Mercedes-Benz's redesigned coupe is a dream ride. Ed Stephens reports.
When Mercedes-Benz launched its new CLS coupe in 2003, it was a radical move for the normally conservative German car maker.
The dramatically severe arc-shaped roofline which flowed seamlessly in an unbroken curve to the rear bumper was an unprecedented design departure from the company’s more traditional saloons.
But the gamble worked, and more than 170,000 were sold to Mercedes fans looking for something that broke the mould.
Now nine years on the CLS gets a totally new look, with the arched roof remaining, but in a less severe form.
The result is car which has the eye-catching appeal to satisfy buyers looking for something different, but with a design still conventional enough to appeal to traditionalists.
For me, it’s a brilliant compromise as the first generation CLS looked superb on launch but was starting to look a little dated, as often happens when a company does something really radical.
Now it combines the elegance of a more conventional coupe with the practicality of a saloon.
My test car came with the new Mercedes-Benz four-cylinder 250 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY engine, available for the first time in the four-door Coupé.
Used previously in the E-Class, at first glance this 2.1-litre engine would seem too small for such a large car but is another example of the German car maker’s successful programme of engine downsizing for efficiency.
In the CLS, the four-cylinder engine will whisk you from standstill to 62 miles per hour in just 7.5 seconds on the way to its top speed of 150mph, while averaging an astonishing 54 miles per gallon.
That sort of fuel consumption would be good for a small family hatchback, let alone a large luxury coupe.
Aerodynamics is one factor which has helped make this model so efficient.
For although it’s is wider than its predecessor, drag has been reduced by up to 10 per cent by fine tuning the body.
Weight too has been a factor, with the new car’s frameless doors, bonnet, front wings, boot lid, parcel shelf, various support profiles and substantial parts of the suspension and engines all made of aluminium.
And the car, which comes with a column change seven-speed automatic gearbox as standard – as well as paddles behind the steering wheel for manual gear changes – now also comes with a fuel-saving stop-start system.
The interior of the CLS is as elegant as the exterior, with a nice mix of high quality leather – on both the seats and the dashboard – and high-gloss black ash panels set into both the dashboard and doors.
The wrap-around effect instrument panel features three dials immediately in front of the driver, with a colour display screen for radio, sat nav, etc, in the middle of the dashboard
The centre console between the two front seats extends into the rear passenger area and provides useful roller-top storage openings for those in the back seats.
It does, however, mean the car is a four-seater rather than five. All passengers will find they have more space in the new model, which is 29 millimetres longer, 13 millimetres higher and 8 millimetres wider than its predecessor.
On the road, this baby of the diesel range is remarkably quick for the size of engine, although noisier than I would have expected during acceleration. The same size unit in the Mercedes-Benz M-Class is barely audible.
Once up to motorway speed, however, the noise level drops and you cruise along in elegant comfort.
For such a big car the CLS has a nice sporting feel to it and handles well on fast corners and bends while at the same time cosseting passengers.
Mercedes rarely makes a mistake with its designs, so I think it’s safe to say there is little doubt that the new look will take the CLS from strength to strength.
Mercedes-Benz CLS 250 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY
Mechanical: 204 bhp, 2143cc, 4cyl diesel engine driving rear wheels via 7spd automatic gearbox.
Max speed: 150 mph
0-62mph: 7.5 secs
Combined mpg: 54.3
Insurance group: 43
CO2 emissions: 135 g/km
Warranty: Three years/unlimited mileage