We got to drive the latest CLS450 for a week and what better way to put it to the test then doing a roadtrip from Bruges to Linz to pick up a friend’s F12?

The Mercedes-Benz CLS450 is the third generation of the original four-door coupe launched back in 2003.  The CLS was designed to be the sportier alternative to the S-Class albeit a little more low down in the order.

The third generation

The CLS is designed to offer an unrivalled experience combining luxury with technology. And the latest generation keeps up with that. The petrol version, the CLS450 features a 3.0L six-in-line engine producing 367 hp through Mercedes’ 4-Matic system which is not bad. But where this CLS450 really shines is the addition of the new EQ-Boost. The EQ-Boost is a small electric motor that is attached to the transmission of the car. It only generates 24 hp but it’s the torque that really makes the difference in this case. The 250 Nm’s are instantly available and are supported by the 6-in-line’s 500 Nm’s propelling the car from 0-100 kph in 4,8 seconds. And the EQ-boost makes all the difference. Not just in stoplight sprints because let’s face it. The CLS was not designed for that. It makes all the difference on the autobahn. 

This really is where the CLS shines because that’s what it was made for. You’re sitting in this luxury atmosphere with a smooth 3.0L six-in-line in front of you while the seat is giving you a hot relaxing massage in your lower spine. And all that while you’ve set the adaptive cruise control at 200 kph.
The CLS does it with no effort. It’ll slow down for corners that are too sharp for your speeds and when somebody decides to pull in front of you at 120 kph, the car will automatically brake to come to a safe distance of the car in front of you. And yes this may all happen automatically but we strongly recommend that you keep your eyes on the road. Not because it failed when we were testing it but because they are only driver aids and in the end, you’re still the boss behind the wheel.

Neue Gestaltung

With the CLS, Mercedes-Benz introduced their new styling where the triangle-shaped lights are the most striking feature of the design. They absolutely nailed the front end design on this one, it feels like looking at a shark from certain angles. An elegant shark that’s still ready to attack when needed.
Moving to the back and this is the bit where I feel like there wasn’t spent as much time as on the front. It’s a bit plain and the side profile gets a little broken down at the trunk. The CLS53 however fixes most of these issues with its striking diffusor and little spoiler lip.

On the inside we can find the same design that was introduced in the S-Class earlier and that’s far from a bad thing. You’ve probably heard this many times but Mercedes really is the king of interior design in the premium segment. The feeling of every button has been carefully thought through and the end result feels like you would expect in an S-Class.
The dual wide-screen cockpit is just jaw dropping and provides such an immersive experience. The resolution of the screens and design of the interface is so good that sometimes we felt like touching the screen to browse through the menu’s. No touch here yet but it really feels like it’s comming sooner than later.
Inside it’s really spacious because its quite the battleship in length. With the sunroof and fire extinguisher, the drivers headroom is somewhat limited but space in the back is mighty impressive and it doesn’t even sacrifice boot space.
The seats feel like sitting on a big friendly bear. It hugs you as much as you want and will support your sides during cornering thanks to the multicontour seats. And at the push of a button, you’re treated with a hot, relaxing massage on the go so you’re 100 % stress free when you arrive at your destination.
The ambient lighting seems so tacky at first but it really helps set the mood in the car. And with over 50 different colours, there’s more then plenty to choose from.

However there is one thing that I couldn’t figure out. As much as I searched and tried, you can’t connect your CarPlay to the car via bluetooth. Okay you can connect with the car via USB ports but what’s the point then of fitting it with a wireless charger if you have to hook up your phone by cable. It might be to retain the sound quality but it seems a little contradicting to me that you can’t use it with Bluetooth when they offer wireless charging.

Driving dynamics

The CLS is a luxury car and that can be felt from the moment you start driving. The chassis is well dampened and the air suspension smooths out the road ahead of you, from time to time on very rough surfaces (which we have plenty of in Belgium), you can feel the suspension doing its work where the car feels like it floats over a wave. 
But the CLS is still aimed at combining the luxury with a sporty edge. And you can feel that the way the drivetrain works. While the car has 4Matic, it is rear wheel dominant for sure. You can feel how the back moves around in a corner and when you step on it, it’ll gently twist and push some power to the front to pull you along. Combining that phenomenal 4Matic system with an absolute powerhouse up front and this car has some rear performance hidden under that relatively sober shape. A true wolf in sheep clothing.

The Ultimate Drive

So yes this was a bit of an unusual first drive because normally we’ll have a test car for a few days and we’ll use it in our day to day business to see how it behaves. But with the CLS450, the opportunity came along to give it a more thorough test.
A friend of Ward & I recently received his black F12berlinetta (yes the name is without space in between) and he invited us to come have a look at it. Naturally we said yes but there was one technicality: our friend lives 1.000 kms away in Austria. So we left on friday afternoon to Austria and this meant testing what the CLS was really built for: long comfortable roadtrips on the Autobahn. As we left Belgium at around 20:00 we were greeted by the derestricted road signs that allowed us to regain some time lost in traffic back in Belgium.

And then the CLS450 comes fully to it’s right: you’re traveling inside a luxury cabin with the aforementioned driving aids while getting a heated lower-back massage with music coming out of the immersive 23-speaker Burmester 3D audio system. The chassis in combination with the air suspension dampens the road so damn well. We cruised along for hours in the dark, admiring the light spectacle that was unfolding before our eyes thanks to the adaptive MultiLED high-beams. Like curtains the individual beams roll up and down to avoid blinding traffic around you.

After one of the best road trips ever with a car we woke up after just under four hours of sleep because our friend invited us to come along for a plane flight, had some Schnitzel for lunch near the German border and flew back to Linz.

After that it was time to pick up the freshly detailed F12. She’s a sleek black mare finished off with some sleek silver hoofs. We ended the day by doing some light painting of both the F12 and our CLS450 before heading to bed.

The next morning we said goodbye to our friend with the F12 and headed back home again with the CLS450 for what was the longest drive of our lives. Start of holidays means over 3 hours of traffic jams and yet somehow, it felt good. Driving from point A to B has become such a relaxing experience, we’ll take it any day of the week.

We returned the CLS the next day with Tom from AMG In Years in the S63 AMG facelift and left Mercedes-Benz Belux with homesickness for the CLS. It’s cars like this that really show how far technology has come in everyday cars. It’s for sure one of our favourites of the  year and can the CLS53 actually improve on this?

Gear used in this review: Sony A7ii with Sony Zeiss 55mm f1.8 and Sony Zeiss 35mm f1.4