I find in life it’s the experiences you have lower expectations about that often become the most memorable. Be it a night out with the gents or a restaurant you’ve stumbled across on an overseas trip, when you go into something expecting less you’re more often happier with the results. There’s been a number of vehicles I’ve driven that have delivered on this theory, most recently the Mercedes-Benz CLS 500. It’s not that I wasn’t expecting it to be good, I just didn’t realise how good.
Let me start by saying I’ve always been a fan of the CLS shape and the refined styling is absolutely spot on. The side profile is nothing short of glorious, showing of the car’s long body, low-slung roof and wonderful lines running away from the front and over the rear wheels. The 19inch AMG wheels and AMG body styling give the car a dramatic edge, bridging the gap between luxury saloon and sports coupe. For a 4.9 metre long family four door it has a lot of character, it feels boisterous and playful but equally as settled when you want it to be.
Perhaps its boisterous nature can be attributed to Thor’s hammer waiting under the bonnet. Just like Mjolnir itself, when you stamp the accelerator to the floor you summon the 300kw storm that comes from the 4.7 litre bi-turbo V8. In Sport it eagerly awaits to be unleashed, willing you to apply more and more pressure to the right pedal. It delivers with thunderous propulsion, pinning you to the AMG seats and continuing to pull hard up through the gears. The CLS 500 feels outrageously quick but it’s also heavy, something you are reminded of instantly when you brake hard to enter a corner, adaptive seats bolstering you in like a hug from a Sumo wrestler.
Let’s be honest though, these cars rarely get pushed to their peak. A quick application of power to pass a Sunday driver is probably about as much action as your typical CLS 500 will ever see. It’s most at home on the highway, sitting in the outside lane, attempting to deliver optimum efficiency from the seamless nine speed gearbox while the driver and his passenger relax in ultimate comfort, cycling through the endless heating, cooling, lumbar and massage options built into the seats. The new steering wheel and red seat belts are brilliant, as is the warm amber glow running along the dashboard at night. The entertainment system works flawlessly, the default comfort mode is beautifully balanced and the active park assist makes even the tightest spots achievable.
What left me enthralled with this car was how well it did everything. From sitting in traffic, to cruising on the motorway, and even a quick jaunt pushing it to its limits (or mine as a driver), I thought it was excellent. It’s a car you always look forward to getting in and one you’d prefer to not get out of. Traditionally this category has appealed to older generations however I think the CLS 500 has a youthful exuberance about it, one that will attract affluent (this one tested comes in at $173,390) consumers in a younger market. Whether it’s worth laying down the extra cash for the V8 over the excellent twin turbo V6 engine featured in the cheaper CLS400 and E400 (which I drove last year) is certainly worth some thought. Aside from the interior screen, which seems to be the norm across the whole Mercedes-Benz fleet now, I can’t think of a single qualm I had with the CLS 500. I loved it, and I’d be perfectly content driving it everyday for the rest of my life.