Inside & Out: 9/10
This second-generation Mercedes-Benz CLS is not just a facelift; this is an entirely new car. It is longer and sits on a longer wheelbase than before, which helps to address what was poor leg- and headroom in the rear of the previous model.
The styling changes are dramatic, adopting design cues from the SLS AMG supercar and the transformation is a welcome one. While we did like the look of the previous CLS initially, it did age quite quickly.
The cabin has been redesigned too. We aren't major fans of column shift gear levers, which you'll find in the CLS, but aside from this the cabin is a pretty special place to be. There is a marked improvement in the quality of the materials used in the cockpit and they are much more modern. There are perhaps a little too many buttons on the centre console, which seems a little cluttered.
Engine & Transmission: 8/10
There is a two-model line-up for Ireland. New is a four-cylinder diesel, the 204hp 250 CDI automatic with emissions of just 134g/km. The more powerful option is a V6-engined CLS 350 CDI with 261hp, which costs €71,700 with Band D CO2 emissions of 159g/km. That's the car we tested.
It never feels ferociously fast but it is definitely urgent and the seven-speed automatic transmission is simple to use and provides for a very relaxed drive.
Ride & Handling: 7/10
The CLS has much better steering feedback than we expected - something the E-Class, with which it shares a platform, could do with. The steering is responsive and it helps the car to feel agile despite its size.
Ride comfort in our test car, with AMG options, was a little on the hard side for a luxury four-door, but it is probably worth it given how impressive the 19-inch AMG wheels look.
Equipment, Economy & Value for Money: 7/10
The entry-level CLS 250 CDI, thanks in part to its low emissions, comes in 23 per cent lower in price (€13,150) than the previous entry-level model, which was a six-cylinder diesel. It has emissions of 134g/km placing it is in motor tax Band B.
All CLS models get a three-spoke multifunction steering wheel, 'Audio 20 CD', climate control, cruise control, rain sensing wipers, bi-xenon headlamps, LED tail lights and Active Parking Assist.
Our test car featured an array of options, including LED Intelligent Light System, Ambient Lighting, full leather, 19-inch multi-spoke alloy wheels, electric heated front seats, media interface, metallic paint and Harman Kardon Sound system. That little lot amounts to €17,300 worth of extras.
Fuel economy of 6.0 litres/100km is pretty impressive for a six-cylinder diesel with this much power - and emissions of 159g/km are low too.
This is one of our top picks for 2011 in the executive segment. It is a simply superb-looking car and those looks are now matched by even better driving dynamics.
Mercedes-Benz CLS 350 CDI:
- Engine: 3.0-litre turbocharged six-cylinder diesel
- Maximum power: 261hp at 3,800rpm
- Maximum torque: 620Nm at 1,600rpm
- Acceleration (0-100km/h): 6.2 seconds
- Maximum speed: 250km/h
- Fuel economy (combined cycle): 6.0 litres/100km (47mpg)
- CO2 emissions: 159g/km
- Motor tax band: D
- Annual road tax: €447
- Retail price: Official price of test car without options is €71,700