What is it like to drive?
You’ve a choice of two engines (not including the AMG, which we’ll cover later), both of which we’ve driven before in other recent Mercedes, and both of which are very good indeed.
The entry-level CLS gets Mercedes' familiar 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel, this time supplemented with a 48-volt mild hybrid system. Four-cylinder diesels aren’t known for their refinement – things have gotten so much better in the last few years, but still most have a van-like, canal boat-y quality to the way they chug along. But Mercedes’ 2.0-litre oil-burner is among the very best around. Maybe even THE best, and given the direction things are going, the best there will ever be. Quiet, refined, punchy (0-62mph in 6.4 seconds, 155mph max) and economical (up to 48.7mpg, and as little as 153g/km of CO2) – it really does the business.
But the CLS is an expensive, luxury car that deserves an expensive, luxury engine. And four-cylinder motors, however refined and regardless of whether they’re powered by petrol or diesel, always feel like the cost-efficient, practical option. Which is why the engine you should get in your CLS, if you can stretch to it, is the CLS400d’s lusty in-line six-cylinder diesel with 335bhp/516lb ft.
The only ‘normal’ CLS we’ve driven post-facelift is a German-spec C300d, meaning it was fitted with air suspension that in the UK you can only get on the CLS53. UK diesels will get something called “lowered comfort suspension”. Remains to be seen whether it can deliver the kind of ride quality you’d expect in a big, expensive Merc saloon.
IS IT SPORTIER THAN AN E-CLASS?
Not really, no. The CLS is billed as svelte luxurious GT, more at home on fast, flowing A-roads and motorways than it is tight and twisty B-roads. But that’s fine. The CLS doesn’t fall to pieces when you drive it quickly, but it’s obvious it was designed for an altogether different kind of driving. At least the nine-speed auto almost always behaves itself and the steering, accelerator and brakes are all well-suited to smooth driving.
HOW ABOUT THE FAST ONE?
Now, the AMG. Long gone are the days Mercedes numbered its cars for the engine under the bonnet. The CLS53 does not have a 5.3-litre engine. It doesn’t even have eight-cylinders, turbocharged or otherwise. If you want an eight-cylinder Mercedes coupaloon, you’ll need to look at the AMG GT 4dr.
No, 53s have six-cylinder engines of the inline variety, complete with 48v electrics giving 22bhp of boost and an electric compressor. It acts as a second turbocharger, filling in until the larger, conventional turbocharger has had a chance to spool higher up the rev range. With 429bhp and 384lb ft, you’ll see 0-62mph in 4.5 seconds and if you spec the AMG Driver’s Pack, 168mph.
Fast car. And quite likable. The CLS53 is a credible sports saloon that strikes a good balance between handling and comfort – an AMG 63-lite that doesn’t feel too fast for Britain’s roads.