2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS 550: First Look


OK, let’s say you’re a well-reknowned car company and you introduce a design so universally acclaimed it spawns a host of imitators and establishes an all-new market segment. Cool, right?

Okay, now let’s say it’s seven years later and it’s time to follow it. Do you go for something even more radical, or do you simply build upon that which worked so well?

Well if you’re Mercedes-Benz, and the car is the 2012 CLS-Class, you give the people more of what they like—while improving the things that needed touching up. We realize that sounds as if the Stuttgart-based manufacturer is suffering from a case of resting-on-laurel-itis. However, while the overall proportions of the new CLS are the same as the current one, the look of the car is completely new.

Cues from Benz’s SLS AMG halo car are readily apparent in the design of the front end. The “ponton” rear fender treatment, reintroduced with the current generation E-Class, blends nicely with the fluidity of the curvaceous design, while the world debut of active LED headlamps leads the roster of the hi-tech wonders contained therein.

Introduced last week at the 2010 Paris Motor Show, the CLS will come to the U.S. initially with a 402-horsepower, 443 pound-feet, twin-turbocharged, direct injected 4.6-liter V-8. Labeled CLS 550, despite the displacement count, a seven-speed automatic will route engine power to ground through the rear wheels. A bet that some version of the 6.3-liter hand-assembled AMG V-8 will be one day found in the nose of a CLS would most assuredly be a winning one.

Benz's AIRMATIC suspension system should keep the tires planted and the body flat during cornering, while simultaneously delivering a cosseting ride. Top speed will be limited to 130 mph (unless you route your CLS through a tuner like Brabus before it crosses the ocean).

Inside, weapons of mass attraction include a wraparound cockpit leading into a gracefully flowing center stack. In typical Mercedes fashion, the wood trim has been perfectly fitted for a handcrafted finish. Naturally, the timbers are also matched according to grain. The leather upholstery is lavished with equal attention. Sewn together by hand, the hides are heated to preshrink them. This enables shape retention, even after years of exposure to sunlight.

Long story short: the 2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class will undoubtedly be a highly desirable sport sedan when it is released. Slated to go on sale during the summer of 2011, pricing has yet to be announced.

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