This weekend the new 2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS celebrated its public debut at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. But before Mercedes-Benz pulled the covers of the new CLS we got an opportunity to drive the new Mercedes-Benz CLS 63 S AMG from London to Goodwood. Read all about our journey in this review of the 2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS 63 S AMG!

With over 120,000 CLS and CLS Shooting Brakes built since the introduction of the second generation Mercedes-Benz CLS in 2010, it is safe to say its quite a successful model. The Shooting Brake in particular was very well received by customers and fans of the brand alike. Four years since the introduction of the second generation we now see the launch of the mid-lifetime facelift CLS in the United Kingdom. The Shooting Brake has a strong tie with the British island as it is both the birthplace of the iconic ‘shooting brake’ and one of the key countries for sales of the CLS Shooting Brake.


The new CLS comes with a range of engines from the Mercedes-Benz CLS 220 BlueTec with a small 2.1-litre four-cylinder diesel engine delivering 168 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque, the 204hp strong 2.1 litre four-cylinder diesel CLS 250 BlueTEC, the 2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS 350 BlueTec with its turbocharged 3.0-litre diesel V6 and 254 hp and 457 lb-ft of torque outputs. The current CLS350 CGI will make way for the facelifted Mercedes-Benz CLS400 adopting a twin-turbocharged petrol 3.0-litre V6 pumping out an impressive 328 hp and 354 lb-ft of torque. Next up in the range is the revised CLS500 which features a powerful V8 with 408 hp and 442 lb-ft of torque. Noteworthy is the new 9G-Tronic nine-speed automatic transmission with hydrodynamic torque converter that is available as an optional extra in the CLS 220, CLS 250, CLS 350 and CLS 500. But enough about the ‘normal’ line-up, we came to the UK to test the range topping 2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS 63 AMG S Model.

The CLS 63 AMG Engine

The facelifted, second-generation 2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS 63 AMG features the same engine as the car it replaces. This powertrain is the company’s impressive 5.5-litre, biturbo V8 which ranks as one of the world’s most efficient production eight-cylinder engines.

In standard specification, the new CLS 63 AMG delivers a brutal 557 hp and 720Nm of torque at 1750-5250 rpm. By comparison, the range-topping 2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS 63 AMG S 4Matic pumps out 585 hp and 800Nm of torque between 1750-5000 rpm.

Performance

The rear wheel drive CLS 63 AMG with 557hp does 0-100 km/h in 4.2 seconds. Its 4matic brother does it in just 3.7 seconds, the CLS 63 AMG Shooting Brake 4matic is slightly slower with 3.8 seconds to 100 km/h. The S-model does it even faster in just 3.6 seconds from 0-100 km/h for the Coupe and 3.7 seconds from 0-100 km/h for the CLS 63 AMG S Shooting Brake. All CLS 63 AMGs are electronically limited to 250 km/h.

Gearbox & Drivetrain

The potent 5.5-litre biturbo V8 engine is mated to a quick-shifting AMG Speedshift MCT seven-speed transmission. This gearbox remains in basis identical to the outgoing model but the engineers at AMG modified both the hardware and software to make the transmission faster than before.

Especially in S+ and M modes the gearchanges are much faster than before. New are the aluminium shift paddles behind the AMG steering wheel.

Design

As the 2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS is simply a facelifted car rather than a complete replacement, the styling changes aren’t huge. With that being said, they are apparent and very eye-catching. The most dramatic change to the front end is the adoption of a new front grille complete with diamond plastic inserts to give the facelifted CLS a really luxurious feel. Also at the front, the car features an altered bumper with reshaped air intakes as well as a new front splitter and new headlights of which the Multibeam LED are an option.

Particularly for the CLS 63 AMG a range of carbon parts is available for the front bumper, side skirts and rear wing that give the car a more masculine and sporty look. Overall the exterior design changes are quite subtle as Mercedes-Benz likes to build on the success of the existing car.

Interior


Inside, the new 2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS is just as exclusive and opulent as you’d expect from any high-end Mercedes-Benz. The most prominent addition is Mercedes-Benz’s latest iteration of its COMAND infotainment system which features an eight-inch screen sitting atop the dashboard. Elsewhere, the interior of the facelifted CLS adopts a new three-spoke steering wheel and some redesigned centre console controls. All up, it is a very inviting place to sit!

The improved infotainment system now features the Media Interface as standard for connecting an iPod or iPhone with Mercedes-Benz apps like Weather, Google Local Search and Street View being available with COMAND. The new CLS also offers ConnectMe – connect your car with the ConnectMe app and you can see vehicle status and much more. Packed away from the view are a range of new assistance systems that saw their introduction on the range topping S-Class grouped together under the name Mercedes-Benz Intelligent Drive.

