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First look: Next Benz CLS officially revealed

More agressive: Mercedes-Benz designers have added a sharper edge to the new CLS, pointing to the German company's new direction.

Mercedes formally unveils its next-generation CLS-class ahead of a Paris show debut

23 Aug 2010

MERCEDES-BENZ has finally lifted its formal cloak of secrecy from the second-generation CLS, almost a week after official images were leaked across the internet.

The follow-up to the original W211-series E-class-based C219 model, which has attracted about 170,000 customers globally since October 2004, will make its public debut at the Paris motor show on September 30, immediately before its European market launch.

Although the all-new 218-series CLS, which is again based on the latest E-class platform, could then make its Australian debut at the Sydney show on October 15, it won’t go on sale here until the second quarter of next year.

That won’t be soon enough for Mercedes-Benz in Australia, where CLS sales have almost trickled to a halt, with just six sold here last month and a total of 44 finding new homes this year – a 64 per cent reduction on the same period in 2009.

Benz says the original CLS, which has already ceased production, created a new vehicle category when it debuted at the 2003 Frankfurt motor show, and continues to be the only “four-door coupe” in its class, but that overlooks Maserati’s Quattroporte, which also entered production in 2004 and will soon also be replaced by a redesigned model – this time the sixth-generation Quattroporte.

Mercedes-Benz Cars board member for sales and marketing, Dr Joachim Schmidt, claims in the official media announcement that customers all over the world benefited from “our bold move to launch a completely new vehicle concept on to the market”.

“And with its exciting design, the new edition of the CLS also benefits from the fact that we are a whole generation ahead of the competition with our four-door coupe,” he said.

4 center imageEither way, both pioneering models have since been mimicked by a number of modern coupe-like sedans, including Porsche’s Panamera, Aston Martin’s Rapide, Audi’s upcoming A7 Sportback and the production version of BMW’s Gran Coupe concept, which will wear either 6 or 8 Series badges.

Mercedes says its MkII CLS, which adopts the same more aggressive look previewed earlier this year by the brand’s Shooting Brake concept (which could also form the basis of the first CLS-class wagon), presents a new design direction for the German luxury brand.

“The new CLS points the way forward for the future perceptible design idiom of Mercedes-Benz,” said Mercedes-Benz head of design Professor Gorden Wagener.

“At the same time it takes its inspiration from the great tradition of stylish, refined sportiness which has always been a feature of Mercedes coupes.”

The new CLS continues its forebear’s key design elements, including a long bonnet, a narrow glass area with no B-pillar, frameless side door windows and a dramatically sloping roofline.

This time, however, the new CLS adds a dose of extra aggression in the form of sharper body creases like those on the current E-class, more heavily flared wheel-arches, beefy rear side haunches and a new front-end treatment that, like the one on the SLS AMG supercar, features a prominent separate grille that isn’t integrated with the bonnet and is dominated by a massive three-pointed star badge.

Aside from large black upper, lower and outboard air inlets – the latter highlighted by LED daytime running light strips – the redesigned CLS will also feature full-LED headlights, which Mercedes says are the first to come with LED technology to replace all traditional headlight functions, including indicators and low and high-beam lights for a total of 71 LEDs.

No further technical details were provided in the initial CLS press release, which also describes the new model’s reworked interior in gushing terms.

The new CLS cabin, which is more angular and symmetrical than before, is dominated by a high horizontal trim line that extends from the driver’s door, over the top of the instrument binnacle of the wrap-around cockpit to the front passenger’s door.

There is a high-mounted central information screen, below which on the centre stack are two matt-galvanized air-vents, separated by a square high-gloss analogue clock.

Mercedes says the four-seat CLS interior, which also features hand-sewn leather dashboard trim, will be available in five colours, five trim designs and three leather choices, including a 1.6mm-thick semi-aniline ‘Passion’ hide option.

The Stuttgart maker makes much of customisation options for the new CLS, including the choice of three real woodgrain cabin trims (high-gloss brown burr walnut, high-gloss black ash and satin-finish light-brown poplar), which can be replaced by piano lacquer or carbon-fibre trim options.

No mechanical details of the next CLS have been released, but expect engine choices to reflect those of the E-class range, including new direct-injection 3.5-litre V6 and 4.6 and 5.5-litre twin-turbo V8 petrol engines – the latter delivering 400kW and 800Nm in the CLS 63 AMG. The 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel version is likely to remain unavailable in Australia, where CLS pricing currently kicks off at $154,200 for the CLS350.

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