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We might all have our own ideas on what defines luxury, but few could argue against the current Mercedes-Benz CLS500 fitting comfortably into that palatial category.
It’s a combination of the coupe-like styling, effortless power, superb materials and S-Class quality, comfort and space that make this Benz such an alluring proposition.
And it just might be the luxury bargain of the year, considering CLS500’s $50,000 price cut to $159,900.
Previously, you would have paid $210,300 plus on-road costs. But with a new, face-lifted model due in local showrooms early in 2015, Mercedes-Benz Australia is keen to keep interest high in the CLS Class by slashing prices on key variants.
In line with the restructure, the CLS500 effectively replaces the CLS350 in the line-up.
Powered by a creamy-smooth, twin-turbocharged 4.7-litre V8 generating an impressive 300kW/600Nm, it easily goes head-to-head with the competition.
Rival models include the $179,900 Audi S7 Sportback, armed with a 309kW/550Nm twin-turbocharged V8, while BMW’s contender is the $238,800 650i Gran Coupe powered by a 350kW/650Nm 4.4-litre twin-turbocharged V8.
To this tester's eye, the CLS500 is a stunner, perhaps more so than these photographs might suggest, and during our time in the car it proved a proper head-turner on the road.
Climb inside, and despite the now aging interior design, it’s all first-class stuff with a premium blend of sumptuous leather, black-ash wood and real metal switchgear.
However, for those willing to wait, the 2015 CLS models we drove earlier this year in the UK gets a significantly more contemporary design including a larger, floating screen with better functionality. But that’s still a while away, and will most certainly be a more expensive proposition.
The current CLS500’s discount price is made all the more sweet by its high level specs.
Offered exclusively in special ‘Avantgarde 10’ specification, the luxury Benz comes with a host of standard equipment including active-cornering adaptive LED headlights, AMG body kit and electronically controlled Airmatic damping system, heated front seats, and a Harman Kardon Logic 7 surround sound system.
The CLS500 also gains an Easy-Pack quick-fold rear seat system and DAB+ digital radio, but misses out on the ventilated seats and rear sunblinds that were standard in the previous iteration.
There’s a raft of the latest Benz safety kit, including Active Blind Spot Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist, Attention Assist and Distronic Plus with PreSafe Brake (a brilliant version of active cruise control that not only maintains a set distance between you and the car in front, but also brakes the car if you’re not paying attention and have failed to brake yourself).
There are also 11 airbags, along with the usual suite of crash-avoidance systems, such as anti-locking brakes with brake assist and electronic stability program.
Sharing its underpinnings with the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, the CLS offers plenty of roominess, with stacks of leg space fore and aft, though tall folks or those with a good head of hair might struggle in the back pews due to the sloping roofline.
The seats themselves provide exceptional comfort and support for four large adults (the CLS' cockpit is essentially a four-seat configuration).
Surrounded by such luxury it’s easy to forget the many other attributes of the CLS500, not least of which is its sheer power and effortless get-up-and-go. There is little that will out-accelerate this car when you have cause to put the boot in.
Even with the transmission in the more aggressive Sport mode, the power delivery is still beautifully refined, though you can clearly detect the whistle from those two turbochargers as they spool up and deliver unrelenting forward thrust.
Stand on it, and the big Mercedes will sprint to 100km/h in a claimed 5.4 seconds. What’s more, throttle response is near-immediate, with little - if any - turbo lag.
But that’s not something you tend to do all that often once behind the wheel of this four-door luxury limo, as there’s so much more enjoyment to be derived from the effortless forward motion and armchair-style comfort, which the CLS delivers in spades.
For longer journeys, it gets even better. Passengers can tilt their heads back on the goose-down soft headrests, while the driver can dial up their favourite chilled-out tune on the standard Harman Kardon audio system. These two combined make the big Merc a very pleasant place to be while churning through the kilometres.
The adjustable air-suspension system is remarkable in its ability to soak up all manner of bumps without ever feeling too floaty – no mean feat for a vehicle that tips the scales at over 1800 kilos.
It also means the CLS500 is entirely competent on those twisty back roads. Switch the pneumatic dampers to Sport, and the car remains level even during aggressive cornering. In this guise, it drives more like a proper Grand Tourer than a stately four-door Benz.
Adding to that experience is an electro-hydraulic power steering system that’s quick, accurate, and nicely weighted, though some might find it a tad heavy in low speed situations.
Braking isn’t an issue, either. The CLS500 is endowed with sports car levels of stopping power, as well as great pedal feel that inspires the utmost confidence. We pushed the car through an extended series of bends and got on the stoppers with equal ferocity, with no hint of brake fade.
There’s also no shortage of front-end grip from the 19-inch Bridgestone Potenzas, making for quick changes in direction, despite its bulk.
The downside is it can be thirsty. Mercedes claims 9.9 litres per 100 kilometres using premium 95RON petrol, but the best we saw after several hundred kilometres over a variety of driving styles was 12.3L/100km.
The Mercedes-Benz CLS isn’t the only car calling itself a four-door coupe, but in twin-turbo V8 guise, it’s one of the most potent sedans on the market while also offering sublime comfort and credible handling.
With its significantly discounted price tag, the 2014 CLS500 becomes a thoroughly tempting proposition.