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The CLS is arguably the car that kicked off the modern trend for executive saloon-coupes when it was launched in 2004, and it's still capable of turning heads today. The current third-generation model is being given a minor update, highlights of which include the exterior getting new radiator grille and bumper designs, and the interior getting a redesigned steering wheel with extra gloss black and silver chrome detailing, and upgraded touch sensitivity.
If this doesn't sound like much, then to be fair to Mercedes we should mention a previous update to the CLS was carried out only last year, which included the addition of the brand's MBUX infotainment system. However, this didn't include the attention-grabbing 'floating' central screen seen with the new C-Class we reviewed elsewhere in this issue, instead retaining the old twin 12.3in screen set-up - though this at least means the central touchscreen is closer to the driver's eyeline, and a centre console touchpad controller is also retained. The latest update also sees new interior trim combinations being made available, and the standard of materials used is excellent throughout.
Full UK specs for the updated CLS won't be revealed until October 2021, but Mercedes has announced that just one equipment grade will be offered here - the highly specced AMG Line Night Edition Premium Plus, with a high level of standard equipment set to include multibeam LED headlights, 20in alloy wheels, a sliding sunroof, and a head-up display.
The light nature of the facelift means fundamentals like interior space are unchanged, with the raked coupe roof line meaning rear seat passengers over 6ft may struggle a little for headroom.
Another recent update to the CLS range in mechanical terms is the addition of a new mild hybrid diesel engine option. It's the same unit we saw recently in the new C-Class, delivering impressive power along with the ability to switch itself off to save fuel when cruising.
As for the rest of the driving experience, the CLS is simply a very good all-round sports saloon. Motorway refinement is superb - find a well-surfaced stretch and you may as well be doing 70mph in a library, while the air suspension fitted to our test car delivers superb comfort and composure over bumps. But then the chassis feels lively enough to excite when you come to string a series of bends or even roundabouts together, with that suspension firming up so the car feels taut and focused, belying its large size, and the four-wheel drive system maintaining traction without spoiling the dynamics - in fact it feels more like a rear-wheel drive car from behind the wheel. And even the diesel engine manages to be surprisingly tuneful when revs rise - in fact, it's one of the best-sounding diesel engines we've heard.
If that last point seems like an un-Business Car-like observation, rest assured that with its mild hybrid system, the engine should also offer slightly improved fuel economy and CO2 emissions compared with conventional diesel motors. We'll have to wait until the final specs are published later this year, however, to see how it stacks up against rivals like the Audi A7, which also features diesel mild hybrid power. From a fleet perspective, it's also disappointing to note there is no plug-in hybrid option in the CLS range.
Mercedes-Benz CLS 300 d 4Matic
On sale: October 2021
Residual value: TBC
Service, maintenance and repair: TBC
Cost per mile: TBC
Fuel consumption: TBC
CO2 (BIK %): TBC
BIK 20/40% a month: TBC
Luggage capacity: 520 litres
Engine size/power: 1,993cc/265hp
Good to drive
Possible infotainment envy compared with new C-Class