Since it was launched in the early 2000s, the Mercedes-Benz CLS has been a beautiful car – the perfect blend of swoopy lines, imposing size, and glamorous glitz. All without ever overdoing any of those attributes – every version is also manages to be restrained and dignified.
The more recent models have evolved into tougher, more aggressive-looking cars. Yet again though, that toughness is not over-the-top and is expertly balanced with clean and simple surfaces.
The CLS’s biggest worry is that, now, it isn’t alone in filling the coupé-cross-saloon niche. It’s not even the only Mercedes designed for that corner of the market as the smaller CLA looks just like a scaled-down CLS.
Since it was launched in the early 2000s, the Mercedes-Benz CLS has been a beautiful car.
What’s it like to drive?
The Mercedes-Benz CLS is as distinguished to drive as its exclusive looks suggest. It cruises around in a stately manner, all calm and quiet. It does its very best not to be a challenge to the driver and, for the most part, it succeeds – it’s just so easy to devour miles on long journeys.
The thing is, it is a large car – it’s a metre and a half longer than a modern Fiat 500. This sheer size does sometimes make it awkward in town and it’s not perfectly suited to small country lanes.
Yet, even when it isn't quite in its ideal environment, you can still appreciate the engineering that’s gone into making the CLS so sumptuous to drive.
The Mercedes-Benz CLS is as distinguished to drive as its exclusive looks suggest.
The inside of the Mercedes CLS is dominated by a single wide, flat screen that spans from behind the steering wheel, where the dials would ordinarily be, to beyond the centre of the dash. It’s imposing, especially at night when it's all lit up. By putting all the car’s entertainment and navigation information at the same high-up level, you don't need to search too hard for what you’re looking for. That means you never have to take your eyes off the road for too long.
Although it looks like just one screen, there’s actually a split in the middle making it two displays. Each side is then controlled by buttons on the corresponding spokes on the steering wheel. It needs a couple of screens just to support all the gadgets the CLS has onboard. There’s the usual sat-nav and radio that you might expect, then there’s parking cameras, ambient lighting and even perfumed air that you need to control.
Away from the flashy screens, the CLS’s interior is made up of real materials. There are open-grain woods, soft leathers and many of the buttons are made from brushed metal stamped with easy-to-decipher illuminated icons. Not only is this honesty comforting alone, it feels deeply luxurious.
By giving the CLS a low roofline and cinched-in tail, Mercedes has compromised on interior space. Compared to a similar-sized Mercedes E Class, the CLS’s boot is smaller with a narrower opening. And, although the CLS does seat 5 people, there’s just not as much headroom as there is in a regular saloon.
It’s only slightly smaller, though. It’s still big enough for a family holiday, and all of the things your children have convinced you they can’t leave behind. And unless you want to squeeze some exceptionally tall adults or teenagers into the rear seats, no one is going to complain about being chauffeured around in the back of the luxurious CLS.
Running costs and reliability
Maybe the CLS’s flowing lines make it really aerodynamic because this Mercedes is surprisingly economical for a big car. Most models will return around 50mpg, whether they’re diesel or petrol-powered. The performance version, the Mercedes-AMG CLS 53, isn’t as frugal - it will achieve just over 30mpg. That’s a remarkably fast car, so what do you expect?
Mechanically, the CLS is closely related to the Mercedes-Benz E Class. That means, although the CLS is a niche car, it shared its development with one of Mercedes best-selling most robust models, so you can expect the CLS to be just as reliable as the big
What cinch loves
Very few cars are as cultured and chic as the CLS, and almost none blend saloon car practicality with this much panache. The Mercedes-Benz CLS is a truly exquisite machine that exudes quality – from its well-appointed and supremely-finished interior to the serene way that it drives. It was the first of its type and it’s still the best executive saloon with coupé-style looks.