SA's premium automotive magazine

Launch Pad: Mercedes-Benz CLS250 CDI

Clean and classy

Richard Macaskill

Mercedes-Benz launched the all-new CLS a while back now, but something was missing from its arsenal. See, there was the then baby of the bunch 350, the awesome 500 and the insane 63 AMG, but they were all petrol models. Now, however, Mercedes has added a new baby to the CLS range, and this time it’s a diesel. Enter the CLS250 CDI, which is powered by Merc’s hugely impressive 2,2-litre twin-turbo oil-burner, which has no less than 150 kW of power and a mighty 500 Nm of torque on tap.

But what does this mean for the CLS range? See, it’s a high-end car, so does a small diesel really fit well into such a classy package? At first I might have said no, but after having driven the CLS250 CDI, I reckon it absolutely fits, better than I could ever have imagined.

It’s those power and torque outputs are key here, because while it’s a smaller engine than Mercedes would usually put in a car of this size, there’s more than enough grunt on offer and there’s plenty of go to match the show. And show there is. The CLS is as classy and stylish as ever despite the diminutive diesel under the bonnet and still cuts a bold, imposing figure that’s full of presence.

Stylish outside, classy inside, the CLS250 CDI is as luxurious as the rest of the range, the new engine not taking anything away from the overall package. Inside, it’s well put together, the choice of materials is top notch and it really is a supremely comfortable place to be. It’s spacious and well laid out with good ergonomics, though I do have to admit that I’m still not a fan of Merc’s Comand integrated driver control system. I find systems like BMW’s iDrive and Audi’s MMI far more intuitive. That said, I still really like the interior of the CLS – it’s modern and contemporary, but still classy in a classic way that leaves driver and passengers cocooned in a supremely comfortable, luxurious and attractive cabin.

That, though, is the same as you’d expect from any CLS – and that’s the key thing here – with the CLS250 CDI you get exactly what you’d expect from such a car: style, luxury, performance. You just also happen to get the added benefit of fuel efficiency that comes with the clean 2,2-litre oil-burner. In fact, it needs just 5,1 litres of diesel to travel 100 km/h, depending on wheel size, and it emits just 134 g/ km of carbon dioxide.

But you don’t lose out on the performance front. No, the CLS250 will still get to 100 km/h in 7,5 seconds and go on to a top speed of 242 km/h. Certainly nothing to be scoffed at. In fact, I reckon the 250 CDI has enough performance for most CLS drivers and I think you’ll find, perhaps with the exception of AMG buyers, a lot of people would purchase a bigger petrol engine for status and not use more then the 250 offers in any case.

To drive, the 250 is smooth and quiet, very refined for a diesel engine. It will tug along happily at the national speed limit, but when you want to put your foot down there’s no shortage of grunt. It handles well, too, and boasts superlative electromechanical steering. Of course, we can’t forget that this BlueEfficiency model is designed first and foremost to be clean and frugal, and with that in mind Mercedes has introduced a new Eco Display that measures your driving and scores you according to how efficiently you’re piloting the CLS. It measures acceleration, deceleration and consistency and gives you a percentage mark, and the brains at Merc’s reckon that this could improve your habits to the tune of a whopping 30% reduction in consumption.

Mercedes says its BlueEfficiency philosophy is now in full swing, and that it’s about more than just clean engines, but about aerodynamics (the CLS has a drag coefficient of 0,26), efficient and intelligent energy management, systems sucks as stop/start, weight saving technologies and methods and more, and e 250 CDI is proof that this holistic approach to the greening of the car works. Between me and my driving partner, our CLS averaged 6,1 l/100 km during the varied 200-odd kilometre launch route.

At this stage there are no more diesels planned for the CLS range, but you know what? I don’t think Mercedes needs them. This new engine is superb in just about every way and, while it offers the benefits of a small diesel (small for a car of this size, anyway), it doesn’t take away from any of the ‘CLS-ness’ you’d expect this car to have. All in all an intelligent, well-rounded and great overall package.

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