Live from the launch: Mercedes CLS

Mercedes claims to have invented the four-door coupe with the original CLS, a car that sold 170,000 examples thanks by and large to its curvaceous take on an E Class sized saloon.

The UK accounted for around 10 percent of those sales, and next year we'll get the new version which includes a completely fresh design and a four-cylinder diesel engine amongst a plethora of other improvements.
The manufacturer is the first to admit that the premium model's success was based on its appearance, and the new CLS continues the trend of being conspicuously better looking than the E-Class with which it shares a platform.

However, rather than opting for a gentle update of its predecessor's sweeping body, Mercedes has decided to butch up the car's athleticism by tapering its lines into a pair of square-jawed rear arches. The angular lines do lend the CLS a more muscular profile, but some of the previous model's elegance has been lost.

There's also something a little more staid about the interior, but the cabin is unequivocally a pleasant place to be. The CLS is a strict four-seater, with the raised centre console continuing through the car into the rear. The low swept roofline means headroom is still reduced in the back, but the legroom is very good.

No matter where you sit the CLS exudes the snug, premium feel beloved by its largely male, middle-aged customer base, but the best seat is behind the steering wheel.

Mercedes has gifted the car with a precise, smooth and pleasurable driving dynamic that rarely fails to reward the driver with satisfying impression of effortless progress. The cause is helped by a powerhouse collection of engines, including the practically faultless six-cylinder 265hp 350 CDI and a brilliant sounding 408hp twin-turbo V8 in the CLS 500.

Of course the best-seller will almost certainly be the new entry level 204hp four-cylinder diesel engine, but that won't be available to try until next year. All the CLS's powerplants are mated to Mercedes' 7G-Tronic Plus gearbox which shifts cogs with an action so smooth it almost qualifies as sleight of hand.

There are minor niggles of course; the instrumentation panel is cluttered with too many warning signals, the electronic seat controls are stranded untidily on the doors (do we need to see them?) and Mercedes' infotainment system is still not as intuitive as BMW's i-Drive, but none of these particularly detract from the CLS's quiet, refined and supremely capable aura.

If you're currently in the market for a high-end four-door car in the coupe mould – and the CLS's new raw-boned look doesn't put you off – we suggest you hold off on your final choice until this impressive new Mercedes comes to the UK next spring.
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