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Merc's new four-door coupe driven

2011-09-26 14:46

FLY THE COUP: Want a mad four-door coupe? Try this. Image gallery

Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer Mercedes-Benz
Model CLS
Engine 3.5l V6, 4.7-, 5.5l V8
Power 225kW @ 6 000-, 300kW @ 5 000-, 386kW (410) @ 5 250rpm
Torque 370Nm @ 3 500-, 600Nm @ 1 600-, 700Nm (800) @ 1 750rpm
Transmission Seven-speed auto
Zero To Hundred 6.1-, 5.2-, 4.4- (4.3) sec
Top Speed 250km/h
Fuel Tank 80-litres
Weight 1 735-1890kg
Boot Size 520-litres
ABS Nine

Lance Branquinho

Back in April of 2005, Mercedes-Benz started marketing a rather interesting car via its South African dealer network. It was called CLS and at the time, Mercedes-Benz marketing personal were at pains that all and sundry should refer to it as a coupe – despite its sedan configuration, four-doors and all.

Now, there had been four-seater coupes before, but never one with four-doors.

Mercedes-Benz’s marketing department remained adamant that it was not taking a liberty in terms of interpretation of the two-door coupe concept, and to their credit, CLS is recognised as the car which lulled Porsche (Panamera), Aston Martin (Rapide), Audi (A7) and BMW (5 Series GT) into producing luxury premium four-door vehicles not subscribing to the traditional sedan configuration.


Six years is a long time to be operation in the automotive industry.

Chief rivals in the segment CLS defined since its launch are notable more contemporary and Mercedes-Benz brand loyalists have been waiting patiently for the second-generation CLS. Well, it now available and after two days of testing on the Garden route, new CLS, as a product offering, is a very interesting alternative.

Although the range carries over its nomenclature on all three derivatives (350, 500, AMG 63), the engines are all new.

The original CLS wowed traditional German luxury car buyers (of which Mercedes-Benz customers are always considered the most conservative) when it was launched. It was the car’s side-profile symmetry, especially at its extremities, which was unlike anything seen in the premium end of the four-door market before. CLS’s coupelikeness was further enhanced with a sleek, curved roofline.

Although supporters of competing German luxury brands were quick to point of the jargonising of the coupe concept by Mercedes-Benz’s CLS, the car has defined a segment and the new one, well, it looks as good in the styling vogue of 2011 as the original did when launched locally six years ago.

Most of the new CLS styling details are draw from the Shooting Break (Merc’s spelling, not ours) concept car displayed at the 2010 Beijing auto show. The rear lights, a controversial feature of the original CLS, are now littered with LEDs and wrap around in a notably neater fashion to the rear quarter panel.

Along the flanks, new CLS’s signature detail are two concave character lines running between the wheelarches, one in the top third of the car’s side profile, the other along the bottom third horizontal axis. New CLS’s grille, headlights and bonnet combine to render the new face of Mercedes-Benz design first seen with the SLS in 2010 (and of late, as SLK was launched in 2011), a squarer nose.

Beyond the evolutionary exterior, CLS’s cabin is pretty much standard E-Class fare. The new three-spoke steering-wheel (first seen locally on new SLK) with its split vertical spoke won’t appeal those lazy drivers who like to cruise with only right thumb and fore-finger lazily keeping tabs on directional stability via the lower horizontal spoke on a traditional Merc four-spoke steering wheel.

COUPE REAR: Rear accommodation remains strictly for two. Load-through capability costs an extra R5 100 on the AMG models, bizarrely…

New CLS also sees the automatic transmission’s shifter migrate from its traditional position between the front seats to a stalk action item behind the steering wheel, freeing up stowage space on the centre-console. The AMG's shifter remains in place between the seats, though, surrounded by buttons activating damper control, manual transmission override and race-start control.

If you are trading in your CLS, the newfangled cabin design language will appear quite radical, though in reality it’s essentially a cluster of what’s available in the current Mercedes-Benz parts bin.

Standard items are as comprehensive as one would expect in the premium four-door coupe class.

Front seats are powered, aircon is automated and Merc’s Comand APS multimedia system’s standard too, which means you get navigation, a 40GB hard-drive, 18cm display screen, Harman Kardon seven-speaker surround-sound and, crucially, Linguatronic text-to-speech functionality – which means SMS messages can be read to the driver.

