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Mercedes-Benz CLS test drive

Third generation of E-Class's sleeker sister is a comfortable cruiser

What is it?

This is the CLS – Mercedes’ sleek, coupe-like four-door designed to entice buyers in to whom a regular saloon car is too boring, and a coupe is simply too impractical.

Here, we’re testing it in powerful 400d layout – with a torquey 3.0-litre turbocharged diesel engine sending power to all four wheels for better all-weather capability.

What’s new?

There’s quite a lot of new tech going on underneath this elegant four-door. For instance, we’ve got Mercedes’ latest infotainment suite as seen on the E-Class and S-Class models, while there are also features such as air suspension and dynamic steering assist.

It may not feel completely new if you’re used to other models in the current Mercedes-Benz line-up, but for those a little more unfamiliar with the Mercedes range then it’ll come across as pretty new and technology-heavy.

How does it look?

Mercedes-Benz CLS test drive 2018 - rear

Does this, latest-generation CLS look as good as that pioneering first incarnation model which so inspired the entire four-door coupe segment? Not quite, but that’s not to say that it isn’t a smart-looking beast.

The front end utilises much of Mercedes’ latest design language, and shares more than some of its styling touches with the new A-Class hatch. The ‘ruby black’ metallic paint of our test car gave the CLS a particularly high-end appearance, with contrast silver alloy wheels helping to give it enough presence on the road.

It’s the rear end we’re less enamoured with. For some reason, it doesn’t look quite right – but then that is through our eyes, of course.

What’s the spec like?

There’s plenty of standard equipment to be found on the CLS, but then you’d hope so given the car’s £60,410 starting price. You get heated front seats as part of the overall price, along with that 12.3-inch infotainment system which houses satellite navigation and media functions.

You also get cruise control, active lane keeping assist and automatic climate control – so there’s a wealth of goodies to discover before having to tick any boxes.

That said, our test car did come with some of those options selected; the premium package, which adds a premium Burnmeister surround system was present for £3,895, while the comfort package which features air suspension was also an option added – though this is one we’d recommend given the excellent ride it provides.

What’s it like inside?

Mercedes-Benz CLS dashboard 2018

The CLS benefits from the latest Mercedes cabin architecture and, as a result, it’s an excellent place to be. The 12-inch infotainment system which wraps around both driver and passenger is wonderfully high-res and helps to lift the overall feel of the interior.

The seats are brilliant supportive, and though the S-Class inspired multifunction steering wheel may look a little chintzy in our eyes, it’s another high-end touch which helps to elevate the look of the CLS’ cabin.

There’s plenty of space for those in the back too, with a decent amount of head- and legroom despite the car’s sloping roofline. The 520-litre boot is also usefully large and is more than big enough for a few weekend bags or several suitcases.

What’s under the bonnet?

As mentioned, this CLS uses a turbocharged 3.0-litre diesel for propulsion, and its stats are quite impressive; 340hp and 700Nm allow the CLS to hit 60mph in just 4.8 seconds, before hitting a top speed of 155mph.

It’s that torque figure that makes the difference here, as it gives the CLS a sense of never-ending shove ideal for swift overtakes or effortless motorway cruising.

Mercedes claims that the CLS will still return 47.9mpg on the combined cycle, however, which means you shouldn’t have to spend all that much time at the pump. Again, as we said earlier, power is sent to all four wheels for better traction in poor conditions, while it’s all driven through a nine-speed automatic gearbox.

What’s it like to drive?

Mercedes-Benz CLS 400d 2018 test drive review | The Car Expert

The CLS ticks many of the boxes that you’d find yourself needing to be ticked when looking for a comfortable, long-distance cruiser.

For one, it settles down when travelling at motorway speeds, with only the faintest amount of wind noise from the wing mirrors intruding into the cabin’s otherwise serene calmness.

Secondly, it rides well – road imperfections are soaked up well and only the very largest of potholes make their presence known, despite our test car’s large 20-inch alloy wheels. This will likely be down to the inclusion of air suspension on our CLS – a costly addition at £2,495, but one well worth specifying if you’re after the best ride quality possible.

The CLS makes for an excellent long journey companion, which is exactly what you want from a car of this type.


The CLS gets the job of being a comfortable, spacious and refined long-distance cruiser done incredibly well. Yes, we may have some qualms regarding the rear-end styling, but for most the car’s sleek looks will appeal strongly.

This new diesel engine is also impressively flexible and endows the CLS a little more performance than you’d expect. If you’re after a car to whisk you up and down the motorway in elegant quiet, then the CLS is well worth considering.

Jack Evans
Jack Evans
Articles by Jack Evans are provided for The Car Expert by PA Media (formerly the Press Association). They include test drives of the latest new cars and features on various aspects of automotive life.
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