Mercedes has never knowingly left a niche unplugged (how else would you explain the G-Wagen Landaulet?). It was with the first-generation CLS that Mercedes claims to have pioneered the concept of a car that “combines the elegance and dynamism of a coupé with the comfort and functionality of a saloon”. In other words, a swoopier alternative to a traditional saloon, or a marginally more practical alternative to a two-door coupe.
When the CLS was revealed 15 years ago it was unlike anything we’d seen from Audi or BMW. It hadn’t yet occurred to them that they could take the relatively humble underpinnings of a conventional three-box saloon, change the body for something more stylish, add 20 per cent to the RRP and, crucially, that their customers would lap it up. Mercedes got there first and, for a while, had it all its own way.
But it was only a matter of time before the others caught up. Before long Audi came out with the A7, BMW the 6 Series Gran Coupe and even Porsche with the Panamera. Suddenly there were options, so the CLS had to work a bit harder to justify its spot in Mercedes’ line-up. Enter the new one, then…
It may share a platform and key technologies with the staid, upright E-Class – as indeed it always has – but the new CLS gets all-new electrified powertrains and a coupe-like body Mercedes design boss Gorden Wagener says is “emotionally charged with elegant beauty”. Make of that what you will. Read on to see what it’s like.