Mercedes CLS 350, motoring review: A Hilton on wheels for Mr Big and (some of) his children

 

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Indy Lifestyle Online

PRICE £49,950
ENGINE CAPACITY 3.0-litre V6 diesel
POWER OUTPUT (bhp @ rpm) 258 @ 3,600
TOP SPEED (mph) 155
FUEL ECONOMY (mpg) 52.3
CO2 EMISSIONS (g/km) 142

For such a big car it's odd that the Mercedes CLS only has four seats. To the untrained eye, it looks just like any other German executive car. And if it sailed past in the outside lane, you wouldn't necessarily notice there was only room for two in the back.

With the CLS, gone is the pretence that your average business mogul is going to use their £50k coupe to take the family to football or a meal at the weekend. This is an oversized coupé for the executive that wants to do the driving, and believe it or not, this four-seat concept – that Mr Big might want to drive himself – was considered revolutionary by the motoring press when the CLS launched in 2004.

Now, the CLS has been reborn with new engines, a nine-speed automatic gearbox, a revised grille and headlights, and a whizzy entertainment system. It's an evolutionary update rather than a revolutionary one, but that hasn't stopped it completing its transformation from car to luxury hotel room on (rather rapid) wheels, with its tasteful mix of dark leather seats (heated, naturally) and chrome-like metals throughout the cabin. It's not quite the Dorchester – that level of luxury is reserved for Bentley and its shagpile carpets – but at nearer £50k, this is a five-star Hilton.

I came up with the luxury-hotel analogy during a 300-mile run to the Lake District from London last week. The weather was filthy, the A1 was clogged with slow-moving lorries and the route in the Lakes from Scotch Corner was bum-clenchingly perilous as the road climbed over exposed hills. It should have been a nightmare journey, but it wasn't. I arrived feeling rested and relaxed, primarily because the V6 automatic gearbox seems to know what the road ahead is doing and selects the right gear accordingly, delivering smooth cruising or rapid acceleration depending on your mood. This car just hums along.

The result of all this comfort and competence is that after a day behind the wheel I arrived at the Lakes ready to storm Skiddaw. I know this is the sort of car that most normal wage earners can only dream of driving through some fortuitous mistake at the car rental counter, but if I could afford one, I'd give up on the idea of any more than (what is now the average) of 1.9 children.

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