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Mercedes CLS review: Drive this to sharpen your EQ

For its new CLS, Mercedes-Benz tweaks a winning recipe to broaden its appeal.

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There's no way to drive a car like this if you're a wallflower, because kids will point excitedly at it and adults will swivel their heads in its direction.

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Singapore

THIS car is a stroke of genius in action. You might not know (or care), but the Mercedes CLS came about when someone had the idea of taking the bones of the staid but stately E-Class and draping them in shapelier flesh.

The result for Mercedes: a new model line for relatively little development money, the chance to charge a premium for essentially an existing model, and plenty of cash to rake in.

It's been so successful that three generations on, the CLS has spawned a horde of competitors, such as the Audi A7 and BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe.

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Those rivals have their work cut out for them with the latest CLS, however. Outwardly, the recipe remains the same, but there have been major tweaks to boost its appeal.

As before, the CLS has the refined and luxurious E-Class as its mechanical basis, so all the attributes that make that car a towkay's favourite are present and accounted for. But Mercedes has made it a rolling sculpture, and one that would rival the Venus de Milo.

There's no way to drive a car like this if you're a wallflower, because kids will point excitedly at it and adults will swivel their heads in its direction. I know this because it happened repeatedly in three days with the CLS.

Toned curves and an aggressively shark-nosed front end are combined in the car to striking effect, and the result means new CLS is full of the seductive quality that any coupe must possess.

And yes, even though it has twice the number of doors typical of the breed, Mercedes has always marketed the CLS as a coupe. That has allowed it to excuse a certain level of impracticality in the car, but the new one's slender silhouette entails few compromises this time.

For one thing, the CLS now has five seats, one more than its predecessors. The seating is habitable, too, and adults should have little to gripe about in the back. At 490 litres in capacity, its boot is also spacious enough to meet the needs of the most determined shopaholic. The CLS is now as practical as any sedan, in other words, and if you can't use this as a family car it must be because you not only failed to stop at two, but went and sailed past three.

One other thing that should broaden its appeal is the fact that it's now available with a 2.0-litre engine, which seems to be a psychological upper limit of sorts for Singapore car buyers. That's smaller than the CLS norm, but it puts some real fire in the CLS 350's belly. The sprint to 100km/h is over in only six seconds, and in day-to-day traffic the Mercedes responds to every caress of the accelerator with vigour. Some of that is down to EQ Boost, a new system that uses electric drive to aid the engine and make it more snappy.

It makes use of a motor that also starts the engine (but more smoothly than usual because it's 10 times more powerful than a regular starter motor) and recuperates energy under braking. The CLS 450 4Matic, the other version of the Mercedes that's on sale here, has a more advanced EQ Boost system that's smoother and adds even more liveliness. That car also has a new six-cylinder engine with a stirring voice.

But it's the CLS 350 that is more enjoyable to drive, especially around corners. It has a light-footed way of dancing down a road, and it responds more eagerly to steering inputs from the driver. That said, the high speed refinement of the CLS 450 would better suit someone who makes frequent journeys across the Causeway at high speed. Its silence on the move is remarkable, and the EQ Boost system has a way of making it perform as if the engine has a couple of extra cylinders, while imbibing fuel as if it has a couple of cylinders missing.

That, in its way, is a stroke of genius more difficult to imitate.There's no way to drive a car like this if you're a wallflower, because kids will point excitedly at it and adults will swivel their heads in its direction.


Mercedes-Benz CLS 350

Engine 1,991cc, inline 4, turbocharged
System power 299hp at 5,800rpm
Torque 400Nm at 3,000 to 4,000rpm

Gearbox 9-speed automatic
Top Speed 250km/h
0-100km/h 6.0 seconds
Fuel efficiency 7.7L/100km
Price S$335,888 with COE
Agent Cycle & Carriage
Available Now