Engine: Twin-Turbo 3.0L V6
Power: 329 HP / 354 LB-FT
Transmission: 7-Speed Automatic
Top Speed: 130 MPH
Drivetrain: All-Wheel Drive
Engine Placement: Front
Curb Weight: 4,189 LBS
Cargo: 15.3 CU-FT
MPG: 20 City / 28 HWY
Base Price: $65,990
As Tested Price: $86,280
Rocky IV debuted in 1985 but it was a few years later that I first watched it, on video. I loved every second of that terrible movie. I loved Drago's super-high-tech demonstration of punching power. I loved Rocky training in a Russian barn, with ropes, and yokes, and wagons. But mostly I loved Brigitte Nielsen. My 10-year-old brain sweated her impossible combination of curves and sharp edges, demure eyes, and sculpted bone structure. The perfect woman, but evolved by the power of the dark-hearted Soviet Union (or Denmark, whatever, I was ten).
Red Sonja has a lot in common with the latest version of the Mercedes-Benz CLS, as I see it. Mercedes created a new market niche with its first four-door coupe, a sedan so well-proportioned, flowing, and femininely curved that it could pull off its inaccurate moniker. The third evolution of the CLS you see here has Nielsened up the shape into something altogether more angular and edgy, but like 1985's Brigitte, retains an undeniable sex appeal.
It's a more opinionated piece of auto design than was the original CLS. And also a car that bifurcates the space between luxury coupe and luxury sedan. Ludmilla Drago would undoubtedly understand.
For the base engine of a 4,200-pound car, the CLS400's two-turbo V6 does better than just get out of its own way. The full 354 pound-feet of torque is available way down at 1,600 revs, and plateaus until 4,000, giving you a fat band in which to call up power. Acceleration is available in the form of a quiet, gracious, but not aggressive push at just about every speed.
From inside the cabin, the engine and exhaust noises are pleasantly rumbling, though muted. But do yourself a favor and try not to listen to the CLS tick over while standing around the driveway. When the car first pulled up in mine, warm from some 40 miles of highway, it still sounded an awful lot like a 2.0T on a mid-March morning.
Not to belabor the Brigitte metaphor, but I found as much Neilsenian dichotomy in the ride and handling as I did the exterior styling. Especially with Mercedes' 4Matic system spreading out the grip, I found the CLS to be sharp when pushed, and rather excellent in terms of making quick corrections while under a cornering load. And yet, you've got to push through an initially soft suspension response to reach that hard edge. The CLS will initially resist being tossed around a winding backroad, but press on and she'll do as you ask.
Steering response was far quicker than I'd expected from a car with this much base between its wheels. Effort is high, too, offering a weighty experience but without serious road feel (a lady needs some secrets, I suppose).
I've enjoyed Mercedes' Active Multicontour seats since my first sampling of them (in a W212 E63 AMG). These chairs not only adjust their fit by way of multiple air bladders, but they also actively move the side bolsters to hold you in place while cornering. In my test CLS400, the driver's seat alone had been optioned with the tech, for the bargain price of $660. To me, that's a steal. Frankly, I'm only going to be cornering hard enough to really enjoy the active seat when I'm driving alone, so why pay for more?
Functionally, the rest of the interior was good, but perhaps a bit disappointing considering the $86,000 as-tested price. I love the new COMAND software and graphical treatment, but the CLS still uses the older-style controller, without the touch pad on top. This, along with the interior design, feels instantly old when I look at the techy, stylish confines of the far-cheaper C-Class. Thankfully it's still hushed inside, setting a perfect sound stage for John Cafferty's Hearts On Fire. (Cassette deck sold separately.)
Uh...you're aware they don't share anything besides the motor right? This is a bigger, more premium offering. I've driven both cars now (C-class loaner, CLS400 test drive) and you can definitely tell why the CLS is more expensive, despite the C-class being fantastic.
Originally Posted by Mr. Burns
Kinda lost a bit of its character with the new generic MB front end refresh.
The coupe looks good but the shooting brake/estate is sex on wheels. I saw one in metallic maroon cruise into the parking lot of my usual lunch noodle place and man, my jaw dropped... The sweeping side profile and the sharp yet curvaceous lines look stunning in the flesh, like some wild 60's concept car time-warped to 2015. To me, it's the best Mercedes design so far.