Mercedes-Benz struck styling gold with the first-generation CLS-Class, creating a new segment that sent rival automakers scrambling back to their design tables. Things are different the second time around, as the new 2012 CLS steps into a market suddenly littered with so-called ‘four-door coupes,’ with more on the way from Stuttgart’s German rivals Audi and BMW.
With the 2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class, the automaker has focused on improving the one area that defines its existence: design. The sides of the car feature much more pronounced sculpting that starts with the front wheel well and ends at the fresh set of LED taillights. Love it or hate it, this is one four-door that at the very least will draw your attention.
Not surprisingly, LED daytime running lights make an appearance, but the 2012 CLS has full LED headlights, as well. The 71 individual LEDs enhance visibility and frankly, they just look cool.
Inside the CLS' cabin, a wraparound dash makes the cockpit feel tailored, while a high-gloss analog clock adds an upscale touch. Design, Mercedes-Benz points out, is only half the story inside. Material quality has been upgraded in a further effort to distinguish the CLS from other segment players. Semi-aniline leather is just 1.6 millimeters thick and has an especially soft feel, according to the automaker.
Look to the dash and you'll see matte galvanized air vents and a hand-sewn leather dashboard. High-gloss brown burl walnut and black ash wood trims are standard equipment, but for a bit more cash, Mercedes will be happy to fit your CLS with black piano lacquer or carbon fiber instead. That black piano trim, by the way, is handcrafted and has up to seven layers to make sure it has the right high-gloss look.
The CLS remains a four-passenger car and we're eager to see first-hand how that sloping rear roofline affects rear seat headroom. Perhaps that's a trivial concern for most CLS buyers compared to powertrain options. Mercedes-Benz has been silent on this front, but we expect the CLS to retain a V-8 engine as its bread-and-butter powertrain in the U.S.
Currently, the base 2011 CLS550 is powered by a 5.5-liter V-8 producing 382 horsepower mated to a seven-speed automatic. While that engine may carry through to the 2012 model, we wouldn't be surprised to see the automaker's new 4.6-liter twin-turbo V-8 under the hood of the 2012 CLS. Producing 429 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque in the 2011 CL coupe, an engine that powerful could finally leave room for a direct-injected V-6 option in the States, which has been rumored. Expect Mercedes-AMG's new twin-turbo 5.5-liter V-8 to power the coming high-performance AMG variant.
So is Mercedes-Benz worried about its newfound four-door coupe rivals? On the contrary, the German automaker thinks its experience with this market niche could help, going forward.
"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," says Dr. Joachim Schmidt, member of the board of Mercedes-Benz Cars, Sales & Marketing.
Premiering at the Paris Motor Show in October, the CLS helps bridge the sizable pricing gap between the E- and S-Class sedans. Until that happens, call the CLS a coupe or a sedan as long as you call it Mercedes-Benz's most stylish four-door. Expect to see the new CLS hit U.S. Mercedes dealers by the middle of next year.