Multi Beam LED Headlamps

The key innovation on the new Mercedes-Benz CLS are the multi beam LED headlamps as a next generation light technology. Each cluster features 24 individually controlled high-performance LEDs. A camera positioned behind the windscreen delivers information to four control units. They measure the ideal light pattern 100 times per second, adapting the lighting to the environment and situation. The technology is used with the Adaptive Highbeam Assist Plus system, allowing the driver to use high beam without worrying about dazzling oncoming traffic.

The light offered by the new CLS headlamps features a colour temperature of 5,500 kelvin. By contrast, daylight is 6,500 kelvin whereas xenon light is just 4,200 kelvin. Each LED light gets an average useful life of about 10,000 hours, five times longer than a xenon lamp. Additionally the CLS can also be equipped with round-about light that illuminates both sides of a roundabout on approach to spot pedestrians and cyclists easier in the dark. The lights also follow the road, meaning they already light up the corner before you have even turned the wheel.

Driving Experience

We start out journey with the Mercedes-Benz CLS 63 S AMG in the center of London at the Dairy Art Center where we had a first introduction to the new CLS and CLS Shooting Brake. Just outside the gallery more than ten brand new CLS and CLS Shooting Brakes are lined up for our journey. We receive the keys for a Hyacinth Red CLS 63 AMG S model with additional exterior carbon fibre parts. In a world that is dominated by white, grey and black cars the stunning red on our CLS really stands out in the crowd.

We steer our way through downtown London, having spend over 2,000 kilometers in the last generation CLS recently, we can truly say the larger navigation screen and updates to the infotainment are a blessing. The biturbo V8 echoes off the buildings as we slowly accelerate from traffic light to traffic light through London’s rush hour.

The AMG seats offer plenty of support and comfort at the same time, although we really missed the optional seat cooling in our test car. With all settings in comfort the ride is still fairly hard over the poorly maintained streets in the British capital. We pass London’s Park Lane and the famous Harrods department store in Knightsbridge on our way out of the city. As soon as the streets widen to dual carriage way we engage the adaptive cruise control and let it work its magic mastering throttle, brakes and even steering through traffic. Out on the M4 we finally get some opportunities to put our foot down and hear the V8 under stress.

The engine of the 2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS 63 AMG S packs 585hp and 800Nm, enough to give you a proper push into the seat once you plant the throttle at the bottom. With the gearbox and engine in C and even in S, S+ it often requires a proper kick-down to get all the power out of the box. What we haven’t experienced before is that the gearbox changes down with a nice sound under hard braking without need to pull the downshift paddle. It did this both on the highway as on the various B-roads we drove on the way to Goodwood.


On the highway the CLS feels really in its element, it is quiet, stable and a very pleasant place to be. When needed it has all the power you can wish for available under your right foot. Sadly the CLS 63 AMG S Model is limited to 250 km/h as it could rival the 305 km/h limited Audi RS7 on the German autobahn. In the United Kingdom however this is not a problem you will have to overcome every day. With London behind us we leave the highway for a quick stop at the beautiful Pennyhill Park Hotel.

The break allows us to have a closer look at the exterior of the new CLS. Most significant change are the LED Multi Beam headlights that give the front a different identity. But most eye catching for us is the stunning side view of the car, most cars are prettiest from a 3/4 front or 3/4 rear view. The CLS somehow looks best from the side. Especially the carbon fibre parts and the color help with the visual impact the car has.

Back behind the wheel we hit the road and experience how easy this car sprints from standstill to 100 km/h. And every single time the sprint is accompanied by the great sound track of the V8. Switch from C to S and you can hear in idle already that the engine breathes louder with the flaps in the exhaust opened up. Driving a left hand drive car in the United Kingdom is a bit of a handicap especially on the narrow roads that lead towards Goodwood. Luckily we have some local knowledge and know exactly the road for this CLS 63 AMG S.

Off the A3, through forests and fields past little villages the smile on our face is growing. The gearbox certainly feels even more in its element in manual mode. Compared to the previously generation it seems faster and more direct and there are far fewer moments where your gear changes takes the gearbox by surprise. Only time we experienced a small hick-up was when we let the car role at 20-30 km/h and then put our foot down – it longer than desired before the car accelerated away. Also when overtaking on B-roads in automatic mode the gearbox sometimes waits too long with a downshift even in S mode.

Overall the changes with the previous generation are apparent and a good step forward. Sadly it takes a while until we can expect a double clutch 7 speed or next generation 8 or even 9 speed gearbox in any AMG as there is no alternative available within the Daimler concern that can cope with the huge torque the AMG cars produce. An issue that not just AMG has to deal with but also its competitors like Audi struggle with.

