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Lithe looker. Image by Mercedes-Benz.

Lithe looker
Old enough to have had a mild makeover, the Mercedes CLS still turns heads like no other 'Benz.

   



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| Week at the Wheel | Mercedes-Benz CLS 320 CDI |

Inside & Out: star star star star star

The CLS has been around for a while now, but it's still one of those cars that always has us stop and look. It's not like it's a rare car either, the CLS seemingly as prevalent around the Car Enthusiast office as the E-Class it's based on. Whatever Mercedes says, the CLS isn't a coupé; it's a lithe saloon. Even so it has the Mercedes-Benz coupé hallmarks - in particular the big three pointed star being positioned on the front grille rather than prominently above the bonnet.

Mild revisions to the CLS's styling last year saw the designers show remarkable restraint and leave all but a few minor details alone. Really, the changes are so slight you'd be pushed to spot the differences - though we've no complaints here. It's a great looking car on the outside, and Mercedes thankfully has not just thrown in the fascia from the E-Class and instead has given the CLS its own dashboard. The sculpted piece of wood that makes up the upper portion of the dash isn't to everyone's tastes, but in the optional matte finishes it's quite classy. It's a shame then that some of the plastics look and feel a little cheap. On the up side, space is good in the rear despite the steeply sloping roofline and the boot is massive.

Engine & Transmission: star star star star star

The 221bhp 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel powering the CLS 320 CDI is a smooth performer. It's free-revving and with 398lb.ft of torque being delivered from 1,600-2,400rpm it's very punchy at low revs. It's not got quite the thumping performance of BMW's 3.0-litre turbodiesels but it's very refined and suits the relaxed character of the CLS perfectly. It's mated to a seven-speed automatic, a transmission that regularly wins praise by others. We've never been entirely convinced by it; it's sometimes reluctant to shift when you want it to and then fussy and busy when you don't. It's not always the smoothest shifting automatic either.

Ride & Handling: star star star star star

Accept that the CLS is more luxury grand tourer than back-road burner and you'll not be disappointed in the way it drives. The ride is relatively firm, meaning our scarred roads often throw up challenges that the CLS's suspension struggles to cope with. A slightly more compliant set up would enhance the CLS's appeal as a laid-back cruiser. The steering is rather inert, with very little feel through the chunky rim. Overall, the CLS driving experience is a touch detached and lacking in involvement, but that's likely to appeal to many of its buyers. If you want a more focused CLS then look at the hardcore AMG version, as the CLS 320 CDI is a rounded, mostly comfortable machine that's best suited to swallowing big mileages with consummate ease.

Equipment, Economy & Value for Money: star star star star star

Like all the premium players Mercedes offers a quite staggering variety of equipment, some of which you'll never know you needed and some of which you'll hope you never do. So there's lots of safety kit, airbags aplenty and driver aids to keep it pointing the right way and to minimise the severity of any impact. All models come with leather trim and cruise and climate control, which is virtually everything you could possibly want, with the exception of premium audio and navigation.

Overall: star star star star star

Merc's CLS is lovely to look at and a nice driving environment makes the CLS a relaxing, enjoyable car to drive. There's plenty of space for the family too, meaning you can easily have a CLS over its less svelte E-Class relative. Not a thrilling drive, but a well rounded and competent one, the CLS is a very attractive car in the executive segment.

Kyle Fortune - 9 Jan 2009



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2008 Mercedes-Benz CLS specifications: (320 CDI)
Price: £45,278 on-the-road.
0-62mph: 7.0 seconds
Top speed: 153mph
Combined economy: 37.2mpg
Emissions: 200g/km
Kerb weight: 1815kg

2008 Mercedes-Benz CLS. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2008 Mercedes-Benz CLS. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2008 Mercedes-Benz CLS. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2008 Mercedes-Benz CLS. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2008 Mercedes-Benz CLS. Image by Mercedes-Benz.

2008 Mercedes-Benz CLS. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2008 Mercedes-Benz CLS. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2008 Mercedes-Benz CLS. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2008 Mercedes-Benz CLS. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2008 Mercedes-Benz CLS. Image by Mercedes-Benz.



2008 Mercedes-Benz CLS. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2008 Mercedes-Benz CLS. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2008 Mercedes-Benz CLS. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2008 Mercedes-Benz CLS. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2008 Mercedes-Benz CLS. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2008 Mercedes-Benz CLS. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 






 

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