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Car reviews - Mercedes-Benz - CLS-class - 4-dr coupe range

Launch Story

23 Jun 2011

MERCEDES-BENZ Australia’s freshly minted CLS-class might be expanded to as many as eight variants across two body styles by next year if the company can get its hands on the CLS wagon, quaintly dubbed the Shooting Brake, to slot alongside the second-generation four-door ‘coupe’ line-up launched in Melbourne this week.

Although the Australian subsidiary of the German giant is yet to confirm the introduction of the stylishly sleek Shooting Brake for this market, it makes no bones about its interest in doing just that, as soon as possible.

Mercedes Australia senior manager corporate communications David McCarthy told GoAuto: “If such a vehicle became available, we would certainly put our hand up.”

Based on the CLS sedan which itself is built on a modified E-class platform, the CLS Shooting Brake has been confirmed for production on the same Sindelfingen production line in Germany as the CLS four-door that has just been launched in Australia in two forms – the $159,200 V6 diesel-powered CLS350 CDI BlueEfficiency and the range-topping V8 $263,500 CLS63 AMG.

Later this year, the ‘coupe’ range will be expanded with the addition of the $159,200 V6 petrol-powered CLS350 BlueEfficiency and $210,800 V8 CLS500 BlueEfficiency.

But if the Shooting Brake gets the tick of approval for Australia next year, all four CLS ‘coupe’ models might be repeated in wagon guise.

The wagon – with its long, rounded roof and sloping tailgate that embraces the ‘coupe’ DNA – was revealed in concept form at the 2010 Beijing motor show and confirmed for production in November as yet another ‘game changer’ with a CLS badge.

For now, CLS buyers will be restricted to the latest version of the sedan that was credited with helping to pioneer the ‘four-door coupe’ luxury car niche when the original was launched in 2004.

For the first time, the second-generation CLS comes with a diesel engine – the highly acclaimed 3.0-litre V6 that made its debut in the E-class.

While reluctant to talk specific sales targets, Mercedes-Benz says it believes this diesel model will not only make up a large slab of CLS volume, perhaps even toppling the petrol V6 from its best-seller perch, but also add major incremental business.

Generating a handy 195kW of power and a more than handy 620Nm of torque, the engine is confusingly called 350 CDI, presumably to separate it from lesser 3.0-litre diesel engines offered elsewhere in the Benz world.

Capable of accelerating to 100km/h in 6.2 seconds, the CLS350 CDI BlueEfficiency can hit 210km/h before the speed nanny starts tut-tutting, and yet consumes only 6.2 litres per 100km on the combined test cycle – only 0.2L/100km more than the Toyota Camry Hybrid. CO2 emissions are rated at 163 grams per kilometre.

That fuel efficiency not only saves customers at the fuel pump but also in the showroom, as the thrifty diesel model qualifies for a cut in luxury car tax, saving about $4000.

This means the list price descends to $159,200, which is – magically – the same as the forthcoming equivalent petrol V6-powered CLS350 BlueEfficiency, meaning they share duty as the entry gate to the CLS-class.

The only other model presently available for a test drive in showrooms, the gravel-voiced CLS63 AMG, will set buyers back somewhat more, starting at $263,500 before the addition of on-road costs and possible optional extras.

That’s some $18,000 more affordable than the previous CLS63 AMG, but with extra gear on board, Mercedes claims the advantage to the customer is more like $30,000.

While $263,500 appears a lot, it is well short of main rival Porsche Panamera’s $440,200 slug for its flagship 410kW/750Nm Turbo S.

Blasted down the highway by Mercedes-AMG’s 5.5-litre petrol bi-turbo direct-injected V8 producing 386kW of power and 700Nm of torque, the new CLS AMG nevertheless retains the ‘63’ nomenclature as a hangover from the normally aspirated 378kW 6.2-litre weapon at the head of the previous range.

Gifted with idle-stop, electro-mechanical steering and other enhancements – including large swathes of lightweight aluminium in the doors, bonnet and other panels – the new AMG CLS with its smaller-capacity engine pays big dividends at the (98 RON) petrol pump, returning a claimed 10.0L/100km.