Our road test of the 2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS 63 S AMG is briefly interrupted for a visit to the annual Goodwood Festival of Speed, where we raced up the Goodwood Hill in a Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Black Series. Luckily our CLS 63 AMG S was still waiting for us by the time we returned and ready for another journey to the Mercedes-Benz World in Brooklands. Knowing the terrible traffic around Goodwood Festival of Speed we took a slight detour, once again over some of the best roads Britain has to offer. The ride in comfort is quite firm already and hardly has any body roll so unless you find yourself on a race track or the Goodwood Hillclimb there is hardly any need to use the two even stiffer suspension settings.

With the sunsetting over the English countryside there is one last thing left to test on the new CLS: the Multi Beam LED headlights. Each headlight carriers 24 LEDs per unit that can be controlled individually. This allows for some clever applications from the animation that shows each individual LED go on and turn in when you start the system to the foresighted light system that lights up an upcoming corner before you even turn the wheel. The headlights really move towards the corner before you even turn the wheel and also follow the straight again at the end of the corner.

Another feature and advantage of the 24 individual LEDs are improvements to the highbeam assistant. The new LED highbeam has a range of 485 meters, nearly 50% further than xenon headlights. Thanks to tweaks to the highbeam assitant the highbeam is not switched off completely but other vehicles are simply blended out by disabling one or more of the LEDs. This works like a charm with cars, trucks and bicycles that have their lights on. However the camera in the CLS unlike the camera in the new S-Class does not recognize pedestrians or animals so these will still be blinded and a bit of caution is required when driving with the system on.

After a long but very exciting day we return the 2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS 63 AMG S to the place-to-be for Mercedes-Benz fans in the UK: Mercedes-Benz World in Brooklands. Here we push the V8 biturbo to its redline one more time to hear the car roar. We also take a closer look at the Shooting Brake, which thanks to its flat luggage compartment and higher roofline can carry a lot of luggage. The Shooting Brake is slightly heavier than its Coupe brother but in daily life it is very hard to notice.


What to Spec?

Ready to order your new CLS but no idea what to spec? We will give you a hand with some of the options we would always consider:

  • Distronic Plus with Steering Assist and Stop & Go Pilot: Must have for everybody that drives his car further than the grocery shop – plus its the best system on the market today
  • Active Blind Spot Assist: Due to their design both the Coupe and Shooting Brake feature quite the blind spot, this will help warn you when there is something in your blind spot and even prevent a collision
  • Multi Beam LED Headlights: The new LED headlights with highbeam assist, roadabout lights and foresight function. Makes driving in the dark much easier plus they look cool too. Sadly they will not be offered to US customers from launch as they are not approved yet but we hope to see them on US shores rather sooner than later
  • Comand Online: Make the most of the new 8″ display with Comand Online, includes Bluetooth Audio, harddisc navigation with live traffic and video playback via DVD
    • Competition

      What about the CLS competitors? Mercedes-Benz was the first to launch a luxury four-door coupe back in 2004. In 2010 Audi introduced their A7 followed by the BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe a year later. That this segment is growing momentum is clear with the recent launch of the BMW 4-Series Gran Coupe and the upcoming CLA Shooting Brake.

      In the performance segment the new CLS 63 AMG S competes with the BMW M6 Gran Coupe and Audi RS7. Since the performance upgrade and introduction of the S-model in 2013 the new CLS 63 S AMG raised the bar in terms of performance and offers both more horsepower as torque than its direct competitors. The RS7 and CLS 63 AMG S both rocket from 0-100 km/h in 3.6 seconds, whereas the M6 Gran Coupe does it in 4.2 seconds. The only area where both competitors have an edge over the new CLS 63 AMG S is at top speed, limited to 250 km/h for the CLS where both competitors can have their limits raised to 305 km/h.

      In terms of looks and interior the BMW M6 Gran Coupe is still our favorite, although the new Mercedes-Benz CLS 63 AMG S in Hyacinth Red with the carbon parts comes in a very close second. Inside the Mercedes-Benz offers all the luxury you can wish for and tops the RS7 in terms of ergonomics and infotainment – however the BMW has the best ergonomics and the easiest to use system on board. Having carried over many assistance systems from the new S-Class, the CLS is leading the class when it comes to safety and assistance systems – the new LED Multi Beam headlights and various collision prevention systems being a good example here.

      The Mercedes-Benz CLS 63 S AMG is the first to receive its mid lifecycle facelift with the Audi RS7 to follow later this month and the BMW M6 Gran Coupe somewhere next year. It certainly left a good impression and is leader of the class in more than one way, in time we will find out if the competition manages to keep up!

      Conclusion

      The new 2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS 63 S AMG is very much like its predecessor, but subtle changes to the interior and exterior give it a fresh appeal. Add a host of new safety features including the new LED Highbeam LED headlights and the new 8″ infotainment display and the CLS and CLS Shooting Brake feel ready for another four strong years. Performance wise not much has changed although the optimized gearbox setup does sporty drivers well and the sound of the V8 remains as good as ever!

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