Our favourite version of the CLS comes with a punchy 2.1-litre, four-cylinder diesel engine, but we completely understand if you want to spend the extra on the creamier V6 diesel – it offers ballistic pace. The V6 petrol feels a little breathless, but the turbocharged 4.7 and 5.5 V8 petrols are seriously quick.
CLS buyers can choose from three suspension set-ups: air suspension; steel springs with adaptive dampers; and a Sport option that brings firmer steel springs and dampers. Even the standard steel springs leave you with a pretty firm low-speed ride. Buyers after comfort need the air set-up, which delivers a slushy, luxury car waft. Whichever you choose, the steering is light and effortless for parking, yet precise and reassuring at higher speeds.
The CLS is good at shutting out road noise and the engines stay silky smooth, no matter how hard you work them. However, you can hear quite a bit of wind whistle from around the door mirrors and the base of the windscreen at motorway cruising speeds.
Deep pockets are a must, because the CLS costs thousands more than an equivalent E-Class. What’s more, resale values are unlikely to be as strong. At least the engines are pretty frugal – the four-clinder diesel gives the best fuel economy and lowest emissions of the bunch.
Many of the fittings - such as the steering column-mounted gear selector, the stainless steel air vents and the clock in the dash - are from Mercedes’ flagship S-Class limousine. However, the door-mounted electric seat adjusters let things down because they look and feel as if they could have been lifted from a humble A-Class. Mercedes performed well in the 2011 JD Power survey, finishing 6th out of 28 manufacturers.
Every CLS has nine airbags, stability control and a system that monitors your driving behaviour for signs of fatigue. What’s more, Active Lane-Keeping Assist and a blind spot warning system are available as options. Deadlocks, an alarm and locking wheel nuts help guard against theft.
You sit lower than you do in a conventional executive saloon, so the CLS feels quite sporty, plus every version comes with some form of electric seat adjustment to help you get comfortable. Many of the car’s other functions are controlled by scrolling through onscreen menus, but these can be rather distracting on the move. The single stalk for the indicators and wipers also takes a bit of getting used to.
It might have slinky styling and a plunging roofline, but the CLS is still roomy enough for four six-footers. Just don’t expect to squeeze in a fifth – the centre console runs the full length of the cabin, cutting the rear bench in two. There are some handy storage cubbies in the console, plus the boot is large and well shaped.
The days when premium brands like Mercedes didn’t even fit a stereo unless you raided the options list are long gone. Every CLS comes with a DAB digital radio, dual-zone climate control, satellite-navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control and electrically adjustable leather seats.
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A very tempting version of the car - and proof that luxury and refinement don't have to start with six cylinders.