Footballers and their flash motors are often inseparable in the eyes of many sports fans. We’re used to seeing photos of the English Premier League stars driving in their top-of-the- range cars. In Scotland there is nowhere near the same level of salary for players but we are no different from anyone else; it is nice to drive a prestige car.
Mercedes has always been seen as a top prestige brand and I am delighted to have agreed a Business Partnership between Mercedes and the Professional Footballers’Association (PFA) Scotland. I was asked to test-drive the new Mercedes CLS 350 CDI.
I must confess at this point to having little knowledge of cars, so I will write this from a lay person’s perspective and leave the jargon like “torque” and horsepower to the experts. I am however a sucker for all the gadgets and this has enough to keep my small mind happy. I simply want to talk about what a beautiful car this is to look at and to drive. My idea of Mercedes was of a trustworthy and practical top range car and I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised by the CLS 350 CDI. It has all those attributes and much more.
At first glance, I was struck by exterior styling; my car was a striking cream colour. It has a modern, sleek look about it with flowing lines and an aerodynamic design. This is a big car; far longer than I expected. The long bonnet, large side windows, and sloping roof all give the slick look of a coupé. I particularly liked the front grill with the unmistakable Mercedes symbol inserted, rather than sitting on the bonnet. The 71-bulb LED headlights give powerful beams which are directional and futuristic.
It seems as if the lights have a mind of their own as they turn towards a corner almost before you do, giving better visibility ahead. Sensors at both front and back make parking much easier and a sensor in the wing mirror detects any car in your blind spot. I chose a weekend where I would combine city driving along with a good run on the motorway and winding country roads. The 350 CDI was capable in every situation. The first thing I noticed when sitting inside was how quiet it was and how safe I felt.
With the engine on it was still difficult to hear outside. The engine itself has that quiet, low pitchgrowl signifying that there is a lot of power under the bonnet.
Although I drove an automatic, the acceleration proved that to be the case. On a quiet Sunday morning on the M8 as I put my foot to the floor it is no exaggeration to say that I was thrown slightly back in my seat as the car powered forward. The cruise control is essential to avoid speeding as it ticked over at just over 1,000 revs doing 70mph. The steering is sharp and precise.
It cornered smoothly on the back roads of Fife on the way to St Andrews; again the acceleration gives a feeling of safety when passing slow vehicles on single track roads.
The interior is beautifully finished with all mod cons to play with. My mobile phone synchronised simply with the COMMAND system and the hands-free gives a crystal clear sound. The large internal screen shows everything from the satnav to DAB radio controlled by a dial that is the version of your TV remote control; best not let the kids get a hold of it as it operates all the gadgets. Those sitting in the back found that it had plenty of leg room while being treated to the sounds. It definitely has the size of a saloon although I am sure this is not what Mercedes has in mind as its primary function.
It is hard to know what not to mention. The electric seats are operated from three buttons shaped like a seat which can be saved in the memory. The next time you go in, simply press a number and the seat returns to your position. There is plenty of storage inside; even beneath the front seats and cup holders for passengers; the boot was surprisingly spacious.
I am sure that I missed a lot of the functionality, there was simply not enough time to take it all in. The buyer of the CLS 350CDI is not looking for a sports car. When paying this kind of money the purchaser is looking for styling and this has a sporty look and feel but is a classy yet practical car.
It has an elegant sophistication about it without being too sensible.
It has enough toys to give the owner the feeling of having something special while having enough room to accommodate the nuclear family. The CLS 350 CDi drives exquisitely and will certainly prove irresistible to anyone who test-drives it. Perhaps my son Cameron, who is 12, summed it up best. “Dad,” he said after five minutes in the front seat, “this is so luxurious that it’s like being in bed while driving at the same time”. Shame, I had to hand the keys back but maybe Santa will be good to me this Christmas!
Fraser Wishart is chief executive of the PFA Scotland.
The Mercedes-Benz CLS 350 cdi Blue Efficency Automatic is priced at £52,993 OTR and was provided by Mercedes-Benz of Glasgow, 135 Milton Street, Glasgow G4 0DH. Tel: 0141 331 4600, www.mercedes-benzofglasgow.co.uk