• The looks of the CLS are distinctive, the interior, still boasts all the usual Merc refinement

  • The 2.2l twin turbo diesel unit

MERCEDES-Benz has added an entry level model to its CLS four-door coupe range in the form of the 250 CDI BlueEfficiency in order to lure an even wider audience to the model line up.

Billed by its makers to be the first four-door coupe in the stable to be fitted with a four-cylinder engine, the range has up to now been available in petrol derivatives only. With the advent of the BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe — a rival to the CLS — that also has a diesel in its model mix, it is safe to say that the move into this realm is totally warranted.

While the company caters for the discerning market, more so perhaps in the instance of the CLS, diesel models — in the European context — continue to outstrip their petrol equivalents on the sales charts, where about 85% of models sold in that market are diesel powered. This, according to a company spokesman, is largely due to the availability of ultra-low sulphur diesel found in these regions, and of course the inherent fuel economy it provides.

I will admit that I approached the launch of this model with much trepidation. What with a 2.2l twin turbo four-cylinder engine asked to lug a relatively stocky vehicle with intent, could you blame me? Boasting 150kW of power and 500Nm of torque trough a seven speed automatic transmission, it later turned out that the company’s move was decidedly well judged.

Driving the vehicle in Gauteng last week, the model still offers a refined proposition with high levels of tactile quality in a distinctly packaged silhouette. I was never really taken by the previous generation model, which seemed somewhat overtly styled, but this new model, as previously reported, is more conventionally styled — though I use the term quite loosely here.

Power delivery from the relatively small engine proved adequate for daily cut and thrust traffic and hurling up and down some open roads, including that of the N4 toll road. Sure, there is initial turbo lag when setting off, but the overall impression of the engine is that it is refined and it also proved quite efficient over our 200km launch stint with a further range of 1,000km still indicated on the trip computer.

Claimed consumption figures stand at 5.1l /100km, while carbon emissions are pegged at 134g/km. Though somewhat academic in this application, acceleration from standstill to 100km/h takes 7.5 seconds, while terminal speed is 242km/h.

Marketed under the company’s BlueEfficiency banner, there are various parameters in place to assist the driver in achieving lower consumption figures, such as the eco display on the instrument cluster that indicates in bar and percentage form things such as throttle input, coasting, and the overall consistency in driver pattern. The model also comes equipped with an engine stop/start mechanism that comes in handy during those gridlocked traffic periods, or when stationary at the traffic lights.

For some, perhaps a more powerful six-cylinder diesel variant would be preferable, but I was told in no uncertain terms that there are no plans to introduce a more powerful diesel model to the range. With that said, this four-pot engine is arguably sufficient for those seeking a refined, fuel efficient, and stylish vehicle with very little in the way of frills and heavy fuel bills.

Interestingly, according to the company there are still some issues with offering the latest petrol engines to our market due to the poor fuel quality. As a result, Mercedes has had to wait a while in order to introduce petrol variants of the B-Class, which were launched last month, about a month after the diesel versions had been ushered in.

We hope that the relevant government stake holders will take cognisance of this as European markets are firmly in sight of Euro 6 emission standards, while SA is still languishing in Euro 3 standard territory, which simply means our market needs specially designed engines to cope with our fuel conditions and the result is a delay in the latest engine technology.

I was pleasantly surprised by the capability of this entry level model of the range that is about R100,000 cheaper than the next model up, the CLS 350, which should bode well for those shopping in the R700,000 ball park who relish an expressive vehicle with all the mod cons at a relatively palatable price.