The CLS350 CDI is driven here with its recently upgraded 3.0-litre V6 common rail diesel packing 265bhp - an increase of 41bhp on the model it replaces.
Mercedes hopes the CLS range will be sold with five engines. Available from the outset of CLS sales in March 2011 will be this and the naturally aspirated 3.5-litre V6 direct injection petrol unit with 306bhp.
All come mated to a standard seven-speed automatic gearbox. Operated by Mercedes-Benz's fiddly column shift mechanism rather than a traditional centre column lever, the so-called 7-GTronic Plus unit boasts a number of upgrades over that used in the old CLS, including a revised torque converter and an integral stop/start function, both of which help to make the new model significantly more fuel efficient.
The more athletic exterior of the new CLS has not had an impact on the weight of the CLS350 CDI; it tips the scales at the same 1740kg as before.
What"s it like?
Climb aboard and you’re met by an interior big on style, clarity and quality. They may share materials and controls with the latest E-class, but the dashboard and trims boast a unique eye catching design, something which helps imbue the new four-door with its own individual character before you’ve even turned the key.
Close the door and this impression is further enhanced; a comparatively high belt line, shallow side glass and a driving position a full 18mm lower than the E-class contribute to give the CLS with a traditional coupe like feel despite the inclusion of rear doors.
These now provide improved access to the rear thanks to their added length and a larger door aperture. Accommodation wise, it’s not quite at E-class levels, but Mercedes-Benz claims increases in head, shoulder and legroom all round. Boot capacity is also up by 15-litres at 520-litres.
The upgraded 3.0-litre V6 common rail diesel provides the best balance between performance, economy and refinement within the new engine range.
With a gutsy 479lb ft of torque on offer between 1600 and 2400rpm – some 52lb ft more than the old CLS350 CDI no less – the advanced oilburner is extraordinarily flexible and delivers considerable mid-range punch while displaying enthusiastic properties at the upper end of the rev range and exceptional levels of refinement.
The sharpened action of the gearbox also provides a smoother delivery and added acceleration.
Mercedes-Benz claims 0-62mph in 6.2sec – an improvement of 0.8sec over the earlier CLS350 CDI. It’s through the gears, though, that the gains are more noticeable.
Equally as impressive is the improvement in fuel economy and emissions: at 47.1 mpg and 159g/km, they improve by 11.3mpg and 26g/km.
The new CLS is engaging to drive with its overall dynamics now on an altogether higher plane.
Fitted with a new electro-mechanical steering system set to be become a feature across the Mercedes-Benz line-up in future years, it points beautifully.
At the same time, the reworked chassis displays a more fluid action with an added eagerness to change direction, while excellent damping ensure body movements remain terrifically controlled even during all out cornering.
Scythe into a tightly radius bend and the CLS holds its line well for such a large and heavy car, allowing the driver to introduce added lock without the front end prematurely washing away. It’s just a pity that the stability control intervenes so often and in such an abrupt nature.
No qualms with the superb ride, though. Low speed compliance is outstanding and it gets better with speed. Okay, the E-class is more cosseting. But it’s nevertheless very impressive.
Should I buy one?
The new CLS 350 CDI hits all the right emotional buttons. Classy, sophisticated, roomier, faster, more economical and, crucially, better to drive than the outgoing model, it’s clearly going to prove irresistible to some.
However, with impressive new rivals like the recently unveiled Audi A7 and an upcoming four-door version of the new BMW 6-series due to arrive in 2012, it may find the going a little tougher than it has up until now.