Driven: (2014) Mercedes-Benz CLS

Mercedes Benz CLS 63 AMG

The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLS has made its South African debut and we were there at its launch.

The CLS is one of the best-looking products in the Mercedes-Benz arsenal. The car's concept was an interesting one - what if you could combine the practicality of a four-door sedan with the graceful looks of a coupé? The car has sold well with around 120 000 units sold. In South Africa the vehicle was reasonably popular and the range included the Shooting Brake estate. The Shooting Brake however has now been discontinued in South Africa due to a lack of sales.

Engines

The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLS comes with a number of engines. There's an entry-level 150 kW / 500 Nm diesel in the CLS 250, a 190 kW / 620 Nm diesel in the CLS 350, a biturbo V6 petrol with 245 kW and 480 Nm in the CLS400. Finally, there's some V8 power in the CLS 500 (300 kW / 600 Nm) and the fearsome 430 kW / 800 Nm in the range-topping CLS 63 AMG S. On launch, I sampled the CLS 500, CLS 250 diesel and the mighty AMG model.

There's a nice new nine-speed gearbox, the 9G-Tronic and it helps keep the fuel economy down. I found the shifts to be smooth, but there is a pleasant mechanical feel as the gears change when you pull the steering wheel mounted paddles in manual mode.

Technology

Being a Mercedes-Benz, the CLS comes brimming with technology, but one of the new things are the front headlights. These MultiBeam LED headlights are incredible and happily move around so everything is brightly lit up except the car in front of you. These lights work in conjunction with the GPS so as you get to a traffic circle, they spread their light wider so the entire circle is lit up. The only way to explain this is by watching this quick video:

Launch

The launch route from Arabella Golf Estate took us back to Cape Town along the picturesque Rooi Els road, which is a lovely stretch of tarmac for performance cars. I avoided the AMG S for this stretch, correctly assuming it would be over the top on this narrow stretch. The CLS 500 with its turbocharged V8 engine was plenty fun and there's so much power on tap. With 300 kW and 600 Nm, in-gear acceleration is impressive and there's a lovely soundtrack to boot.

After a quick stint in the CLS 250 with its frugal 2.1-litre diesel engine (used in the E250 CDI coupe) , it was time to jump into the mighty CLS 63 AMG S.

CLS 63 AMG S

With 430 kW and 800 Nm, the Mercedes-Benz CLS 63 AMG S is the ultimate performer in the range. The 5.5-litre twin turbocharged V8 engine is a masterpiece and you know you're in for some breathtaking performance when you push that start button. The car snarls to life and the sound from those exhausts is phenomenal.

On the open and winding roads around Hermanus, the matte white CLS 63 AMG S turned into a low-flying fighter jet. Performance is astonishing. How does 0-100kph in 4.1 seconds grab you? Remember this is a big executive car, and yet its offering a race car experience. In full AMG attack mode, the CLS 63 is astonishingly quick, but be warned, with the stability and traction assistance turned off, you're going to be kept busy trying to catch that sliding rear. Still, for the mortal driver that I am, the CLS 63 AMG S offers plenty of thrills and the safety systems will keep you in check.

Summary

In closing, I'd like to think the pick of the range is probably the CLS 350 diesel and the CLS 500 for the petrol fans. Performance fanatics will be delighted with the AMG S, which is simply stupendous and brutally fast. If you have the money, go for broke and get the AMG. If you're more conservative, go for the CLS 500 which offers 85% of the AMG's performance.

The CLS is one mighty fine machine, with very little to fault. I look forward to an extended session with this car to see if there are any faults, as my initial impressions indicate this is a flawless product.

Mercedes-Benz CLS Price in South Africa

All the new Mercedes-Benz CLS models come with a Mercedes-Benz six-years or 100 000km PremiumDrive maintenance plan.

CLS 250 CDI  – R760 000  CLS 350 BlueTec – R893 000 CLS 400 - R888 000 CLS 500 - R 1 120 000 CLS 63 AMG S - R1600 000

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