The 7-speed, 7G-TRONIC automatic gearbox is extraordinarily good, offering pretty much seamless changes. On occasion if you are brutal you can feel the changes, mainly on the down change but in these cases you would expect to feel the change. You have a choice of three operating modes - ‘M’ - manual mode which enables the driver to make the shifts, by using the buttons on the reverse of the steering wheel or by nudging the gear lever. The car will only automatically make changes when the upper, lower speed limits are met or on kickdown. For us using the lever seemed more logical than the steering buttons, which can be useful once you are used to them enabling you to keep both hands on the wheel.
The next mode is ‘C’ which stands for comfort and changes are made automatically lower down the rev range. Then there is ‘S’ mode which is the normal standard mode (not sports) and which is where we left the car for most of the time we spent with it.
If I took just one memory from my CLS experience it would be climbing a Welsh hill, it simply did not run out of puff all the way from the bottom of the valley to the top of the mountain - with the handling to match the hill climb.How It Drove - Ride and Handling
We loved the AIRMATIC DC air suspension which is a development of the air suspension first seen on the S-Class at the end of 1998. The damping is controlled by an Adaptive Damping System (ADS II), which regulates the shock absorber forces as required while taking the road conditions, driving style and vehicle load into account. The function of the springs is carried out by rubber bellows in the spring struts, which are filled with compressed air. The result is a softer, more comfortable, suspension action on the wheels and body than with a conventional steel spring suspension system.
On the road very little unsettled the ‘CLS’ in the default comfort mode (there are three settings), it simply wafted along taking everything in its stride. Should you wish to remove your chauffeur and drive yourself there are two sports modes which alter the suspension setup. In the first sports position the stiffer suspension and shock absorber settings are activated a little earlier than in the comfort mode. In the second position there is no delay in the activation, lowering the car by 15 mm all round.
It is surprising how composed the CLS is through the most demanding of bends. Even on our favourite ‘B’ road you can have a lot of fun without any compromise. The speed sensitive steering is well-weighted and gives just about the right amount of feed back for such a large car.
All of this makes the CLS more of a capable grand tourer than an out and out sports car, but if it is refinement you desire then few cars do it better.
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