"The Mercedes CLS is one of the most stylish saloons on the road. It has the good looks and driver appeal of a coupe, but is still very practical."
There were plenty of people who doubted Mercedes' ability to successfully combine the looks and drivability of a coupe with the practicality of a saloon. But the CLS didn't just impress all those who saw it, it inspired an entire new class of rival cars, including the Audi A5 and A7 Sportbacks and the Volkswagen CC. This is the second generation of the car. It gets a bold design and a range of efficient and powerful engines. Under the skin, the hi-tech suspension system improves the car's handling and comfort. As well as being a great car to drive, the CLS is fantastically well built and has a beautiful cabin. What's more, Mercedes offers a huge range of optional extras, so you can tailor the car to your exact specification. Watch out though - going wild with add-ons can significantly boost the purchase price.
Accurate steering is a highlight of the CLS, but the Audi A7 is a sportier drive. The CLS should be regarded as a grand motorway tourer with the ability to tackle demanding, winding roadswhen necessary. In-gear acceleration impresses most, making the Mercedes perfect for overtaking and effortless cruising. Cabin noise levels are very low, regardless of whether you choose petrol or diesel power. However, if you are keeping a close eye on the cost of fuel, the CLS 250 CDI diesel is by far the best choice.
You sit low in the Mercedes CLS, but the driving position strikes just the right balance between comfort and sportiness. The leather seats are extremely comfortable and the thick-rimmed steering wheel is lightly padded - improving the sense of luxury, and making the CLS a great car in which to cover long distances. Entry level cars have standard coil-sprung suspension, which can feel firm on rough roads. Buyers can choose to have their car fitted with air-suspension - which improves comfort and offers a sports setting to boost the car's agility.
As well as being engineered to last, the Mercedes CLS has a strong reputation for reliability. All of the controls feel very robust, and there is an attention to detail to the interior design that is missing from many rivals - including BMW. Safety is first rate, particularly if you equip the car with Mercedes' own active safety system, PREsafe, which includes a system that warns you if you're straying out of your lane on the motorway, and an early warning system that prepare the cabin for a potential accident.
There is plenty of space in the front and rear, and headroom in the back is better than you might expect, given that plunging roofline. The boot is reasonably proportioned, but it's smaller than an Audi A7's, and folding seats are only offered as an option - they're standard on the Audi.
Value for money
Mercedes doesn't really do 'cheap' cars, and the CLS is more expensive to buy than an equivalent executive saloon, like the BMW 5 Series. Residual values are not as strong either. This car's status as a style icon means that while demand is strong new, it's not as intense on the used market.
All cars come with stop-start, but you need to go for the entry level CLS 250 CDI diesel if you want to keep running costs at rock bottom. It returns 55mpg and emissions of 135g/km, but watch out for expensive insurance costs. Go for the flagship CLS 63 AMG, and you'll be lucky to get near the claimed economy of 28.5mpg. Servicing is reasonably priced, however, and with fixed prices for jobs like changing brake pads, costs are transparent.