The genre that is the four-door coupé remains enchanting, and has done well for the brands dabbling in this segment. A perfect example is perhaps the BMW 6 Series Gran Coupé, although its arch-enemy, the Mercedes-Benz CLS, deserves to be acknowledged, because it was essentially the pioneer in this segment.
The first generation of Mercedes’s four-door coupé, the CLS 55 AMG, unveiled in 2004, was something to behold, and caught the imagination of buyers who wanted a visceral driving experience to go with the visual venom on offer. In 2011, Mercedes-Benz introduced the second generation of the model, which some felt lost a bit of the styling of the original four-door coupé. Nonetheless, it improved on the original model’s technology, performance and sportiness. In fact, it has sold some 4 400 units locally since 2011.
Those LED-encrusted headlights made the thing stand out. Three years on and the model has gone under the knife — and the scalpel seems to have carved a much sharper face. The grille, for instance, takes on the dual-slat theme seen on the updated E-Class range, while LED headlights, which are optional items exclusively in the CLS 500 and CLS 63 AMG S, feature a multibeam system that is adaptive, similar to Audi’s LED matrix headlights, which automatically adapt the beam to road conditions.
For instance, you can drive in high-beam mode at night, and the headlights will automatically adjust so as not to dazzle oncoming traffic. It works a treat, I might add. Cabin updates include a three-spoke steering wheel similar to the one in the C-Class, and an 8-inch tablet-like infotainment screen. The rest of the architecture remains the same, which is not a bad thing, because there was very little wrong to begin with. However, I did find the drop-down interface a tad out of place and dated: a company spokesman said the new interface — similar to that in the C and S-Class — would only be fitted in the next generation. Some of the other updates are substantial, such as new engines.
For example, the new diesel engine in the CLS350 Bluetec pushes out 190kW and 620Nm through a new nine-speed automatic gearbox. In my view, this is a great move by the company, because now the car competes directly with the Audi 3.0-litre TDI and BMW 640d. It is also a bit more refined than the CLS250 CDI. There is also the new CLS400 powered by a 3.0-litre Biturbo V6 petrol engine, which has 245kW, 480Nm and a seven-speed automatic transmission. I was impressed by this petrol engine, and feel that it will add volume to the range.
It replaces the normally aspirated 3.5-litre V6, which couldn’t match its turbocharged rivals. For those lusting after V8 power, the CLS500, with its 4.7-litre Biturbo V8 — pro- ducing 300kW and 700Nm — remains, but now has a nine- speed automatic transmission. This is perhaps the most underrated model in the range. For those with a penchant for even more power, the CLS63 AMG S musters 430kW, 800Nm of torque and a seven-speed MCT speed- shift transmission. According to Selwyn Govender of Mercedes-Benz South Africa, the variant will be available only in this S specification.
Sadly, station wagons are not popular in this country, so Mercedes-Benz has stopped importing the Shooting Brake variant. That said, however, the expansion of the coupé range means that Mercedes can now compete on equal foot- ing with the Audi A7 Sport- back and BMW 6 Series Gran Coupé. The models will appeal to a sliver of discerning buyers looking for something stylish, yet practical enough to accommodate the family’s travelling needs with ease.
CLS 250 CDI: R760 000
CLS 350 BlueTec: R893 000
CLS 400: R888 000
CLS 500: R1 120 000
CLS 63 AMG S: R1 600 000