The new CLS gets new signature lighting and a narrower front end.
The new CLS gets new signature lighting and a narrower front end.

An array of hi-tech six-cylinder engines has strengthened the debut of Mercedes-Benz’s all-new CLS.

The swoopier, E-Class-based coupe will launch initially with three new engines as Mercedes moves away from shorter V6 power and back to its traditional — and inherently smoother — in-line layout.

Derivatives for SA have yet to be confirmed, with the new model arriving here in the fourth quarter of 2018, but the third-generation CLS will arrive internationally with two turbodiesel, in-line sixes and a flagship (for now) 270kW turbo petrol motor, all of which use three litres of swept volume. The hi-tech petrol engine uses 48V technology to deliver a system total of up to 750Nm of torque in brief bursts, which is well into what was once only diesel territory.

The CLS450 4Matic’s 2,999cc motor typically generates 500Nm of torque by itself, but gets a helping hand from an integrated starter-generator that can add 16kW of power and 250Nm of torque, and an extra lithium-ion battery.

The interior gets much of the kit from the E-Class but there are also some new items making their debut.
The interior gets much of the kit from the E-Class but there are also some new items making their debut.

The base CLS350d 4Matic’s version of the six-cylinder diesel will deliver 600Nm of torque from its 2,925cc of capacity, plus 210kW of power. The strongest diesel, the CLS400d, will have 250kW and 700Nm of torque.

All CLS models are largely based on the E-Class’s architecture, sharing the more conservative stalwart’s nine-speed automatic transmission, its five-link rear suspension, its four-link front end and its entire electrical and plumbing systems.

The most unashamedly design-driven of all Mercedes models, it retains what Benz thinks are the model’s core signatures, including the frameless window glasshouse truncated windows, a wide, low headlight layout and a swooping, low-tailed silhouette.

The rear styling has gone back to swoopy lines.
The rear styling has gone back to swoopy lines.

Just as critical as all of that is the CLS has become a five-seater, though it retains a 40:20:40 split-fold in its rear seat to give better access and versatility to the 520l luggage compartment.

The four-door CLS combines design flair with sleek aerodynamics, with a 0.26 coefficient of drag helping both its high-speed prowess and its fuel economy. Even the six-cylinder CLS450’s CO2 emissions are down to 178g/km, while both diesel sixes emit the same 148g/km figure.

A controversial nameplate when it debuted in 2003, the CLS has matured into a must-have in the Mercedes line-up, allowing the marque to keep the E-Class on its inoffensively conservative track with, Mercedes insists, surprisingly little cannibalisation between the two similarly sized cars.

"The new CLS is a design icon as the archetype of the four-door coupé," Daimler’s chief design officer Gorden Wagener claims. "In line with our hot and cool design philosophy, we have reduced its DNA to an extremely puristic level while emotionally charging it with an almost erotic beauty."

Right. Moving on, then ….

The base cars will ride on fixed-rate steel springs, though active dampers are an option, while top-spec versions can be fitted with Body Control air suspension setups.

LED headlights are standard equipment even on the base 350d, but Benz claims the Ultra Range version reaches the "maximum light intensity permitted by law", with more than
1 Lux at more than 650m.

Benz is working to position itself as a cutting-edge in-car connectivity operator, delivering both the In-Car-Office and Mercedes-Benz Link to back it up. Along with a 12.3-inch infotainment screen, the base CLS package includes 18-inch alloy wheels, 64 colour choices for ambient lighting, illuminated air vents, lane-keeping systems, a speed limit assistant and a communications module with LTE.

Sportiness

Where the E-Class and S-Class interiors are all about sumptuousness, the CLS trends more towards sportiness, complete with flowing dash design.

It retains the high-resolution twin-screen pioneered by the S-Class, though it integrates it better, with its two 12.3-inch high-resolution screens nestled beneath a shared glass cover.

It will come with three interior design styles, while its driving software includes all the S-Class’s semi-autonomous technologies. Besides active cruise control, navigation-supported Level 2 autonomy and the usual array of lane-keeping and self-parking systems, there is an unusual new feature. Dubbed Pre-Safe Sound by Mercedes, it uses the sound system’s noise-cancelling abilities to "prepare human hearing for the anticipated accident noise when there’s a risk of collision".

We don’t really understand what that means either.

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