
AMG is exceptionally good at the power thing. Indelicate, indiscriminate, and absolutely terrifying, it’s the automotive equivalent of operation...
What we say:
The car that started the four-door coupe trend has entered its second generation
What is it?
The second act in a niche-generating performance from Mercedes-Benz. It’s arguably not as dramatic as a result, but the Mercedes CLS is no less desirable – despite the fact it introduced the ridiculous ‘four-door coupe’ term into road-testing parlance. Swoopy and lithe, it’s a handsome four-door, and despite the curves it’s not overly compromised inside. Makes you wonder why you’d have an E-Class, until you realise the CLS is a sizeable chunk of money more than its conventional saloon sibling.
Seduction comes from AMG’s flagship model, which although badged 63 is actually AMG’s latest 5.5-litre V8 with a pair of turbos stoking the gloriously noisy fire. It’s a Panamera Turbo rival with poise and power to take the fight to its ugly Stuttgart competitor. It’s not entirely necessary though, as the rest of the range features the same fine driving dynamics – albeit without the ludicrous pace. Still, 6.2 seconds to 62mph in the CLS 350 CDI is damn good going for a 46mpg V6 diesel, and even the four-cylinder CLS 250 CDI turbodiesel manages the benchmark sprint in 7.5 seconds. It’s the one everyone will buy, and with good reason as it combines decent performance with fuel-station avoiding economy – there’s a free badge-delete option if you’re particularly proud.
All ride with a supple composure, as Merc’s chassis engineers seem to have recently found their ride and handling mojo. It all adds up to a crushingly competent all-rounder with a broad range of abilities.
On the inside
It might be more spacious and comfortable than before, but it’s not as special. Gone are individualistic touches like the single-piece wooden dash inlay that marked it out as different and in comes the interior from the E-Class. It’s all finely fitted, but given the drama outside it’s a bit of a disappointment – especially given its premium. The driving position is low and lounging, and there are only two rear seats.
Luggage space is impressive though, and the interior is fully loaded with kit, including Merc’s driver-drowsiness monitoring Attention Assist.
You want the AMG, but you’ll buy the diesel, if not the 250, the 350 CDI, which is all the car you’ll need. Ownership should be hassle-free, and you’re unlikely to tire of driving it or looking at it. Shame then that the interior isn’t a bit more distinct from its relatives. Costs should be reasonable and residual values are likely to be strong, though if you do buy the AMG then you’ll get through tyres quickly as well as fuel. In contrast, the economical 250 CDI is pretty tax friendly, so get your fleet manager to pay for it.