The CLS 450 is an E-Class in sharper clothing, and more. It’s also a perfect of example of Mercedes’ current engineering depth in action
BARCELONA, SPAIN — Here we waxed lyrical about the new Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 4Matic+. But this, the CLS 450 4Matic, is going to be the mainstream seller for a start (until a 2.0-litre CLS 300 or CLS 350 arrives).
It doesn’t have an AMG badge, but it’s one of the most exciting new Mercedes models we’ve driven in a long time.
To recap, like the first two generations of CLS before it, the new one is essentially built on the stately but staid bones of the E-Class, to which glamorous flesh has been added.
It has curves to flaunt because Merc’s design chief, Gorden Wagener, has declared that hard edges are out and softer lines are back in.
At the same time, the CLS is clearly one of Mercedes’ sporty, youth-oriented models, given how it has the slim eyed, shark nosed front end that made its debut on the AMG GT (and continues to spread through the range, most recently gracing the new A-Class).
It may have four doors, but the silhouette is so slender and lengthy that the CLS is almost more torpedo than car.
Inside, there’s clear E-Class DNA but the CLS elevates the cabin surroundings by simple dint of turbine-style air-con vents (also featuring on the new A-Class) and shapely seats that are unique to the model.
The CLS 450 4Matic may be the base model for now, but the numbers suggest that it’s hot stuff to drive.
It’s a heavy car, at near on two tonnes, but there’s so much raw grunt from the engine that it cracks 100km/h in just 4.8 seconds. Yet, there’s a smooth, gentlemanly character to the CLS 450 that numbers don’t capture.
Much of that is centred around the engine, a new 3.0-litre straight-six turbo that we could fill pages about.
It’s a state-of-the-art piece of engineering, combining new tech with the classic layout of six cylinders positioned in one row, for perfect balance (resulting in creamy smoothness) and a cultured voice.
The new technology is enabled by a 48 volt architecture (with a lithium ion battery) at the heart of a system Mercedes calls “EQ Boost” (EQ is the tech term for Merc’s plug-in and hybrid tech).
It obviously borrows ideas from the KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) set-up from Formula One racing, and inserts a powerful starter motor-cum-generator between the engine and the nine-speed gearbox.
Apart from charging the lithium battery, the motor-generator can chuck 22 horsepower bursts through the drivetrain, feeding 250Nm of instant torque straight into the gearbox in the process.
That enables the CLS 450 to pick up speed with smooth alacrity, the way a car does when it has both a big turbo engine and brawny electric motor shoving it along.
But more than that, the EQ Boost system gives the CLS 450 its terrific manners. Since the motor starts the engine with an effortless flex, the Mercedes awakens all but seamlessly, like an iPad coming back to life from rest.
The engine itself is simplified in certain ways, too. The EQ Boost system removes the need for belts, since all the car’s pumps and the air-con compressor can now be powered by heavy-duty, 48V motors. Nor is there a conventional starter motor.
All of that also means that EQ Boost lets the CLS 450 sail along with the engine asleep but with no interruption to the supply of cold air from the climate control system.
Whatever your feelings about new tech, or whether you even care how it all works, perhaps the salient point is that the new EQ Boost engine makes the Mercedes one of the most refined cars we’ve driven.
That refinement is key to enjoying it, too. View it as a sort of four-door sportscar and you’ll find yourself wishing for more sharpness on corner entry, a tad more grip from the front tyres.
Along with that you’ll wish for less size and more wieldiness, and maybe even tighter damping from the suspension.
But as a high-speed cruiser the CLS 450 is all but unbeatable. It may have frameless windows but the wind is kept silent until about 170km/h, and even then it seldom rises above a gentle rustle.
Even in the sportiest setting, the suspension lets it float without it feeling floaty, and if our road conditions (and speed limits) allowed it the CLS 450 would sit at that kind of velocity all day long, not even close to breaking a sweat.
For all that, the new CLS has probably made the biggest strides in terms of practicality.
It’s been configured as a proper five-seater this time (as opposed to the four-seat layout of the first two generations). At the car’s launch I spent a few hours in the back, and they were comfortable hours.
Your kids are unlikely to sulk or whine about having to occupy the back seats for the half hour it takes to get just about anywhere in Singapore.
Few cars muster such a combination of sharp looks, thundering performance, practicality and utter refinement, and like the E-Class Coupe and Cabriolet we reviewed in CarBuyer 269, the new CLS is a perfect example of how Mercedes is currently on a mission to build something for everyone.
You could wish for more overt sportiness, of course, but that’s what the AMG CLS 53 is for.
NEED TO KNOW Mercedes-Benz CLS 450 4Matic
Engine 2,999cc, inline 6, turbocharged
Power 367hp at 5,500 to 6100rpm
Torque 500Nm at 1,500 to 4000rpm
Gearbox 9-speed automatic
Top Speed 250km/h (limited)
0-100km/h 4.8 seconds
Fuel efficiency 7.8L/100km
Agent Cycle & Carriage
Available October 2018