Lovely interior and ride make up for dull dynamics
2018 Mercedes Benz CLS 450
THE INLINE-SIX IS back, baby. Forget BMW – as the automotive world pinches its nose and prepares to plunge feet-first into full electrification, Mercedes-Benz has built a brandnew straight-six powered by petrol and ready to replace the forgettable V6s currently in service across its range.
Today we’re sampling this new modular 3.0-litre beauty, the ‘M256’, in Mercedes-Benz’s new CLS 450. While not an AMG, it still does 0-100km/h in 4.8 seconds, claims Merc, thanks to that sizzling new six-pot twin-turbo belting out a V8-matching 270kW/500Nm. The electric motor supplying a further 16kW/250Nm of electric boost over short periods.
This is our first taste of Merc’s new third-gen CLS on Aussie soil, a car based on the E-Class, and one that’s copped the new ‘predator’ corporate face treatment which we’ll leave up to you. In CLS 450 guise, the grunty petrol engine works with a clever 48-volt mild hybrid system.
While there’s a 12v battery under the bonnet, there’s also a 48v battery centrally mounted under the boot floor, scavenging power from a clever combined starter/alternator/generator/ motor unit and then sending it back when needed. As well as the previously mentioned brisk, fuss-free acceleration, it helps the big, nigh-on two-tonne Merc achieve an impressive claimed combined 7.8L/100km. The new straight-six is a great engine.
Smooth, quiet and powerful, we are curious to hear it in AMG guise. Even with a standard “Sports exhaust” it’s quite sensible in CLS 450 trim, letting rip a polite bark that steps up an octave with the powertrain in Sport Plus, presumably assisted by some realistic, yet fake engine noise coming through the interior speakers. Sensible could describe the handling as well.
This is a car calibrated for the mass market, choosing to err on the side of refinement and comfort over precision and agility, absolutely appropriate for this car and its intended customers. There is not much satisfaction or enjoyment to be had from driving the CLS 450 harder and harder, where you’ll find increasing amounts of understeer and ESP intervention.
Yet it still bolts along backroads quicker than the performance cars of yesteryear and is always sure-footed. Traction is clean and plentiful thanks to the 45/55 frontrear split all-wheel drive system. Really, you purchase a CLS 450 for the luxurious, high-tech interior, plush Air Suspension and the striking styling. If you love driving fast and hard, you’re better off waiting for the more focused, 320kW/520Nm AMG CLS 53, arriving in November priced from $179,529.