That’s 4.5L/100km or 31 per cent more economical than the old donk.

If the 4.4-second acceleration time from zero to 100km/h seems a bit tardy, CLS63 AMG buyers can tick the box for the $17,900 AMG Performance package that tickles the turbo boost to take engine performance to 410km and 800Nm to shave a tenth of a second off that elapsed time – and gain some cosmetic extras to boot.

All models get a seven-speed automatic transmission, but gear selection in the AMG version is via a console-mounted ‘E-shift’ and steering-wheel paddles, while the CLS350 CDI has a simple stalk selector on the steering wheel.

All CLS models retain the sumptuous four-seat cabin layout, with individual seats for rear seat passengers that Mercedes says get more head and shoulder room this time around.

Mr McCarthy said the seating layout was a non-negotiable feature of the CLS that previous owners wanted to retain in the new model, along with other signatures such as the squared-off ledges around the doors, a unique dash and chrome touches.

The all-new body that sits on a longer wheelbase to free up more interior space features the first frameless aluminium doors on a Benz car, saving some 24kg in a classic example of ‘light-weighting’ that is in vogue across the motor industry.

Also new to the CLS and the Benz range are the full-LED headlights, indicators and – on the AMG version – daytime running lamps, comprised by precisely 71 little light-emitting diodes that Benz says produce a light more akin to daylight than conventional bi-Xenon or halogen lights.

The CLS is loaded with safety equipment, starting with 11 airbags, a driver fatigue warning system, blind-spot warning system and Pre-Safe system that primes the brakes and safety systems in the event of imminent collision. An automated parallel parking is also standard.

The AMG version ramps up the protection further with active blind-spot assist and active lane keeping – which can detect solid lines at the side of the lane and gently brake the wheels on the opposite side of the car to prevent the vehicle wandering out of its lane.

The CLS63 AMG also gets the latest version of Benz’s Distronic Plus radar-based intelligent cruise control that not only locks on to the car in front and maintains a safe constant distance but also works with the Pre-Safe system to maintain anti-collision vigilance. This system is an optional extra in a safety package on other CLS models.

A multitude of electronic controls allow drivers to dial up their preferred levels of comfort or sportiness, with a console dial to select between comfort, sport, ‘sport plus’, and ‘race start’ modes.

The sport mode is said to provide gearshifts 25 per cent faster than standard in the seven-speed automatic transmission, while sports plus moves that up a further 25 per cent. A handy ‘AMG’ button stores the owner’s preferred settings and restores them at a single tap.

The electronic stability control (ESC) system can also be adjusted from ‘on’ to ‘sport handling’ – allowing more drift angle – and ‘off’.

Of course, the AMG model gets the full sports body treatment, including big-bore squared-off twin exhaust outlets. Buyers of lesser models can order up the same look as an optional extra.

No fewer than 11 paint finishes, four interior colours and five trim finishes are available. The standard models get a choice of three wood trims – high-gloss brown burr walnut, high-gloss black ash and satin-finish light-brown poplar – while AMG buyers can have piano black or carbon-fibre.

The CLS350 CDI comes standard with 18-inch alloy wheels, while the AMG model steps up to light-weight 19-inch wheels.

As you would expect, the 63 AMG gets an upgraded brake package, with composite 360mm ventilated and perforated discs all round gripped by six-piston callipers on the front.

If that’s not enough then 402mm composite ceramic front discs are an optional extra.

All models use the E-class-based three-link front suspension and multi-link rear suspension set-up mounted on a subframe, but with copious enhancements – including Airmatic damper control – for the AMG autobahn burner.

The front sports seats of the 63 AMG in their exclusive Nappa leather get the ultimate in snug fit with active side bolsters that inflate on each side according to cornering direction to brace occupants.

A full complement of luxury and convenience features are standard across the both models, with three-zone climate-control, a Harmon Kardon sound system, electrically-adjustable leather front seats and steering wheel with memory settings, and a cockpit command system with a seven-inch colour LCD screen that also comes with a TV tuner and trip computer.

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