SPECS AND VERDICT Model Engine
and now comes the facelifted version for us to pore over.
There’s now a more honed front section, an upgraded cabin, and more technical innovations such as multibeam LED headlights and a ninespeed automatic. All it takes is a quick glance to ascertain that it’s oozing with charisma. The basic design is still intact; there’s the long bonnet, slim window line and a rearward sloping roof.
But it’s the little tweaks such as the new diamond radiator grille, a pronounced front bumper with large air intakes and the new darkened rear taillights with multi-level functionality that help to freshen it up. Granted, these are not major changes – nor did we expect any – but the CLS is still a visual knockout. he profile is unchanged and the front fascia now falls in line with Merc’s latest design language. It’s the headlights, however, that have been worked on considerably. Spec those multibeams and you’ll marvel at the technology. It can adjust the light distribution automatically to any road and traffic condition without dazzling other drivers by using a camerabased Adaptive Highbeam Assist Plus system, a bit like the Matrix LED system introduced by Audi. In addition to the camera on the windscreen, the new lighting system uses four control units per vehicle that calculate the ideal light pattern 100 times per second and control all 24 high-performance LEDs in each precision LED module. Very clever, just like the pleasant blue light it emits when you unlock the car. It’s a nice touch, as are the fetching 19in AMG multispoke light-alloys on our test car.
If the exterior fails to impress, there are a number of new features in the exclusive Passion leather silk beige/ espresso brown cabin to do so. The intuitive 8in colour display is the nerve centre of the CLS and controls the lot; from the massaging seats to the adjustable air suspension, while the central control panel gains two extra buttons (making a total of four) to speed up operations. The interior is sporty yet elegant; the new three-spoke steering wheel and revised centre console help freshen things up yet retain the sophisticated nature of the car.
The cabin has been handcrafted to perfection and it’s full of premium materials and trims (five interior colours and six types of trim are available). My only gripe with the cabin stems from, funnily enough, the thing I like best about the CLS – the roof. The design still equates to less headroom for those seated at the back – not that you’d want to sit there when you could be in control of 408 horses.
The CLS 500’s 4.7-litre twin-turbo V8 is epic. Mated to a nine-speed automatic (9G-Tronic), it’s the world’s first with hydrodynamic torque converter in the premium segment and has a claimed fuel economy of 8.5 litres per 100km. All of the power is directed to the rear and the delivery feels effortless. It’s exceptionally smooth on the move, too, and behaves both like a luxury saloon and like a sportscar when you floor the throttle. The 600Nm of torque keep you pinned to the supple leather seats. Once the initial thrust subsides and you encounter a corner, the active side bolsters stop you from flying out the window.
The only negative aspect that I could d find about the car was with one of its standard-fit features – the Collision Prevention Assist Plus. While in traffic, and inching slowly forward to the car ahead of me, the system slammed on the anchors. It thought it averted an impending collision and must have been pretty pleased with itself. Not me; my coffee was on my lap rather than in my cup. The autonomous braking acted hastily even though I was in control of the car, raising the old ‘too much technology in cars’ debate.
Some will say the facelift is too mild but the truth is Mercedes got the CLS right the first time around and it hasn’t felt the need to alter too much. The Panamera in particular has made life too easy and is playing catch-up. Until then, the CLS will remain very much at the top of this swoopy four-door coupé segment.
The headlights adjust the light distribution for any traffic condition, without dazzling other drivers