It can be something of a challenge to find a company car that manages to combine a classy image, sporting ambitions and style without appearing somewhat overly brash.
Too often the quest for a luxury feel can leave a motor saddled with the dubious taste of designers trying too hard to impress. As we all know, money doesn’t guarantee good taste – to quote Dolly Parton: “It takes a lot of money to look this cheap!”
So this is where the superb Mercedes-Benz CLS 250 CDi BlueEFFICIENCY SE fits the bill so perfectly while allowing any sales director to keep both the finance director and fleet manger happy at the same time!
It may be a design that is nearing the end of its production cycle, yet this car set the tone that other premium manufacturers have tried to follow.
It’s big, stylish and surprisingly sporty thanks in large part to a 204 brake horsepower 2.1-litre bi-turbo diesel which, more importantly, boasts a stump-pulling torque peak of 369ft-lbs and more than enough to surge the big car through the 60mph barrier in just 7.5 seconds on the way to a top speed of 150mph. Yet, thanks to the BlueEFFFICIENCY programme’s magic wand approach to maximising every aspect of the car’s performance, Mercedes claims a combined fuel economy of 54mpg and a truly impressive C02 emission rating of just 135g/km.
But don’t let the cosseting interior style, luxury of materials and superb build quality fool you into thinking this is just another high-speed motorway cruiser. Sure, the CLS will do that role admirably but you’ll be missing out on the car’s best role as a sporting saloon with real driving pleasure. Because, despite its ample dimensions, this is one motor that thrives on being thrown into high-speed bends where the chassis shrugs off the girth and brings a grin to the most jaded executive traveller. Much of this is down to a comparatively feather-light kerbweight of just 1,785kgs – only as much as some hot hatchbacks I could mention.
The multi-setting electronic suspension, allowing comfort, normal or sport modes, also works well to keep the big car planted through the twisty stuff while the speed sensitive electromechanical steering weights-up to enhance the driver’s feel when the pace gets hotter.
It’s 7G-Tronic Plus automatic gearbox is smooth although the paddle-shift option is a bit slow for the car’s sporting pretensions and I would just keep it in S-mode and auto for optimum performance.
Naturally, in a car costing north of the mid-£40ks, creature comforts are well catered for from comfy but figure-gripping leather seats to automatic two-zone climate control, one-touch opening/closing electric windows, illuminated chrome door handles and a rather classy old-school analogue dash mounted clock. Safety and convenience gadgets are also well catered for with active park assist, remote boot release, tyre pressure warning, adaptive brakes with full hold function, driver attention monitoring, auto bi-xenon lights and auto wipers.
In all a superbly practical executive car which ticks all the boxes a busy professional requires while still delivering the fun factor especially after one of Dolly’s ‘9-to-5’ days.
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Top Speed: 150mph