First Look: 2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class

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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.

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