There something quite magnificent about slipping into a well-made leather car seat, hearing the pleasing thud of the door closing and rolling away to the sound of silence. It’s relaxing, but also grounding which was exactly the salve Madam Wheels needed after something of a wild weekend with fellow car enthusiasts in Sydney.
The realities of life were quickly forgotten once I was immersed in the exquisite cabin of the new Mercedes-Benz CLS 450. A canister of perfume mounted in the glovebox piped its fragrance through the pretty air vents, while ambient lighting changed to reflect the heating or cooling (red to blue lights) in the cockpit.
‘It’s not just a luxurious, comfortable cruiser for the long haul; its sporty nature becomes apparent in quick-turning back streets.’
On approach, it was a rather austere-looking vehicle, finished as it was in “Obsidian Black Metallic” paint. But it took no time to get across why the CLS has long been a favourite among Mercedes converts, especially now that it has a swag of functionality and technology included down from the brand’s higher E- and S-Classes.If I thought the car was comfortable at first blush, I was delighted to find that many desirable moods and physical states could be induced or enhanced at the push of a button or twist of a dial. But we’ll get to this fun stuff later
Leaving the Mercedes-Benz Australian headquarters at Mulgrave, in Melbourne’s south-east, I eased the car on to the city-bound Monash Freeway and immediately activated the adaptive cruise control, setting the distance well back from the car ahead then settled back into that comfortable dark chocolate-brown chair.
As if sensing my malaise, the car’s lane-keeping assist system kicked in, part of an additional Driving Assistance package which, along with autonomous braking, evasive steering and blind-spot warning, helped dispense with whatever anxiety was attempting to keep a grip on me.
After the unruly Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrofolgio test drive of the week before, being back in an all-wheel drive was a relief. And like every Mercedes-Benz, there are plenty of safety features on board this large, five-seat sedan with nine airbags, ABS and traction and stability control in the mix.
Yet far from looking conservative, the coupe-like line of the roof gives it a contemporary edge while providing plenty of poise through the twists and turns of the city’s back streets during my week behind the wheel.
With its E-Class platform topped with the sophisticated functionality of the S-Class, the CLS 450 manages to look aggressive yet soft at the same time. It’s always been a head-turner, but this third-generation version is even more of a standout with its forward-slanting front-end and long, smooth body lines. Oblique headlights and the trapezoidal grille lift the look dramatically.
Frameless windows on the four soft-closing doors remain a nice touch atop the 19-inch AMG 5-Twin Spoke Alloy Wheels on my variant, and I love the way the tail tapers like a speedboat. One downside of the steep sloping roof, however, is that it does restrict visibility, and might make for tricky entry and exit for tall folk.
But it does make the sedan feel like a coupe inside, and it’s powerful, too. Put your foot down and the gear shifts are quick and decisive whether you’re operating in rear or all-wheel drive, with or without the optional air suspension.
It’s not just a luxurious, comfortable cruiser for the long haul, either; its sporty nature becomes apparent in those quick-turning back streets.
Inside, the modern and elegant design showcases how forward-thinking the top car brands are these days. Head-up display and two 12.3-inch digital screens display their myriad bits of information in crystal-clear detail. This includes the operations of a new integrated electric motor called an EQ Boost. It’s not quite a hybrid system as the electrics don’t drive the wheels, but they do charge the battery and add to available power.
The dash features a lot of attention to detail like the stitching in the soft leather which surrounds the air vents, the white lines in the piano-black lacquer, the textures and piping of the seats, the wave-like curve of the dash.
All of this is backlit with that ambient lighting which can cycle, if you choose, through 64 colours automatically, illuminating the doors and headlining.
There’s even a gym class on board, with a woman’s voice directing the driver through a series of exercises designed to work certain muscles while driving with mood music in the background. If things warm up too much, the front seats are ventilated. And on cold days, seat heating is thoughtfully extended through the centre consul and door-mounted armrests.
Priced at $155,500 before on-road costs, Mercedes-Benz’s CLS 450 is a car that suits those who like to take things easy and are looking for ways to check out of the chaos of the day-to-day trudge.
Just get in, sit back and relax.
Madam Wheels Verdict
Madam Wheels Worthy?
The CLS 450 is an elegant, classy, comfortable set of wheels which is large enough for a small family but delightful to drive solo, especially after a stressful day.
Buy: Because you’ve already got too much to think about and you’d rather the car takes some of the hard yards out of the drive.
Avoid: If you like road noise and road feel. There isn’t a great deal of it here.
Likes: The comfort-factor is next level. It’s quiet, smooth-riding, and takes all the hard work out of driving in peak-hour Melbourne, which is worth a lot to any motorist these days.
Dislikes: The lack of headroom in the back.
Delivering: On sale now.
Bottom line: $A155,500 before on-road and dealer delivery costs.