2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS Sneak Preview

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2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS

By New Car Test Drive

On Sale: Fall 2011

Expected Pricing: $69,500-$105,000

The next-generation Mercedes-Benz CLS sedan, expected as a 2012
model, won’t change much in its basic, elegant character, at least until
a wagon-like Shooting Brake variant debuts (see photo).

The next CLS should reach North America by the summer of 2011. The
production version was unveiled at the Paris motor show in October 2010,
but Mercedes has also revealed a couple of concept cars that offer a
preview of an expanded CLS lineup, complete with a swoopy wagon version.

The current CLS sedan started a trend when it was launched in October
2004, introducing what is often called the four-door coupe. While it has
four side doors like a sedan, the CLS also has the swoopy character and
flowing profile of a classic two-door coupe. The CLS features
bucket-style rear seats and a rear center console, rather than the
typical three-place rear bench seat, The CLS has been praised as one of
the best looking four-doors anywhere, and followed by similarly styled
sedans such as the Jaguar XF and Volkswagen CC.

The next-generation CLS won’t substantially move the current car in a
new direction, but its proportions are as spectacular as ever, with a
long hood, tightly styled frameless side windows and a dynamic, sweeping
roof that flows into a subtly sculpted rear deck.

Yet a second CLS body style will push the sedan-as-coupe idea further,
resurrecting the concept of the Shooting Brake (or as Mercedes prefers,
the Shooting Break). Shooting Brake models were made popular in the
1960s and 1970s, particularly by British automakers.

These cars were two-door coupes with a roofline that extended further
back, over what would be the trunk, culminating in a wagon-style rear
liftgate. They retained the basic proportions of a coupe, but added easy
access cargo space for luggage or shooting gear (hence the name
Shooting Brake). In essence, the second variant of the next CLS will be
very much like a four-door Shooting Brake. This version will be rolled
out in various markets around the world over a two-year period after the
regular four-door CLS is launched.

The 2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS will be slightly shorter than the current
CLS, roughly the same size as the current E-Class sedan. It will share
its mechanical underpinnings with the E-Class line, but it will look
very different.

In front, the next CLS adapts the minimalist-style grille introduced on
the current SLS AMG super car, with a single center slat and large
Mercedes star. It will be the first production car to offer full-LED
headlamps, with LED elements, rather than conventional bulbs for all
lighting components, including the main beams.

In side view, the 2012 CLS features prominent wheel arches, a high
coupe-style belt or window line and narrow side windows. Its roof tapers
gently from a high point near the center of the passenger cabin to well
past the rear wheels. And despite its racy lines, the rear doors on the
next CLS extend much further back over the rear wheels than those on
the current model. That should mean easier entry for rear seat
passengers, and more rear headroom.

The passenger cabin will have four identically shaped seats, with a
similar level of adjustment front and rear, and a full-cabin center
console. Individual sections of the leather dashboard are sewn together
by hand in a process that takes several hours, according to Mercedes,
and then heat-shrunk over the structure underneath.

In addition to Mercedes’ usual choice of wood, metal and leather trims,
the 2012 CLS will deliver a convergence of new safety systems rolled out
separately with recent Mercedes model introductions. Besides Mercedes
usual, extensive array of airbags, the next CLS will offer no less than
11 active safety systems, including lane departure warning, blind spot
warning, driver drowsiness warning, automatic high beam control,
infra-red night vision cameras and automatic braking based on distance
and closing speed.

The 2012 CLS will also be offered for the first time in the United
States with a six-cylinder engine. This 3.5-liter V6 features direct
fuel injection, generating 306 horsepower, yet reducing both fuel
consumption and emissions compared Mercedes’ current gasoline V6
engines. An optional, direct injection V8 is also expected when the car
is introduced, and eventually, a super-performance CLS tuned by Mercedes
subsidiary AMG. All models will come with a 7-speed automatic

We expect the new CLS in U.S. showrooms by late summer 2011, perhaps
sooner. The standard four-door comes first. At this point it isn’t clear
when the Shooting Break wagon variant will reach the United States.

We’d predict that the six-cylinder CLS350 will be priced at least a bit
lower than the current, V8-powered CLS550 ($72,400). With lots of
options, the V8-powered version of the 2012 CLS will crack $100,000.


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