Classy ‘coupe’ ush­ers in six-cylin­der re­nais­sance

Wheels (Australia) - - Contents - TONY O’KANE

Come sail away with me

IN 2005 Benz dropped a bomb­shell with its first-gen CLS. ‘Four-door coupes’ are thick on the ground these days, but back then the term was truly alien. The se­cond-gen­er­a­tion model that suc­ceeded it in 2011 was sim­i­larly jaw-drop­ping thanks to more mus­cu­lar sur­fac­ing and swollen guards.

Now there’s a third it­er­a­tion of the CLS for­mula, but the ocu­lar im­pact this time around isn’t quite so mind-blow­ing. Not be­cause it’s ugly, mind you. The op­po­site in fact. It still looks great, just a lit­tle less ex­tro­vert.

The real leaps are found un­der the skin. There’s a com­pletely new six un­der the bon­net, with the cylin­ders ar­ranged in line rather than in a V for­mat and sport­ing a turbo hang­ing off one side. Un­der­pinned by a 48-volt elec­tri­cal ar­chi­tec­ture, in­ter­nal com­bus­tion power is aug­mented by an elec­tric mo­tor sand­wiched be­tween the en­gine and nine­speed auto, which can de­liver up to 250Nm of ex­tra torque when the ac­cel­er­a­tor is fire­walled. Given the 3.0-litre turbo al­ready de­vel­ops a healthy 270kw and 500Nm on its own, to­tal sys­tem torque is 750Nm, which is enough to zip the 1940kg CLS450 to 100km/h in a very re­spectable 4.8 sec­onds. But it’s not speed that im­presses the most in the CLS450. It’s the silky seam­less­ness of this pow­er­train, and the ef­fort­less thrust it’s ca­pa­ble of de­liv­er­ing.

Sport and Sport+ might liven up the pow­er­train, in­crease the ex­haust’s vol­ume and stiffen the 450’s stan­dard air sus­pen­sion, but de­spite the ‘coupe’ tag this is no sports car. In Eco mode, the CLS450 trans­forms into one of the smoothest, qui­etest grand­tour­ing de­vices around. It wraps near S-class re­fine­ment in a sleeker bodyshell, and while rear head­room is pre­dictably lim­ited, the re­laxed pos­ture pro­moted by the canted back­rest, and the rear com­part­ment’s gen­er­ous leg and el­bow room still prom­ise long-dis­tance com­fort. What’s more, that turbo six is vir­tu­ally silent at a cruise, tick­ing over a smidge above idle in ninth gear 110km/h and trans­mit­ting barely any vi­bra­tion into the cabin.

Not only does the nine-speed bring re­fine­ment, it’s also a boon for ef­fi­ciency. With an of­fi­cial fig­ure of 8.7L/100km, the CLS450 is more eco­nom­i­cal than you may ex­pect a two-tonne, all-wheel drive turbo six-cylin­der to be.

Sound too snoozy for your tastes? The CLS53 amps things up with a higher-out­put ver­sion of the M256 that fea­tures an elec­tric com­pres­sor, 320kw, 520Nm (770 with EQ boost) and trims zero to 100km/h to 4.5 sec­onds, but those sim­ply search­ing for a car that typ­i­fies those Benz qual­i­ties of el­e­gance and ef­fort­less­ness need look no fur­ther than the CLS450.

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