Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class : First Drive

  • May 05, 2015
[caption id="attachment_16192" align="alignnone" width="1280"]Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class[/caption]

Mercedes-Benz knows a thing or two when it comes to the executive luxury sedan segment. Its original offering in the category, the E-Class is a segment bestseller in India.
Taking things forward, we have here the face-lifted 2014 version of the CLS-Class executive luxury coupe.

And before anything else comes up, you just have to accept that this is an absolutely beautiful looking car. Herein lies the beauty of the CLS, quite literally. As good as executive luxury sedans maybe, with its coupe like roof line and other equally dynamic design cues, the CLS stands out of the crowd beautifully.

Lets take a closer look at how all those design elements blend together to make this car as good looking as it is.


[caption id="attachment_16202" align="alignnone" width="1280"]Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class front profile Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class front profile[/caption]


This second generation CLS is based in the W218 Mercedes platform. The CLS continues to retain its curvy profile which is identical to the first gen model. Although it now gets the bold front grille similar to that of the A-Class. The large three pointed star logo sits in the centre with prominent chrome plated bars running out on either side. The swept back head lamps are busy with the daytime running LEDs and matrix LEDs inside. The head lamps are fairly bright, although they could have better reach in high beam. The light beams also do a number every time the headlamps come on, cool touch that!

Coming back to the car, the bumper has a few angular design elements and houses a central air dam with a silver plastic insert below, while there are two faux dams on either side. The bonnet has a mild power dome extending from the grille to the A-Pillars.

[caption id="attachment_16210" align="alignnone" width="1280"]Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class side profile Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class side profile[/caption]


The side profile of the CLS simply bowls you over with that rising bonnet line, the steeply raked windscreen, chrome lined curved window line, turbine fin alloy wheel design, the deep recess in the doors starting from behind the front wheel arch, the flared rear section from the rear door to the tail lamps and will you just look at how seamlessly that C-Pillar blends onto the boot lid! This is arguably the coolest side profile of any sedan.

[caption id="attachment_16208" align="alignnone" width="1280"]Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class rear profile Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class rear profile[/caption]

The tail lamps flow beautifully onto the rear of the car from the side profile. Keeping with the curvy design of the car, the boot lid has a curved top, the license plate holder also has a curved recess. The chrome belt between the tail lamps lends a nice visual touch to the car’s rear profile. The rear bumper is a large unit with the rear fog lamp housed in the centre. As for the rear windscreen, it is heavily raked like the front piece owing to the car’s smooth flowing coupe roofline.

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[caption id="attachment_16206" align="alignnone" width="1238"]Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class interior Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class interior[/caption]


If the exterior is anything to go by, you would expect the inside of the CLS-Class to be classier as well. And Mercedes does not disappoint as the interiors of the CLS are top notch. Fit and finish is excellent, and so are quality of materials used.

The top section of the cabin is padded in black leather that is harder in texture since it does not come in contact with passengers. Below is faux wood trim extending around the cabin, housing the silver air vents on the dash and seat and door controls on the door pads. Like all new Mercs, the infotainment display screen is mounted in the centre. The system features new Mercedes-Benz Apps with COMAND online, satellite navigation (which can be made easier to use), CD, DVD, USB, Bluetooth compatibility. The 20.3cm high resolution also doubles up as the display for the Active Parking Assist 360 degree camera view which is absolutely amazing. The camera stays on while crawling forwards as well.

[caption id="attachment_16224" align="alignnone" width="1280"]Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class 360 degree camera Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class 360 degree camera[/caption]

In addition to the rear view display, cameras mounted all around the car send live feed to the screen to show the driver everything around the lower section of the car which is not visible to the driver. The view is fairly wide and is a boon when maneuvering the car around as you can see here!

Coming back to the cabin, the lower section of the cabin is finished in beige with soft touch leather in the door pads in section that come into contact with passenger elbows. The centre console houses buttons for the infotainment system including volume and track controls. Below are the climate control knobs for the car’s automatic air conditioning system. There are cup holders in the centre console as well as a power socket and cubby hole. Behind this are the driving mode and suspension controls for the car as well as a master knob for the infotainment system. The system is a Harman Kardon Logic 7 surround sound system that is linked to 14 speakers.

