Life’s going well, you’ve got a beautiful home, and you need a car that says to your neighbours and your colleagues that you’re doing well. Sure, you could buy a big German sedan, but where’s the fun in that. You want something with a bit more style, some sporty overtones, and some flair that sets you apart from the rest of the crowd.
Mercedes-Benz wasn’t the first to come up with the idea of the four-door coupe when they launched the CLS in 2004, but they certainly were the ones who made it popular.
Based off the E-Class, the CLS is a swoopier and more stylish version the executive express.
The CLS received a major update in late 2014. The low stance and smoothly raked roofline remain, but the rest of the CLS brings the styling into line with newer Mercedes like the CLA and C-Class. The deep-dish grill is all you need to see to know this is the latest generation.
The new Multibeam LED headlights are a particular standout. Rather than traditional bulbs, each headlamp is made up of 24 LEDs, individually controllable by the on-board computer to mask out vehicles ahead with the high beams on.
The interior is a blend of old and new Mercedes-Benz. You still get the phone keypad that’s really only good for radio presets, and the buttons and switchgear aren’t the latest kit from the S-Class.
What you do get is this new floating 8.4-inch display. It looks good enough to tap, but you’ll have to be content twirling the COMAND dial down on the console.
The CLS 500 is loaded with standard equipment included heated and ventilated seats, adaptive cruise control, digital radio and TV, and a 360 degree around view camera system, but if you want your CLS even more luxurious you can spec it up with an assortment of leathers and AMG packs.
If you’re buying a CLS it’s not because you’re a limo driver. The roof cuts in much earlier than in an E-Class, so it’s more difficult to get in, and you’ll have less room when you get there. Still, it’s hardly what I’d call uncomfortable.
Mercedes-Benz pretty much had the market to themselves until the Audi A7 arrived in Australia in 2011.
While it shares some of the design philosophy of the CLS, the execution is slightly different. Rather than a traditional boot lid, the A7 is a liftback, making it almost as practical is the Audi A6 Avant, with which it shares its platform.
In typical Audi style, the A7 is a mix of sharp lines, and is easily one of the more dramatic lookers in their line-up.
There’s a new lighting design on offer, which Audi calls Matrix LED, though unlike the CLS they’re an optional extra.
The interior is every bit the luxuriously high-quality place it’s always been. All the materials feel premium to the touch, and the design is clean and well thought out.
The Audi MMI system has been updated with a new processor for improved graphics, and combines with a high-res display in the instrument cluster for everything from digital speed to mapping.
Unfortunately Audi are clinging to the idea of an extensive options list. Things that should be standard at this price like an electric steering column and basic heated seats are optional extras.
Like the CLS, rear headroom isn’t as good as an A6, but there’s still plenty of space to get comfortable. In a pinch you can fit three abreast, where the Mercedes swaps out the middle belt for a piece of furniture.
The Mercedes-Benz CLS can be had with a number of engines including a four cylinder diesel, a bi-turbo V6 petrol, and a 5.5-litre bi-turbo V8 petrol in the range-topping CLS 63 AMG S. I’m driving the CLS 500, which means you get a 300kW, 600Nm bi-turbo petrol V8 driving the rear wheels through a new 9-speed automatic.
The Audi A7 features a 235kW bi turbo V6 diesel, a 65kW power disadvantage compared to the Mercedes, but it claws back some points when it comes to torque – 650Nm from just 1400rpm.
The Merc instantly has the hooligan box ticked being a rear wheel drive V8.
While it might not sound quite as magnificently brutal as the AMG models, the CLS 500 will still make you smile when you open the taps. The stability control is constantly helping out to keep those rear wheels in check, though I expect you’ll be visiting a tyre shop more often than the Audi.
The way this V8 revs disguises the fact it’s got two turbos forcing air in, and with all 600Nm arriving from just 1600rpm you’ll be thankful for them.
Now you might be thinking we should have pitted the Audi S7 up against the CLS 500. Both V8 petrols, both twin turbos, but to be honest I think Audi’s onto something with this bi turbo V6.
It might not have the power output of the Merc, but that 650Nm gives an all mighty kick in the pants when it’s unleashed. The last time I enjoyed a diesel this much was behind the wheel of BMW’s triple-turbo X5 M50d.
This engine is proof that diesel is no longer a dirty word.
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