The new Mercedes-Benz CLS resumes lead in 'four-door coupe' segment with looks, finesse and features
Sleek and sensual Mercedes-Benz pioneered the "four-door coupe" genre 15 years ago and the latest CLS is a suitable response to all the alternatives which have sprouted since 2003. ST PHOTOS: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Mercedes-Benz has nailed it with the new CLS. The "four-door coupe" is visually stunning, with plenty of prime estate inside. It packs a punchy and refined powertrain and a chassis which rivals its S-class sibling in comfort.

The car shares a platform with the E-class but has longer overhangs to make it nearly 5m tip to tip. Even though that puts it in the same ballpark as a former S-class limousine, it hides its size well with an impossibly sleek silhouette.

Mercedes-Benz has had ample practice, after all. The marque pioneered the "four-door coupe" genre 15 years ago. The latest CLS is the third generation and it is a suitable response to all the alternatives which have sprouted since 2003.

The car's sleekness is not just visual. It has an impressive dragcoefficient of 0.26, putting it on a par with sports cars in the wind-cheating department.

It moves like the wind, too: zero to 100kmh in six seconds flat, which is pretty amazing for a 2-litre engine lugging such a sizeable body.

More amazing if you consider that the slightly smaller E350e, which has the same engine but which benefits from extra boost from electric drive, takes 0.2 of a second longer to hit the century mark.

It does not quite drive or ride like the E-class, either. Throttle response is noticeably meatier, with more grunt and aural feedback to go. The car thrives on higher revs, which it easily attains.

Despite its dimensions, it is fairly nimble. It responds to steering inputs with the promptness and sharpness of a smaller car, but also with the calmness associated with a limo.

As with all rear-wheel-drive Mercs, the CLS has an astoundingly tight turning radius. U-turns are easily accomplished within two lanes.

The only sign that you are at the helm of a large saloon lies with its pillowy ride. In default mode, the suspension setting seems softer than the E-class', which makes for well-cushioned progress.

But it also betrays more body movements when the tarmac is less than perfect or if tighter turns arise. This robs the CLS of some ride quality points.

The interior is a refreshing departure from what we have seen in Mercs so far.

The seats are a tight fit, with a level of support and hip-hugging quality you will find in a performance car. And for the first time, the CLS is a five-seater.

The fascia is a grand, sweeping expanse of fine materials and high technology. Breaking away from decades-long tradition, wiper and light controls are now on separate stalks. Because of this, the helm no longer has the cruise control stalk - the function is now on a steering spoke. The multi-function steering is full of switches, but is friendlier to use than those in recent Mercs.

Disappointingly, the test-car's radio went on the blink at one point. This is the second test Merc model in two weeks to have an infotainment glitch.

The CLS is equipped with a suite of safety features, nearly as many as in an S-class. The standard fare includes Pre-Safe Sound, which prepares your ears for the loud noise of a crash. If the car senses that a collision is unavoidable, it plays a short interference signal, which triggers a reflex in the ear to brace it for the impending boom.

All in all, the CLS is an alluring product. It is a leap from its predecessors and it stands apart from its rivals in design, refinement and features.