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Driven: All-new Mercedes-Benz CLS cruises in

Fresh styling and engines, smaller range, updated pricing for Mercedes-Benz CLS

25 Jul 2018

MERCEDES-BENZ’S all-new third-generation CLS four-door coupe has touched down in Australia, boasting fresh new styling, range-wide EQ Boost mild-hybrid powertrains and increased pricing that now kicks off from $136,900 plus on-road costs for the CLS350.
The new three-variant line-up lifts the point of entry to the CLS by $21,545, due to the deletion of the entry-level diesel 250 CDI from the range.
With the removal of the twin-turbo V8 CLS63 AMG from the line-up, the most expensive variant is now more than $70,000 cheaper with the all-new CLS53 AMG nameplate topping the range at $179,529.
For the time being, the only model offered at launch is the mid-spec CLS450 4Matic from $155,529, the first model to be offered in Australia with the new M256 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder petrol engine.
The CLS350 and 53 AMG will join the CLS450 in November, and there is no Shooting Brake body style this time around.
Speaking to GoAuto at the launch of the CLS in Melbourne this week, Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific PR, product and corporate communications senior manager David McCarthy said that the new CLS was expected to sell well from launch, but might fail to match the levels of its predecessor.
“There’s always a bit of a boost at the start, this is the third generation of the car,” he said. “The first one was seven years, the second one was seven years, (CLS customers) have probably had if not two, probably three CLSs during that time.
“I don’t see it beating what it did before, but it’s a very different range.”
When asked about the viability of the CLS in such a niche segment, Mr McCarthy said: “You don’t surrender a segment, and we’ve said before a vehicle for us other than the really, really heavy metal has to do 100 units (a year) to justify bringing it, this will do 100 units no problem at all.”
The best sales year for the CLS was 2005, its first year on sale in Australia, when it found 540 homes.
Mercedes expects CLS buyers to be existing Benz customers with more than one vehicle in their garage, with the entry-level CLS350 replacing the outgoing CLS250 CDI as the most popular variant.
The new CLS ushers in a change in design direction for Benz, with global chief design operator Gorden Wagener claiming the new model looks like a design sketch and that it is the most design-focused vehicle in the range.
Changes include clearer contours and fewer lines, wide, low-set headlights, single-louvre diamond grille with a forward-facing design that Mercedes refers to as the “predator face”.
The new design previews the look of the new-generation A-Class hatch due to arrive later this year, and results in a drag coefficient of 0.26.
Powertrains have been completely overhauled for the new generation, with all of the inline petrol-powered engines to be paired to an EQ Boost 48V on-board starter-generator that develops extra torque low in the rev range and helps reduce fuel consumption by shutting off the engine at cruising speeds.
The entry-level CLS350 employs a twin-turbo 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine producing 220kW/400Nm, sending power to the rear wheels via a nine-speed automatic transmission. The EQ Boost system can also momentarily add 150Nm of torque.
As mentioned, the CLS450 introduces the bi-turbo M256 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder engine, capable of producing a hearty 270kW/500Nm, also employing a nine-speed auto that sends power to all four wheels with a fixed 45:55 front/rear torque split. 
EQ Boost adds up to 12kW/250Nm, ensuring a 0-100km/h sprint in 4.8 seconds.
Fuel economy is rated at 8.7 litres per 100km while emissions stand at 197 grams of CO2 per km.
The CLS53 AMG takes the same powertrain from the 450 and ups output to 320kW/520Nm, for a 0-100km/h time of 4.5s. The AMG gains 4Matic plus variable all-wheel drive and an electronic limited-slip differential on the rear axle.
Fuel consumption and emissions for the 350 and 53 AMG have not been released.
The new CLS gains the driver assistance plus package from the S-Class as standard, which includes autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, active lane change assist, rear cross-traffic alert, evasive steering assist, active blind-spot assist, active lane keep assist, hill-start assist and nine airbags.
The CLS350 features 20-inch alloys, multibeam LED headlights, air suspension, AMG Line interior and exterior package, Burmester sound system, head-up display, leather/open-pore wood interior, heated front seats, ambient interior lighting, sunroof, keyless go and widescreen cockpit with dual 12.3-inch digital displays as standard.
Stepping up to the 450 adds the Energising Comfort control system, Air-Balance air filter and fragrance, soft-touch doors, sports exhaust, anti-theft alarm and a larger fuel tank, up 14L to 80L.
The 53 AMG adds multi-contour front seats, wireless charging, Nappa leather upholstery, AMG alloy wheels, the Night exterior package, and an AMG sports exhaust.
As with other Mercedes models, a limited-run Edition 1 package will be offered at launch, which can be optioned on any variant and includes black 20-inch hoops, chrome-accented diamond grille, high-gloss black trim elements, Edition 1 badging, black Nappa leather upholstery with contrast copper stitching, open-pore black ash wood finish on the centre console and dashboard, IWC analogue clock and designer vehicle key.
Eight no-cost paint hues are available, with three other colours available at a premium.
The CLS450 goes on sale this week.

2018 Mercedes-Benz CLS pricing*

350 $136,900
450 4Matic $155,529
AMG 53 4Matic+ $179,529

*Excludes on-road costs

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