2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS400: Beautiful and safe

Mercedes-Benz’ CLS occupies a narrow niche between the German automaker’s compact, entry-level CLA and the brand’s workhorse luxury sports sedan, the E-Class. It’s a stunningly beautiful car featuring nimble handling, high power and a list of technology options that seems never to end. The CLS exhibits the care Mercedes-Benz puts into every detail of its cars, something we noticed the first time we allowed the front wheels to touch the yellow stripe on Connecticut’s Interstate 84.

Our Palladium Silver test car, a 2015 CLS400 with all-wheel drive, had a base price of $68,490 but came in at $86,280, mainly because of safety and telematic options.

So there we were, cruising down I-84 on a sunny morning in late May, and a rumbling sensation suddenly emanated from the steering wheel, as if we’d hit the rumble strip on the highway’s left side. But we hadn’t – this car has a built-in rumble strip. The CLS lurched gently, just a bit to the right, and the car slowed down perceptibly. What was impressive about this experience was that the car’s decision to slow down and pull to the right was not disconcerting. It was crafted to get the driver’s attention without spooking him.

Thus were we introduced to Active Lane Keeping Assist, part of a $2,800 option package that included a blind-spot warning system, pedestrian recognition and other accident-prevention technology. The priciest option of the 11 added to the test car was the Premium Package ($6,900). Among the highlights of this package were various telematic and luxury features. We especially liked the optional COMAND system, which smoothly and efficiently operates the audio, navigation and other telematic features by means of a dial on the center console.

Like Volkswagen’s CC, the CLS serves as a stylish alternative to one of the manufacturer’s most popular models – in Volkswagen’s case, the midsize Passat. The CLS basically is an E-Class with a lot more personality, but also a lot less functionality. For example, the CLS seats four, compared with five in the E-Class. The latter is roomier, too. For adults taller than 5-10, the back seat of the CLS can be claustrophobia-inducing because of its low roofline.

On the road, however, the CLS is a strong performer. The ride is on the firm side, but reassuringly composed in every situation we encountered. Mercedes-Benz engineers designed the CLS to engage and inform the driver, not disguise the road’s bumps and ripples. The car tracks straight and true through potholed stretches of highways still showing the effects of a tough winter.

The CLS is available only as a 4-door coupe, as Mercedes-Benz describes it, but it can be equipped with engines ranging from 329 to 577 horsepower, and rear-wheel or all-wheel drive.

Crash-test and reliability data are not available on this model. The similar E-Class has been rated a Top Safety Pick Plus by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Steven Macoy (semacoy@gmail.com) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.

Price: $86,280

Engine: 3.0-liter biturbo V-6, 329 horsepower, 354 lb.-ft. torque

Transmission: 7-speed automatic with paddle shifters

Drive: all-wheel

Weight: 4,264 lb.

Suspension: multi-link front and rear

Wheels: 18×8.5-in. alloy front, 18×9.5-in. rear

Tires: 255/40R18 front, 285/35R18 rear, all-season

Seating capacity: 4

Luggage capacity: 15.3 cu. ft.

Fuel capacity: 21.1 gallons

Fuel economy: 20 mpg city, 28 mpg highway

Fuel type: premium unleaded gasoline