THE four-door coupe enters its third generation for Mercedes-Benz with two models that lay on the style and muscle, and also twig the psyche of the modern user.
The sleek and minimally embellished exterior of the CLS range is countervailed by an interior that lays it on heavy and thick, with finishes that bring together a variety of materials in an almost emotional outpouring of expression.
But the good thing is it all falls together quite nicely, at least in the two petrol test drive units — a CLS 350 and 450 4MATIC.
Mercedes-Benz cars at the higher end of the wide and varied product line-up are much more driver centric in terms of bringing a total experience together.
It’s no different here as this attractive — not necessarily for their price tags in Singapore — model plays on your emotions from initial viewing to the driving.
The sporty profile is defined by LED light clusters that help shape both ends.
At the back, the look is clean, and in front, it’s an angled set of daytime running lights with 84 individually controllable LEDs in the headlamps, set against a diamond radiator grille to give it a more noticeable presence.
One major challenge for anyone getting in is the need to be flexible. Large-framed occupants will have to fold like origami paper to get in, risking a bang to the head from the sloping A pillar or a knock to the knee from the steering wheel, if you don’t have comfort access. But since the doors are frameless, you can lower the window to aid in the ingress and egress.
Once in the comfortable seat, you’re faced with a palette of textures, shapes and colours to set the mood.
The interior presents numerous options for those who are conservative or adventurous in their tastes and colours. From two-tone leather seats — there are options for quilted seats — and dashboard lining in wood veneer, carbon fibre or piano black, to ambient lighting (64 colours) and a centre console with air-con vents that change colour when you raise or lower the temperature, and an overkill of gadgets with repeating functions.
The white interior is quite stunning, but probably not a good option if you have young kids with a Keith Haring or Banksy streak in them.
But dominating the space must be the huge 31.2cm high-resolution displays. Placed beside the dials, it forms a long stretch of digital glass. And here’s where you are drawn into a sense of style that is an extension of your non-vehicular existence.
By copying the functionality of your phone, albeit without the use of touchscreens, it lets you remain connected to your self-important life. Who would we be without our devices? So, by allowing Apple CarPlay to connect with your phone, you can still receive all your messages and remain in touch with your world.
The idea is to ape our existence as we become enslaved to our mobile devices. Hence much of how you go about organising the features in your CLS will be intuitive behaviour. Setting up the features of the car can be vexing if it gets into too many steps, so there are some shortcuts that work.
There is some overkill with the pad and dial on the centre console, with many of the functions repeated on the steering wheel.
Navigation is via knob turning and clicking, where it might be easier to use your phone to get to your location since it probably has the most recent maps. And if you don’t have to be nanny nagged on the PIE about highway traffic merging from the on-ramp 600 metres away.
The Burmester sound system picks up on the digital sound signals to deliver a warm tone via 590 watts pumped through 13 speakers. Conversations via your mobile phone are also clear — depending on your signal strength.
The 2-litre CLS 350 and the 3-litre CLS 450 4MATIC are priced $50K apart. You’ll have to figure out whether what you’re getting is worth it.
The 350 offers a good drive as it is. The engine sounds a bit laboured as you gun it, but it does get from 0-100kmh in a quick six seconds. The dash is a lot smoother and with sportier overtones on the 450, breasting the tape in 4.8 seconds.
Both have inline engines — 4 cylinders in the 350 and 6 in the 450 — and the additions to the 450 include all-wheel drive, lane tracking and lane keeping, three-zone climate control, a sports exhaust system and 20” wheels.
Depending on the driving mode you opt for, you can get an easy city drive in both, and when you punch it up to Sport, the handling is sharper and assured. The EQ Boost in the new engine delivers a fuel-efficient ride courtesy of the 48-volt electrical system on board.
From roads to multi-storey car parks, the CLS is adept at manoeuvring around obstacles and with the sensors and cameras, you should find it easier to navigate tight pathways.
From a large boot, accessible by kicking under the bumper, to an engaging engine, and all the bells and whistles in between, the CLS range offers a good balance of poise and power.
MERCEDES-BENZ CLS 350/ CLS 450 4MATIC
RATING (OUT OF 10):
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MERCEDES-BENZ CLS 350/ CLS 450 4MATIC TECH SPECS
Engine: In-line 4/6 cylinders
Capacity: 1991/2999 cc
Transmission: 9G TRONIC Automatic
Efficiency (L/100km): 7.7/8.1
Combined CO2 (g/km): 173/185
VES Band: C1
0-100kmh: 6.0/4.8 seconds
Top Speed: 250kmh
Retail price: *$339,888/389,888
Please reconfirm price with dealer.
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