The CLS isn't a very common sight and that is ironic because this car's main intention is to be seen. Based on the E-Class, the CLA is a handsome and flamboyantly large four door luxury car with a sloping roof. But you probably already knew that because the CLS has been around in this avatar for quite a while. However, thus far you could only have the CLS in one rather expensive 3.5-litre V6 petrol flavour. The car you see here gets a 2.1-litre diesel and thus a considerably lower price tag than the CLS 350 it replaces. It also gets a small facelift so let's start with that.
Design and style
What a stunner this car is. The CLS with its long, low and swoopy silhouette always looked hot but the facelift has added a lot more poise to the stance. The new front bumper now has scooped side intakes (admittedly just for show) and a lovely new grille that's like the diamond grille from the A-Class but without the diamonds - both handsome and quite aggressive. Overall the face is now quite a lot sportier. Look closely and you'll also see that the headlights are new. In fact, the CLS is the first Mercedes ever to feature these new Multibeam LED lamps. They work in a fashion similar to Audi's excellent Matrix LED lamps where a camera mounted on the windscreen instructs 24 of the 36 LED lamps to light up as required. Basically the beam is automatically dipped around on-coming vehicles to avoid blinding the drivers while full beam is engaged when the road ahead is clear. The system also activates the cornering lamp function when the camera detects a corner ahead and this happens before the driver turns the wheel to help detect hidden dangers sooner. The navigation system aids the same function for corner exits and roundabouts. New wheels mark the change to the side while the rear still cuts the same gorgeous shape.
The interior gets a few changes too. The new screen is larger and is one of those fixed tablet like units that all the new Mercs have. It's a nice high resolution unit and supports select apps like Facebook and Tunein radio that work using the Internet off a connected phone. It also shows the feed from the new 360 degree camera that makes parking the big car in tight spaces less of a heart stopping process. Adding to the rich feel is a new walnut wood trim that beautifully complements the white leather. However there were already signs of dirt in the seats and the car had just done little more than 1,000km. White leather looks fantastic but it's a proper pain to maintain. So it's good that black, brown and beige trims are also available. A new steering wheel has rearranged controls that place the 'ok' button outside the four arrow buttons. I don't like it because it makes browsing through the menus in the instrument cluster quite tedious till you get used to it.
The benefit of a small diesel is efficiency - we recorded 11.7kmpl in the city and 19.4kmpl on the highway.
Cabin isn't as up to date as the latest Mercs but is classy with walnut trim and white leather (difficult to maintain!)
Knee room is decent for a luxury car but not much headroom and egress is cramped
Boot space is adequate for 2-3 suitcases
The rear is reasonably spacious for a luxury car, not as much as an E-Class (which has an identical wheelbase) but not low enough to complain about. Headroom is a little tight for someone tall but I found a bigger problem in getting out where my back repeatedly grazed the edge of the roof. There's also a tall centre console dividing the rear that again looks classy but renders the CLS a strict four-seater.
Engine and performance
New 2.2-litre diesel is torquey enough to make this an entertaining drive
This is the same 2.1-litre diesel that powers a range of Mercs all the way from the A-Class to the ML 250 CDI. It arrives here in peak tune producing 204PS and 500Nm. Now that doesn't sound like much, especially compared to the 306PS available in the old CLS 350. But pay close attention to the torque figure - that's 130Nm more than the petrol, it's available much earlier in the rev range and it dictates the driving experience. Even before stepping on it, the motor deserves credit for refinement - this is the smoothest and quietest application we've experienced yet. However, it is equally game to be pushed hard. Performance is best described as a strong shove through every gear that tapers off as the redline approaches. Throttle response can be sharpened by hitting the S button on the console which also holds gears longer. The 7-speed automatic is smooth and quick enough for this application - you can also shift using the steering mounted paddles. The car set a brisk 8.2 second run to 100kmph and top speed is limited to 242kmph. There's also enough torque on hand to get quite sideways if you switch off Traction Control. Of course, the benefit of a small diesel is efficiency - we recorded 11.7kmpl in the city and 19.4kmpl on the highway.
Ride and handling
One of the biggest things that distinguish the CLS from the equivalent E-Class is its air suspension. This allows you to keep the car in Comfort setting or firm it up by switching to Sport. Ride height can also be increased to deal with sharp ramps or nasty speed breakers. The new 17-inch wheels are an inch smaller than the old car and they do help improve ride comfort. Surprisingly though, I still think the E-Class with its conventional suspension rides better. At low speeds, even in Comfort, the CLS feels firm and doesn't like surprise encounters with speed breakers or potholes. But as you go faster, the car feels happier. Damping is now in the sweet spot between calm and poised and the CLS will eat huge chunks of highways while keeping its occupants very comfortable. Despite its size, and you are constantly aware that you are at the helm of a very large vehicle, the CLS feels poised and willing. Turn in is pleasantly sharp and all the mass follows urgently in the direction of the front wheels. Understeer is well restrained and despite some body roll, I had a good time chucking the car around.
If you do the logical thing and compare the CLS 250 with an E 250 CDI, it simply won't make sense. The E is smaller but more spacious and it's also more comfortable. But beyond all that - the CLS costs a massive Rs 31 lakh more than the locally assembled E at Rs 88.4 lakh on-road Delhi. This, despite it being about Rs 15 lakh cheaper than the out-going model. But the typical CLS buyer isn't looking for sense. He wants the ultimate in style on wheels and cares for little else; without sacrificing the comfort and practicality of a standard luxury car, of course. Precious few cars at this price point can offer that. In that respect, all the new CLS does is make the buying decision a little easier in its new, more affordable form.
Images by Varun Anchan
|Type||Inline 4-cylinder turbo diesel|
|Power to weight||110.3PS/tonne|
|Chassis & dimensions|
|Suspension F/R||MacPherson struts/Independent|
|Brakes F/R||Ventilated discs/Discs|
|Tyres (F&R)||245/45 R17|
|Fuel tank capacity||80 litres|
|Performance & efficiency|
|Top speed||242kmph (claimed)|