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German perfection

The GERMAN engineers were insistent over dinner. "Yes, yes, we will read your comments and see how we can improve the car." They may have been getting me muddled up with some high-falutin' boffin but I am afraid they are going to be wasting their time.

The only thing wrong with the new Mercedes-Benz CLS is that only about 100 people will be buying it here next year. It is the sort of car that is the perfect blend of pure elegance, comfort, ability and engineering sophistication that it deserves to be driven by anyone with a passion for motoring excellence.

It is seven years since the CLS model was first launched as a very superior four-door, four-seat coupe by the Stuttgart car maker and it has been a massive success -- with some 170,000 sold. The new model has gone out its way to be green and economical and with the perfectly adequate two-litre diesel onboard and despite the seven-speed automatic box, it still manages to come in at the B-band level for VRT and motor tax. The car is packed with safety equipment including active devices that intervene with braking and steering if you are straying across continuous white lines or pulling out into the path of a car in your blind spot.

The first time I drove the car at a roundabout there was pleasant surprise. The contours of the front seats actively pressed in to give brilliant support. To some it might be bit disconcerting, but my new squeeze kept me in my place.

About a third of the people who bought the first-generation CLS came to the car from other brands and nearly a third of all European customers stated "design" as the most important reason behind their purchasing decision.

And, according to Jens Israng, the product management director of the CLS project, it is "this strength -- the unique combination of sporty elegance and practical functionality -- which also defines the new model."

It is a beautifully sculpted car that really turns heads. At about €75k for the 250CDI that is to be expected but I didn't believe I'd find a car so packed with features that was so good to drive or be driven in. Mercedes' challenges of the past now seem behind them. That ton of people is going to have real treat next year. I'm sorry I can't keep the engineers busy. They have just done their job too well.

Sunday Independent