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'Sleek and powerful' | We drive the Mercedes-Benz CLS 400d

2020-02-06 09:00

Sean Parker

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Image: Sean Parker

My first test car of the year was a biggie. Literally. At just under five metres in length,  the third-generation Mercedes-Benz CLS cuts an imposing profile.

Billed as a four-door coupe, the C257 is based on the E-Class and is a sleek, sharp-looking sedan that looks very similar to Merc's smaller four-door coupe, the CLA.

Nevertheless, the CLS is in a dying segment, along with rivals like the new BMW 8 Series Gran Coupe, Porsche's Panamera, and the Audi A7. Tough competition. 

250kW and 700Nm

On the engine front, there are only two engine choices: a 3.0-litre straight six-cylinder turbocharged petrol unit and a 2.9-litre turbodiesel straight six-cylinder engine badged 400d.

It also wears the 4Matic badge, to denote the 250kW and 700Nm which is sent to each wheel with Mercedes quoting a 0-100km/h sprint time of five seconds. 

It's worth talking about the CLS' interior as it's really a nice play to be. It's dominated by two 31cm infotainment screens that provide everything from navigational information and the Apple CarPlay interface to a fully digital speedometer and rev counter. 

There's lots of chrome bits and the air vents can be illuminated in an array of colours depending on the driver's preference. It's really comfortable and while the previous generations only had four pews, Mercedes has fitted a rear centre seat this time around. 

The CLS comes to the party with a massive boot with a quoted figure of 520 litres of space. Mightily impressive. 

9-speed auto a gem

The CLS benefits from the latest automatic gearbox that has no less than nine-forward speeds. It works well in conjunction with this diesel engine as it purrs along at around 1500r/min. 

On the other hand, the 700Nm is wonderful to have when needed to pull away rapidly or overtaking. There's hardly any lag and you'd be hard-pressed to believe its powered by a diesel engine. There's no roughness like on your father's old KB bakkie, this oil-burner is as quiet as most petrol-powered cars. 

Our test car had optional 21-inch wheels fitted which affected the ride quality on bad roads or when I couldn't avoid a nasty pothole or drain cover. They might look amazing, but you'll want to avoid the nasty back-breaking thumps. 

Apart from that, the ride comfort and steering lends itself to a calm driving experience, it's a real joy to drive.

As I mentioned earlier, the demand for large sedans is waning, but with a comfortable ride, massive boot, and striking looks, the CLS still makes a brilliant case for itself.

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