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Mercedes CLS: Test Drive Review

Date: 19 October 2010   |   Author: Tristan Young

Category: Sports
P11D price: £50,000*
Key rival: Audi A7

Mercedes' outgoing CLS had a market all to itself. When it was launched in 2005 there were no other four-door coupes available and the brand discovered a niche of drivers looking for something different, where previously only full saloons or compromised two-door coupes had been offered.

Indeed, the main reason for choosing a CLS was the car's looks, according to Mercedes.

Now the second generation is facing competition in the form of the forthcoming Audi A7, another four-door coupe, while some saloons have become sleeker at the expense of rear passenger room, such as the Jaguar XF.

While Merc doesn't expect the car to sell in quite the same numbers as the previous generation - well over 4000 a year at its best - work on making the new car as efficient as possible could see the fleet mix at a higher level than the old model's 30% share.

Another factor likely to boost the fleet mix is that there will also be two diesel engines available. This is thanks to the addition of a 204hp 2.1-litre four-cylinder unit seen in the CL S250 CDI joining the 265hp 3.0-litre unit carrying the CLS 350 CDI tag. Both come in below the 161g/km cut-off linked to capital allowance levels and will take the vast majority of both fleet and retail sales.

The smaller of the two petrol units, a 305hp 3.5-litre engine, narrowly misses out on the lower capital allowance band at 161g/km, while the range-topping CLS 500 powered by a twin-turbo 4.7-litre V8 will be bought by few, despite being impressively efficient for a car with 402hp. CO2 for this model is expected to be 210g/km.

The car has excellent on-road presence, particularly when seen front-on with the LED headlights illuminated. However, from the rear the car looks less imposing and may not be to everyone's taste.

The inside, while unique in architecture to any other Mercedes, is familiar in layout with high build quality. But there are a few quirks, primarily the closeness of the rear view mirror to the driver's head. Also, some of the aluminium-look switches in the central dashboard are difficult to read in daylight (at night they're well lit and more obvious).

There's more room inside the new CLS with a bigger boot, optional folding rear seats and better rear-passenger head and leg room, and anyone up to six-feet tall will have plenty of room.

To drive, the car is a big improvement over its predecessor. Ride comfort using either the standard or optional air suspension is first rate and body roll is near non-existent. Steering feedback is good, too, and communicates well what the front wheels are doing.

As BusinessCar has yet to drive the 250CDI, which will join the range a month after it's initial March on-sale date, the pick of the range is currently the CLS 350CDI for its combination of power and economy.

It may not be as naturally elegant as its new rivals, but the CLS still has its niche in the market as a striking four-door coupe, and is a winner on tax and economy, too - a combination that may be enough to keep it on top in fleet.

Mercedes CLS 350CDI 4dr auto
P11D price£50,000*
Model price range£47,000-£65,000*
Fuel consumption47.1mpg
CO2 (tax)159g/km (23%)
BIK 20/40%
per month
Service intervalvariable
Boot space520 litres
Engine size/power2987cc/265hp
Top speed/0-62mph155mph/6.2secs
On sale March 2011
VerdictLooks will divide opinion, but
underneath is a superb driving a
nd efficient four-door coupe
* estimate


Looks will divide opinion, but underneath is a superb driving a nd efficient four-door coupe