The leather wrapped steering wheel is nice and chunky to hold. There are buttons for volume and telephone controls as well as for the driver information display.


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The CLS also comes equipped with a sunroof, electrically folding ORVMs that dip down when reverse gear is engaged, all rear view mirrors feature auto dimming, electric rear curtain, ambient lighting. Other equipment includes cruise control, electrically adjustable front seats with bolster adjust, three memory settings for the front seats.

[caption id="attachment_16225" align="alignnone" width="1280"]Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class rear seat Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class rear seat[/caption]

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The seats themselves are large supportive units at the front. And although I do wish the bolsters could be adjusted for a more snug fit, they offer plenty of adjustment for a comfortable and can be adjusted for excellent back support. The rear seat is strictly a two seater as the centre console extends all the way to the rear armrest. The rear back rest offers good comfort. While the bench may not appear too long, it has been designed at a clever angle to offer good under thigh support. There is ample leg room here with your feet tucked away under the front seats. There are plenty of large storage spaces here along with cup holders in the arm rest. The climate control can be adjusted for the rear as well.

[caption id="attachment_16228" align="alignnone" width="1280"]Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class boot Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class boot[/caption]

On the practicality front, for those cross country tours or weekend getaways, the CLS has a 475 litre boot that has a wide and long cargo area while height is limited.


[caption id="attachment_16198" align="alignnone" width="1280"]Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class low angle dynamic Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class low angle dynamic[/caption]

Engine and Gearbox

The Mercedes-Benz CLS 250 CDI is powered by a 2.1 litre, four cylinder, common rail, direct injection, turbocharged diesel engine. The unit develops maximum power output of 206PS @ 3,800 rpm and 500Nm of peak torque between 1,600 rpm and 1,800 rpm.

Right from the start, I have to say that the unit has been refined well for the CLS. Apart from a little bit of oil burner clatter seeping into the cabin at initial revs, there are no complaints here. Vibrations are completely damped and once the vehicle gains initial inertia the engine note settles down and the motor is fairly quiet.

Open the throttle more and as the tacho needle sweeps past the 3,400 rpm mark, the engine sounds sportier with a louder gruff aggressive note.

The engine is mated to Merc’s 7G-Tronic Plus seven-speed automatic gearbox. The unit is linked to paddle shifters for manual gear changes as well.


[caption id="attachment_16201" align="alignnone" width="1280"]Mercedes-Benz CLS Class   dynamic side profile Mercedes-Benz CLS Class dynamic side profile[/caption]

The powertrain comes with two selectable driving modes, namely, Comfort and Sport. If I have compliant here, it is that the transmission needs to be more quiet will shifting from Park to Drive and Reverse, as there is some noise while the unit changes modes and is even a little jerky at times.

In 250 CDI spec, the Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class is a commendable urban cruiser. There is always enough power for those quick overtaking maneuvers and the unit responds well to sudden need for power. Although, the gearbox could do with faster downshifts in order to aid the engine for better sudden rapid acceleration. It is the same case in manual mode as well, where downshifts need to be quicker during sudden need for power.

In Sport mode, things are a little better where throttle response and gear changes are sharpened for a more inspiring drive.

However, the Mercedes CLS 250 CDI is not so much about enthusiastic driving, and is more about being a comfortable cruiser, something that this luxury sedan does rather well.


[caption id="attachment_16200" align="alignnone" width="1280"]Mercedes-Benz CLS Class   dynamic rear three quarter Mercedes-Benz CLS Class dynamic rear three quarter[/caption]

It will go from 0 - 100 km/h in 7.5 seconds. As the rev counter needle sweeps past the 4,000 rpm on the clock face it feels eager, but soon after at around 4,300 rpm you begin to sense the engine is getting strained. While the CLS 250 CDI feels comfortable at triple digit speeds, go faster and the engine loses steam as the 180 km/h mark comes up, and has to be given time for the speedo needle to go past 200 km/h.

