Mercedes is striving to shed some of its stodge with the introduction of a high-end cruiser that marries the convenience of a sedan with the panache of a coupe. The CLS500's roof arcs gracefully over the passenger cell and into a high deck. A protective beltline leaves small side windows unencumbered by upper frames. Inside, the seats and creature comforts are geared to carry just four passengers in supreme elegance. Capable S-class underpinnings support this stylistic initiative. Front and rear structural modules should provide excellent protection in the event of a collision and easier repair than in the past. Aluminum and steel structural elements coexist harmoniously, maximizing strength and stiffness. Air springs and electronically adjustable dampers are standard. A vast array of electronic gear helps the driver maximize braking performance and keeps the nose ahead of the tail during evasive maneuvers. The power steering is, of course, speed-sensitive. A 24-valve, 5.0-liter, SOHC V-8 provides a capable 302 hp, which the seven-speed automatic transmission puts to excellent use hustling this two-ton sedan from 0 to 60 mph in about six seconds flat. Thanks to the 0.30 drag coefficient, the CLS500's 155 mph is quickly attained.
ON SALE: Early 2005 (most likely as a 2006 model)PRICE: $70,000 (est.)ENGINE: 302-hp, 5.0-liter V-8BOTTOM LINE: Mercedes-Benz's style star.