Options? Well you can get 'keyless go', parking radar, ventialed seats, a reversing camera and 19-inch alloy rims.

Safety’s a non-negotiable, though; the new CLS has nine-air bags.


Perhaps the new CLS’s most striking upgrade is the range of new direct-injection engines. There are three petrol engines, starting with the 3.5-litre V6 as the only non-turbo option, with the two V8 (4.7 and 5.5  litres) each boosted by twin-turbochargers.

Mercedes-Benz claims this new engine line-up, thanks to its direct-injection and forced-induction efficiency, is on average 25% lighter on fuel, without any sacrifice in terms of performance.

RESTYLED: First-generation CLS’s controversial Ford Falcon-like rear light cluster have been replaced with these…

Stuttgart’s new V6 offering features a 60-degree cylinder bank angle producing 225kW and 370Nm. It beats the previous 3.5 90-degree V6 by five kW and 20Nm, whilst being 25% more efficient.

It runs a hot hatch 0-100km/h sprint of 6.1 sec, whilst returning 6.8/100.

Merc’s new 4.7-litre twin-turbo V8 powers the CLS500. Producing 300kW and 600Nm, this new 4.7 V8 compares favourably with the first-generation CLS 5.5 V8, being 35kW more powerful and boasting a significant 150Nm more pulling power.

Acceleration’s particularly strong (100 in 5.2sec), whilst consumption’s unwittingly low – 9/100.


Potential CLS customers desiring rampant performance – as always - have the option of a CLS 63 AMG – although this new CLS 63 is in fact powered by an AMG-fettled version of the M157 5.5 twin-turbo V8.

AMG’s CLS offering is available in two states of tune, producing 386kW/700Nm or 410kW (supported by 800Nm) when ordered with the performance pack option, an R82 000 upgrade…

Mercedes-Benz’s performance claims for the CLS 63 are entirely believable considering the power on offer: 100 in 4.4 (4.3 for the 410kW version). The claimed combined cycle consumption of a whisper under 10/100 (9.9, to be exact) is just a little too perfect to be true…

As impressive as these new direct-injection engines appear statistically, do the numbers translate into real-world driving benefits?
Well, let me dismiss the CLS 63’s claimed fuel consumption figure.

Despite the vaunted efficiency improvement of the new 5.5 twin-turbo V8, I averaged 15.8/100 on a run from Knysna to Oudtshoorn, and back to George. Admittedly a mountain pass or two saw the seven-speed MCT transmission shifted to manual and the AMG’s 386kW power peak investigated with urgency at 5250rpm gear after gear, but for most of the N2 we were cruising along. I very much doubt you’ll ever be capable of setting an average consumption below 11.5/100...

Fuel consumption’s hardly the point of an AMG product, though, and the new 5.5 twin-turbo V8 is everything Affalterbach promised it would be. Despite being nearly 800cc short on capacity to the previous naturally-aspirated CLS 63 V8, it’s retained the fearsome autobahn stormer soundtrack and the additional torque is very much in evidence when you downshift to fourth, with the speedo hovering just under legal limit – the resultant urge, under full throttle acceleration, is immense – almost vicious.

Only the all-wheel adaptive damping and rear axle air-suspension cushion the severity of CLS 63’s acceleration, as the car remains in a neutral posture (there’s no telltale nose-lift), despite streaming past other traffic in a manner that defies belief.

The CLS500 is not much slower and with 700Nm on tap is very much the best buy in the range and an authentic "sleeper" of a four-door coupe…

Handling? Well, as mentioned, there’s adaptive damping at all wheels and air suspension at the rear so it rides with aplomb, but, with a wheelbase of 2.84m, it’s never going to be particularly agile, despite possessing an impressive sense of balance as weight shifts that distance between the axles during severe deceleration into a tight corner. The CLS’s stability intervention threshold (bar for the intermediate setting on the AMG) is quite nannying, but that’s understandable as the CLS350 and 500 are not marketing at hooligans.

Beautifully built, with sophisticated, effortless power no matter which engine derivative you option, this CLS is every bit the four-door coupe replacement fans of the original CLS have been waiting for. Bargain S-Class? Not quite. A more sophisticated and stylish E-Class? Perhaps…

Still the four-door coupe of choice at the price? Probably.

CLS 350-  R793 000
CLS 500 - R996 000
CLS 63 AMG - R1 319 500

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