It’s been around since 2004, with this second generation version launched in 2011, before being further perfected in the improved form we’re going to look at here.
On the road, the exact CLS experience you get will depend on whether you opt for a version with standard suspension. Or one with the extra-cost Airmatic air-suspended set-up.
But it’s the standard Multibeam LED headlamps that I think I like most. These are made up of 24 individual LED units dimmable in an astonishing 255 stages and controlled by a stereo camera mounted in the windscreen that also receives information about approaching road conditions from the sat nav system.
Time to talk about engines. All the ones on offer are reasonably pokey – even those of the two mainstream BlueTEC diesel variants that almost all CLS customers choose. The entry-level 2. 1-litre four cylinder unit powerplant has been cleaned up and de-tuned from 204bhp to 177bhp – hence the badging change in this revised MK2 model from ‘CLS 250 CDI’ to ‘CLS 220 BlueTEC’. It’s still quite acceptably rapid though, 400Nm of torque enough to deal with the 0-62mph sprint in 8. 5s en route to 140mph.
On to the six cylinder diesel option – the CLS 350 BlueTEC model I’m driving here. This powerplant arguably suits this car much better, with 258bhp on tap and, more importantly, over 50% more pulling power that wafts you to 62mph in just 6. 6s and would demolish a long autobahn trip hovering at or hear its 152mph maximum. One of the key reasons for stretching to this variant though lies not with its extra grunt but with its gearbox. This is the only one of the improved second generation CLS-Class models that gets the latest auto transmission Mercedes has developed for this car, a ‘9G-TRONIC’ nine-speed unit.
As ever, there’s a choice of either a booted four-door ‘Coupe’ bodystyle or the avant garde ‘Shooting Brake’ estate version. Either way, under the skin, the CLS remains essentially a conventional Mercedes E-Class executive model beneath sweeping bodywork that leaves it slightly lower and longer. In MK2 guise, its proportions stayed the much same as before, the original version’s distinctive long bonnet, narrow-look side windows and dynamic roofline sweeping back towards the rear all being carried over.
With all this going on outside, you could perhaps have excused Mercedes for taking the easy way out and simply sticking an E-Class interior in the cabin. In the first generation CLS, they probably should have done just that, for the vast plank of wood that ran across its dashboard wasn’t the car’s most appealing feature. Here though, a much classier result has been achieved that fully justifies the high prices being asked, a cabin even the crassest vulgarian wouldn’t be able to ruin with extrovert choices from the endless options list.
Ultimately then, this is for self-made business people an appropriate reward for a lifetime’s endeavour - and a very complete car indeed, provided you can afford its significant price premium. Once upon a time, people like this could admire a Mercedes, aspire to ownership, or respect what it did but they rarely formed an emotional bond with one. But then the CLS arrived and changed all that. As it still does.