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Mercedes-Benz CLS 2018 Range Road Test

From skinny jeans to high-heel stilettos, people are happy to make some sacrifices when it comes to style, hence why the Mercedes-Benz CLS has proven such a success. Luckily, this time round style-conscious owners won't have to make quite so many compromises for the third-generation 2018 CLS Coupe. 

Sharing its slippery looks from no less than the Mercedes-AMG GT 4-Door supercar, the latest instalment is striking in the flesh - and it should be, because compared to the E-Class it's based on, the CLS commands a premium of almost £7800 over a similar spec saloon.

Longer, wider and fractionally taller than before, there's more space inside the cabin and even more headroom, but the biggest gain is the addition of a fifth seat. It might not sound much, but the first two CLS models were strictly four seaters that put many small families off squeezing into the stylish coupe for their everyday wheels. Factor in its 520-litre boot and the CLS Coupe, even with its reduced rear headroom, isn't quite the selfish buying decision it once was.

Inside, it's hard not to be seduced by the CLS' cabin that manages to feel both luxurious and sporty and difficult to fault for both fit and finish. It's the attention to detail that grabs your eye, crank up the heat and the vents all glow red, wind back the temperature and they momentarily illuminate cool blue.

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To help distance the regular CLS from the exotic AMG GT 4-Door, the third instalment no longer has the option of the flagship '63' AMG V8 engine. Replacing the V8 is the 435PS '53' AMG engine, a smooth-spinning straight-six cylinder that gets the 'EQ Boost' 48-volt mild hybrid technology. This handy piece of tech provides another 22PS and 250Nm in short bursts when you need it.

Excitingly, the new hybrid tech isn't exclusive to the priciest AMG models and is shared with the two other petrols available in the range. If you need a more efficient diesel, meanwhile, there's the choice of two – the all-new 3.0-litre straight-six with either 286PS or 340Ps and an entry-level 2.0-litre that will power the CLS 220d and become the best-selling CLS in the UK. All engines come with the firm's nine-speed automatic gearbox and there's no option of a manual transmission – even on the sportiest CLS53.

We drove the CLS 350d that comes with the firm's 4Matic all-wheel drive. It makes for an effortless combination, especially in the wintry conditions we drove. Traction even over ice with winter tyres was never an issue, even with the incredible 600Nm of torque available from just 1200rpm. Taking just 5.7 seconds to hit 62mph, the powerful diesel does without the fancy new EQ Boost but still manages a claimed 48.7mpg.

Impressive, considering that same fuel figure is shared with the mightier still CLS 400d that produces even more power (340PS) and torque (700Nm) and can sprint to 62mph in just 5.0 seconds but, with the on-going backlash against diesel, we decided to focus our attention on the 3.0-litre six-cylinder petrol.

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It's no secret the CLS 53 and 450 share the same 3.0-litre straight-six cylinder that comes with twin-turbocharges and EQ Boost. In the AMG version it produces 435PS, which is a long way off the old CLS 63's 577PS and so it feels behind the wheel. Not that it isn't fast, the less powerful CLS 53 can still hammer to 62mph in just 4.5 seconds, only 0.4 seconds slower than the old V8, but those accustomed to the old AMG flagship might feel the new car's quiet, cultured engine will feel a little too sane and sanitised. 

Shame, because it's certainly the best to drive in the CLS. Coming standard with all-wheel drive and air suspension, the fast AMG provides a good blend of comfort and scalpel-sharp agility, even in zero-degree temperatures. Switching to the less powerful, more comfort-biased CLS 450 (that can still complete the 0-62mph dash in 4.8secs) only goes to highlight the differences and over the same roads had us yearning to be back in the AMG with its superior body control.

Back on the highway the CLS cruises quietly and soaks up the miles as quietly as a regular E-Class with the same option of semi-autonomous cruise control that steers, accelerates, brakes and maintains its position within its lane without any input from the driver. Less welcome is the new Evasive Steering Assist that's supposed to automatically steer you away from hitting an object but can be triggered accidentally giving the steering wheel a sharp tug in a different direction to the one you're travelling which, we can tell you, is terrifying.

That glitch aside, the CLS remains as desirable as ever. Sure, an E-Class is the cheaper, more rational choice but the far more stylish CLS is equally comfortable, capable and a relaxing place to spend time with less compromises than ever before.

The Mercedes-Benz CLS Coupe is on sale now.

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