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2018 Mercedes-Benz CLS unveiled with new straight-six engine

Autocar Wednesday, 29 November 2017
A range of new powertrains are available with economy in mind - a 450bhp CLS53 AMG variant is also set to come next year

Mercedes-Benz has unveiled the third-generation CLS at the Los Angeles motor show, confirming the new saloon, which it continues to defiantly bill as a four-door coupe, will spawn a sporting CLS53 model from its AMG performance car division.

The new CLS53 is planned to join the mechanical identical E53 saloon and E53 estate models in a three-strong line-up of new AMG models to be unveiled at next year’s Detroit motor show – all featuring a newly developed in-line six-cylinder engine with mild-hybrid properties.

The new petrol engine, based heavily on the turbocharged 3.0-litre unit used by the standard CLS400, will usher in electric boosting via an integrated starter motor for added performance potential in Mercedes’ answer to the likes of the upcoming second-generation Audi S7 and recently introduced BMW M550i.

With Mercedes planning to replace the existing CLS63 with an upcoming twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 production version of the five-door AMG GT Concept, the CLS53 is set to become the top model within the new CLS line-up, which will support six models in all: the CLS350, CLS450, CLS300d, CLS350d, and CLS400d. 

*Opinion: Why the new CLS shows that creases are dead*

With over 350,000 sales to date, the CLS has proven popular since its introduction in 2005. But with prospective customers gravitating more and more towards Mercedes’ ever-growing line-up of SUV models, its worldwide sales have slowed significantly in recent times.

As such, the new model, which goes under the internal codename C257, will only be produced in saloon form only. The CLS Shooting Brake, which has failed to live up to early sales expectations following its introduction in 2012, will not be replaced.

As with its predecessors, the CLS relies heavily on the E-class, from which it borrows its platform, drivelines, chassis, electric architecture and more. Predictably, Mercedes promises improvements in performance, handling, comfort, and safety. At the same time, it says the swoopy saloon also ushers in a new exterior design lineage to be adopted by other Mercedes models in the not-too-distant-future.

Mercedes-Benz has yet to reveal the external dimensions of the new CLS, but we’re told it has grown beyond the 4940mm length, 1880mm width and 1420mm height of the outgoing second-generation model, which has been on sale since 2010.

The new saloon is also said to feature a 61mm longer wheelbase at 4988mm allowing for larger rear door apertures and easier access to back seats.

The interior of the new CLS is no longer as uniquely styled nor quite as eye-catching as those found in previous incarnations of the German saloon, which boasted their own uniquely styled facia. To provide additional economies of scale with other Mercedes models, it receives a lightly reworked version of the latest E-class’s dashboard, complete with a so-called Widescreen Cockpit with twin 12.3-inch displays for the instruments and infotainment system, and a multi-function steering wheel from the facelifted S-class.

The CLS also gets a centre rear seat as standard, giving it five-seat capability for the first time. The rear-seat backrests fold in a 40/20/40 ratio to extend the length of the boot, which boasts the same volume as the second-generation model at a nominal 520-litres.

As with the E-class, the new CLS has five standard driving assistant functions including Lane Keeping Assist and Speed Limit Assist.

Buyers can also opt for a Driving Assistance Package which adds a further eight driver assistance systems, which cumulatively provide semi-autonomous properties, with hands off the steering for up to 30sec, automatic adjustment of speed prior to bends or junctions and an automatic lane change function. 

The CLS uses a petrol and diesel in-line six-cylinder engines for the new CLS. All are turbocharged and come are mated to the German car maker’s in-house produced nine-speed 9G-Tronic automatic gearbox and 4Matic four-wheel drive system as standard. Others are planned, including base four-cylinder units.

The most powerful unit at launch is a 3.0-litre petrol unit found in the CLS450 4Matic featuring a 48-volt electric system and EQ Boost integrated starter motor providing mild hybrid properties. It has a claimed 0-62mph time of 4.8sec and limited 155mph top speed.

It delivers a nominal 362bhp and 369lb ft, with an additional 22bhp and 184lb ft available for short periods when the integrated starter motor is triggered.

The other two models at launch, the CLS350d and CLS400d, share the new 2.9-litre diesel engine in two states of tune.

Shortly after its launch, Mercedes-Benz also plans to introduce the CLS350. It runs a new turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine also featuring electronic boosting qualities.

Also planned is the CLS300d which employs Mercedes’ widely used turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel engine tuned to deliver 242bhp.

Details surround the range-topping CLS53 remains scarce, though insiders suggest its turbocharged 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder engine and integrated starter motor will deliver a combined 450bhp. In the facelifted S500, a model not sold in the UK, the new engine provides a nominal 429bhp, with an additional 22bhp delivered by the integrated starter motor for a total of 440bhp.   

Underpinned by the same chassis used by the E-class, the CLS offers three different suspension set-ups.

Order books open for the CLS next month ahead of deliveries in March 2018. The entry-level CLS 350d will start from around £57,000, which is considerably more than the outgoing model. However, the new base model comes as standard with four-wheel-drive and a six-cylinder engine. A cheaper four-cylinder variant will arrive later.

*Related stories: *

*Mercedes-Benz CLS review *

*Mercedes-Benz S-Class review *

*Mercedes-Benz CLS63 review*
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