On the efficiency front, the CLS 250 CDI returns you around 11 km/l when you are light on the throttle. With a gung-ho driver attitude, efficiency does not dip much and you will still get around 10.4 km/l.

[caption id="attachment_16193" align="alignnone" width="1280"]Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class cornering Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class cornering[/caption]

Ride and Handling

The Mercedes-Benz CLS features Merc’s Airmatic air suspension system. Being a large Mercedes luxury saloon, the CLS has a comfortable ride and the air suspension dismissed the abysmal road imperfections of Gurgaon in an excellent manner. The suspension simply does not allow bumps to thump through and discomfort its passengers. The suspension can also be raised by 30mm to tackle those incorrectly designed speed breakers. In fact, I would recommend that you use this mode for driving over poor road conditions as the unexpected large craters are a reality on Indian streets.

Go on to the silky smooth modern express ways and the CLS’ adaptive suspension lowers the car’s ride height by 20mm for better high speed stability, and for cutting down on aerodynamic drag over the CLS’ sleek design lines.

[caption id="attachment_16195" align="alignnone" width="1280"]Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class cornering side angle Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class cornering side angle[/caption]

You can firm up the suspension by engaging Sport mode to reduce body roll to an extent during high speed cornering, this also reduces vehicle pitching under hard braking and rapid acceleration.

Overall, The CLS has great body control for a large luxury sedan. The electronic power steering unit has been weighed well to give a more feelsome response, although electronic systems still have some way to go before they can offer feedback like hydraulic systems.

In tight traffic conditions, you can maneuver this luxury saloon in perfect ease, this along with the confident drive dynamics make it a breeze to drive the CLS around town. And with a minimum turning radius of 5.4 meters, it is very easy to turn this large sedan around in tight places.

[caption id="attachment_16194" align="alignnone" width="1280"]Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class cornering rear angle Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class cornering rear angle[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_16214" align="alignnone" width="1280"]Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class doors Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class doors[/caption]


The Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class comes with a raft of active and passive safety systems such as anti-lock brakes, traction control, adaptive brake system, hill hold, attention assist for detecting driver drowsiness, Pre-Safe system which tightens the seat belts, closes windows and sunroof when the car detects an imminent crash, Neck-Pro head rests to prevent whiplash injury, 8 airbags, along with impact beams and crumple zones.


[caption id="attachment_16205" align="alignnone" width="1280"]Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class front three quarter low angle Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class front three quarter low angle[/caption]


The CLS-Class was designed by Mercedes-Benz to offer a executive luxury sedan with more panache. And it has to be said that they have got it spot on. The car looks striking from every angle and the design oozes class! There is no mistaking its curvy and sleek profile for that of any other car.

It is extremely well equipped and offers a luxurious cabin to compliment that striking exterior. The seats are comfortable and all the controls are where they are supposed to be.

The CLS feels refined most of the time (apart from the engine note at initial speeds), it is comfortable to drive and with its nimble dynamics at low speeds, is easy to control too. The 360 degree active park assist view is fantastic and so are a number of other features mentioned above. The ride is very comfortable and the height adjustable suspension is a boon on our poor road conditions.

[caption id="attachment_16199" align="alignnone" width="1280"]Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class rear dynamic Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class rear dynamic[/caption]

In 250 CDI spec, the CLS is not designed to be a performance oriented luxury sedan, but it offers good rear world performance nonetheless. The CLS competes against the BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe in India. While the BMW is available with a more powerful engine, the Mercedes CLS is a steal at Rs. 76.50 lakh (ex-showroom), as the BMW retails at Rs. 1.15 crore (ex-showroom). This does not necessarily mean that the CLS is well priced, as executive luxury sedans have prices starting in the range of Rs. 42 lakh to Rs. 47 lakh (ex-showroom). But considering that the CLS is a well-equipped model with air suspension, etc, the price appears to be justified to an extent.

So, if you are looking for an executive luxury sedan with a twist, the Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class ticks all the right boxes and will always ensure that you stand out of the crowd.

Photography by Sona Ghosh and Siddharth

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