The quest for sportiness, or at least the pretense thereof, has dominated the luxury car segment over the last few years. It seems if a car isn’t an M-packaged this or an F-Sported that, S-line or AMG, it’s just not going to cut the mustard.
Which is odd, because luxury cars have a very different, distinct and equally valuable purpose. They exist to pamper the driver (or passenger), to afford gravitas to one’s persona, and to impress/madden the next-door neighbours. All in quiet, peaceful, relaxing, fuss-free motoring.
Happily, Mercedes-Benz has remembered this, delivering a more conventional luxury car. Even as the German marque embarks on a market-share raid with new entry-level cars and some AMG-massaged horsepower warriors they still deliver on the basics, with a car that says, “hey, come in, relax” to you, and “hey, check it out, I’m a baller over here” to your sticky-beak neighbours.
The styling is the new generation of four-door “coupe”, with swooping lines and a roof line that curves out from the waist demurely. The lines are more cocktail dress than athlete, and they work in this size of car. The grille with its many points is intricate and intriguing, the frosted tips working well in the light. It’s a head-turner thanks in part to the basic profile, and aided by the deep and complicated character line sweeping down the flank.
The only thing wrong with the design is semantic – this fad of calling four-dour cars “coupes” is infuriating to me, but there are bigger issues in the world.
The 2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS 400 is a large car, with an imposing road presence only accentuated by the gorgeous blue-grey paint. I’m not entirely sure how or why, but beautiful, rich paint is a calling card of Mercedes-Benz and is in full effect here.
The seats are plush and comfortable, but the real treat is for the driver – adaptive bolstering. We’ve experienced this before but the inflatable cushions that swell to hold the driver in place around bends are wonderful. Think of every fabric softener ad you’ve ever seen, think of that feeling, that’s how adaptive bolsters make me feel.
The rest of the interior is dominated by soft, supple leather seats, thick carpet and a thick, comfortable, heated steering wheel. The wood panelling is convincing thanks to more of that Mercedes-Benz paint genius, and cabin storage options are plentiful. I’m a big fan of the analogue clock set into the dash of many a luxury car; the square one in here was beautifully executed, calling to mind the IWC in the S-Class, but without some of that timepiece’s detailing.
Ergonomically though, Mercedes-Benz has problems. The large instrument cluster is perfectly positioned for the driver, right in eye line and has rich graphics. It is also controlled by a puck controller – my favourite HMI control system. This one, however, is small and positioned too close to the driver and too far back, forcing you to elbow yourself in the ribs and form a little T-Rex impersonation every time you want to use it. With my arm on the centre console I found I kept bumping it as well. Not cool.