Muffled thunder distantly disturbs the serenity of the cabin as the right foot taps into what amounts to a force of nature. Indulge for more than a second and the posted speed limit is a distant figure on the central dial as the V8 Mercedes blitzkriegs its way up the bitumen.
Welcome to the CLS, the heavyweight hitter that launched the executive four-door coupe market and is still a head-turning status symbol.
If you have to ask, you can't afford it, but for the record the CLS 500 starts at $210,800. The badge, bigger wheels — and that addictive V8 audio track — are the only things that differentiate it externally from the six-cylinder CLS 350. Oh, and a lazy $50K. That spends puts you behind the wheel of a seriously quick executive limo. If you really want to impress the golf club associates, ante up another $50,000 for the twin turbo C63 AMG model.
A twin-turbo 4.7-litre V8 powers the CLS 500 with 300kW and 600Nm of mumbo fed to the rear wheels via a seven-speed automatic. Official fuel consumption is 9.9 litres/100km but around town that lube-smooth engine will use 14.7 litres to cover the same distance, even with the engine stop/start function.
The suspension and performance can be adjusted by a pair of buttons on either side of the centre console, respectively offering Economy and Sport modes or Comfort and Sport. Behind the leather, brushed alloy and wood interior lies some smart electronics, from the adapative cruise control to blind spot warnings in the side mirrors and a lane-veering warning system. For those occasions when you don't want to listen to the engine, a Harman Kardon sound system is matched to a 10GB hard drive. Mercedes says it's also the first car to boast full "LED high performance" headlamps.
This is an imposing bit of kit. Debate still ranges about whether this second generation diluted or distilled the lines of the original but there's no argument that it turns heads. The LED daytime running lights bejewel the front end that is otherwise dominated by the massive three-pointed star Mercedes applies to its coupe models. The profile is all curves, from the roof itself to the dropping line that tails down to the flared rear guards. There's only room for four inside — the pair of contoured rear seats are split by a storage bin and cupholder/12V socket tucked beneath sliding lacquered wooden panels — but the seats are supremely comfortable front or back.
Software engineers must be rivalling the traditional type at Mercedes-Benz judging by the number of systems packed into the CLS. Sensors sound an audible warning if you approach the car in front too quickly and the brakes will engage themselves to maintain a safe distance with the adapative cruise control on. It's a pain in Australia — the gap is seen by other motorists as an invitation to cut in and then the big Merc then slows down to regain the separation. Should it come to it, a staggering 11 airbags are hidden away ready to deploy. It goes without saying the CLS is a five-star ANCAP car.
It's hard not to get emotional with the CLS. The seatbelts give you a reassuring hug as they snug themselves to your body shape. And then you hit the big alloy button to engage the V8 ... and it's an affair just waiting for the right road to be consumated. She's dressed to impress so find a set of fast sweepers, get passionate and let the dance begin. For a big girl the CLS is surprisingly light on her low-profile rubber shoes. Lunges are decisively quick and she's comfortable side-stepping potholes.
Push too hard too soon and she'll shake her shapely rear and flutter her traction light at you. Keep it steady and the four-door coupe will match your every input no matter the tempo and happily keep going as hard and for as long as you can. And when you've taken your pleasure, the exhaust will sigh as you exit the car. I sighed too when I had to give the keys back. But she's an expensive mistress ... and I struggle to mai ntain my wife.
Imitation is the greatest form of flattery and Mercedes, having created the four-door coupe class, now has Audi's A7 and the Porsche Panamera looming large in the CLS' mirrors. The CLS500 represents the best balance in the range between price and performance ... buy a new B-Class with the money you'll save against the CLS 63 AMG.
Mercedes CLS 500
Warranty: Three years/unlimited km
Resale: 58 per cent
Service intervals: 25,000km/12 months
Safety: Five stars
Engine: 4.7-litre twin-turbo V8 petrol, 300kW/600Nm
Body: Four-door coupe
Dimensions: 4996mm (L), 1881mm (W), 1421mm (H), 2874mm (WB)
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Thirst: 9.9 litres/100km 95RON, 231g/km CO2