Driving the Mercedes-Benz CLS 300d is mildly unnerving. You feel all exposed, like a deer caught in the headlamps, with pretty much everyone around you turning to look once… twice…and sometimes even a third time. I don’t know about you guys but I don’t get this kind of attention everyday and I am not used to it. At all. It’s difficult for me to keep staring ahead through that raked windscreen, past that sculpted muscular bonnet while a pair of googly eyes inside a full face helmet tries to peer inside the car. Eventually, there are fleeting moments of panic. Did I do something? Should I have done something? Am I dressed wrong? Once you get past those moments you realise, it’s all down to the long, lithe Merc you’re in.
You could well have been the Hollow Man and nobody would have given a damn. The Mercedes-Benz would still have their attention. It really is that good looking. Good looking enough for a lady neighbour who has never spoken to me even once in the past two years to turn around, flash a bright smile and say, “Wow! What a good looking car!” I returned the smile and thanked her politely, trying to emit as much class and sophistication as possible in order to match my ride. That’s the other thing about the CLS. It sets an example that you wish to emulate. You want to be in there, nattily dressed. You want to feel suave and sophisticated. You want to fit in, because there is nothing this side of a crore that will offer you so much style and luxury in one package.
“Good looking enough for a lady neighbour who has never spoken to me even once in the past two years to turn around, flash a bright smile.”
Underpinning this Rs 84.7 lakh, ex-showroom, saloon – somehow the word sedan seems so inadequate, is actually the E-Class that we’re all familiar with. So what’s the fuss all about then you’d wonder at first. After all, this is just an E underneath. Yes it is, but what your eyes see when this matte charcoal (it isn’t black mind you) saloon drives in, isn’t the E. What you see are simple lines that create an elegant yet svelte and absolutely ravishing form. It’s like Black Widow in an evening gown. Inviting.
And when you do get in, you’re swaddled in luxury but with swathes of style. It is as Mercedes-Benz says, the impression is refined but the temptation, major. The brushed aluminium in just that right dose, the leather wrapped flat-bottomed steering wheel hinting at a sportier experience than what you would expect in the Mercedes-Benz E-Class that underpins the CLS, the soft touch leather upholstery all around, this is a cabin you don’t want to get out of. Obviously, I’m talking about the front of the cabin but once you’re sprawled on those low plush rear seats you won’t mind being there either. Because you’ll be thoroughly pampered and seduced with clever ambient lighting till you’re feeling completely mellow and relaxed. You see, the CLS does luxury almost as well as the E. Perhaps the only place where the long wheelbase E will outdo the CLS is in its offer of S-Class like rear room, but other than that as far as straight up luxury goes, there isn’t much to separate the two.
Strangely, in spite of being a fair bit dearer, a million bucks dearer, than the E-Class on which it is based, the Mercedes-Benz CLS only gets the 2-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel in India. No 3-litre six-cylinder petrol or 3-litre straight six diesel like it does elsewhere. So you’d imagine that the CLS then is about all show and no go, and pat! That’d be the wrong answer. For that humble 1950cc straight four puts out a healthy 241bhp and a brawny 500Nm of peak twist. All of which is sent via a 9-speed auto ’box to the rear wheels to push the 2445-kilo heft of this stately saloon to a sexy 0-100kmph run of just 6.4 seconds and on to a top whack of 250kmph. And it isn’t just numbers either, for the CLS is genuinely engaging.
Which isn’t really surprising because very honestly you’d be hardpressed to find a rear-wheel drive car that isn’t. Sure, it isn’t as engaging as the BMW 6 GT, which is its natural competitor even though in India the Bimmer is mostly bought as an alternative to the E. But on its own the CLS is quite enjoyable. It’s just that when you tug on the paddles to shift through the cogs, the transmission tends to go back to auto a little too quickly for my liking. The other thing I didn’t like is, in spite of all that oozing sex appeal, she’s a tease. There’ll be no wild side to her that’ll have you all spent and happy. For there is no way you can switch off the electronic trickery that keeps her shapely dérriere in place. She’ll waltz with you and might even risk a salsa, but a risque tango? Thanks, but no thanks.
Sophistication being her middle name, the Mercedes-Benz CLS has a graceful poise that’s hard to mimic. It doesn’t matter how bad things might be at the surface, she lets nothing impact her relationship with you. Brought up to the highest standards of German automotive aristocracy, she doesn’t need to be sent to a finishing school to ensure that the shock of every undulation, pothole and rut is soaked up with a sponge like efficiency. And yet, there is no overtly wallowy softness to her character. The softness is there only to ensure that life in the CLS doesn’t get harsh. Again, that perfect balance.
Honestly, it’s rather difficult to fault the Mercedes-Benz CLS. You could, of course, demand the bigger engine options and a wilder streak but that really isn’t what this saloon is all about. If you’re into that sort of dirty dancing then you’d rather be heading for the ones with the letters A, M and G. The CLS? Its primary purpose is to introduce you to the world in a way that your world of luxury and comfort doesn’t forget the statement you made on your entrance. One could of course argue that so does the rather grand looking E-Class long wheelbase. It wouldn’t be far from the truth either, but then would it do so with so much style?