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2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class Review

The 2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS, the car that launched a thousand four-door coupes, fortifies its position with a modest re-do that includes a more affordable V-6 version to match up against the Audi A7 and the BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe.

The "starter" CLS

A courtyard full of fresh-for-2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS's at London's posh Rosewood Hotel included a stunning Shooting Brake wagon that, unsurprisingly, will be denied a U.S. visa. One consolation is this fall's 2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS400. This "starter" version's biturbo 3.0-liter V-6 supplies an ample 329 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque. That exceeds the Audi A7's 310 horses and 325 pound-feet from its same-sized, supercharged V-6. The Benz biturbo feels as overachieving here as it does in the C400 sedan. Our early hunch predicts a quite-satisfying 0-60 time, sneaking in below six seconds for either the rear-wheel-drive or 4Matic all-wheel-drive versions.

Fuel economy, naturally, should top the 17/25 mpg of the V-8-powered CLS550; while undercutting the CLS550's base price of $74,125. Mercedes didn't reveal pricing as we sampled several versions of 2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS en route to the delightful Goodwood Festival of Speed, but an A7-fighting figure of roughly $67,000 seems a smart bet.

That 2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS550 will continue with its lusty 402-hp 4.7-liter biturbo (with 443 pound-feet), along with its popular 4Matic version for $2500 extra. With transmission one-upmanship all the rage, the CLS550 will also introduce Mercedes' new fuel-sipping, nine-speed 9G-Tronic automatic to America, but only in rear-wheel-drive versions.

Style, evolved

Our first glimpse of the 2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS came at the Dairy Arts centre in London, where New York art superstar Julian Schnabel - a brilliant film director ("Before Night Falls," "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly") but washed-up painter is holding his first gallery show in Britain in fifteen years. Here, the slope-roofed CLS easily overshadowed Schnabel's canvases. This Generation 2.5 version seems the best-looking CLS yet, its revised front end sporting fat air intakes and a chromed diamond grille that resembles a constellation of stars.

American regulators deny us (at least for now) the CLS' big technical hoo-ha: Multibeam LED lighting. Each headlamp module links with a camera and four control units, that calculate the ideal light pattern 100 times per second and can individually control each of 24 LEDs over 255 dimming levels. Besides longer-range illumination, the idea is to precisely illuminate roads and road edges across all speeds and environments, including anticipating curves.

The interior is mostly carryover, including the handsome, sandwich-layered dashboard. But a new eight-inch Comand screen perches atop the dash like a mini drive-in theater. The 2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS also adopts Mercedes' latest gadgets including Distronic cruise with its magic, curve-following Steering Assist.

The graceful, cosseting CLS400 and CLS550 reminded us why swells around the world have bought 120,000 CLS models just since its 2010 redesign: The pontoon-style rear fenders, odd at first, resolve the rear end in a way the boat-tailed original never managed. And by out-styling a conventional E-Class sedan, the CLS hit on a trend-setting formula that makes otherwise rational people pay thousands extra to feel a bit better about themselves, and their car.

AMG's S-Model

Those with $107,425 to blow will feel downright euphoric, via the psychotropic drug called the 2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG S-Model 4Matic. But the S-Model version becomes the sole choice, with 577 horses and 590 pound-feet from its 5.5-liter biturbo V-8 and Speedshift seven-speed automatic. All-wheel drive is standard.

Some AMG models struggle to make a case in logic, sticker price or both. But this CLS63 is a sweetheart of the AMG rodeo, dripping with desirability and aggression. On British freeways, the CLS63 flicked lesser cars aside with barbaric glee. Mercedes claims a 3.6-second catapult to 60 mph. Carbon-ceramic brakes are an option for the first time.

Rolling into Goodwood, our convoy of CLS's proved appropriately dressed for the occasion, and easily muscular and rumbly enough to impress this gearhead gathering. Sure, it's based on the E-class, but the 2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS brings an undeniable extra measure of style and performance. Clearly, there's something to be said for this four-door coupe business.

2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class Specifications

  • On sale Fall 2014
  • Base price $67,000 (est. )/$74,125/$107,425 (CLS400/CLS500/CLS63 AMG)
  • Engines 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6, 329 hp, 354 lb-ft 4.7-liter twin-turbo V-8, 402 hp, 443 lb-ft 5.5-liter twin-turbo V-8, 577 hp, 590 lb-ft
  • Transmissions 7- or 9-speed automatic
  • Drive Rear- or all-wheel
  • Fuel economy N/A