As the sleek Mercedes-Benz CLS is to regular four-door sedans, so is the recently unveiled Shooting Break concept related to traditional "shooting brake" station wagons. Never mind the concept label: this low-slung, high-style wagon will be a companion model to the redesigned CLS four-door coupe that debuts this fall. The production version of the Shooting Break should appear one year later, but U.S. sales are unlikely.
With rivals Audi and BMW spreading hatchback models throughout their lineups, Mercedes is also adding another people mover, this one based on the forthcoming new C-class that is due in 2014. Allegedly inspired by the Honda Skydeck concept, the new entry is supposed to combine the roominess and flexibility of a minivan with the driver appeal of a wagon. True, that was also the brief of the disappointing R-class, but it's hoped that the smaller, prettier new entry, which may be badged CLR, will do better. The design features an elevated roofline (midway between a C-class wagon and an R-class), an extended rear overhang and wraparound tailgate (more upright than those from Audi and BMW), and power-operated rear sliding doors. The CLR will be a five-seater, with a staggered rear-seat configuration that accommodates three adults without shoulder contact. 4Matic all-wheel drive and a height-adjustable suspension will also be part of the program. The engine range will be topped by a twin-turbo V-6 good for 400 hp in AMG trim; a hybrid module that adds 20 hp may be standard equipment, and a plug-in hybrid might be an option.
The next S-class features an all-hybrid engine lineup, and the V-12 checks out.
The next-generation S-class - set to debut in 2012 and rendered here by our illustrator - will feature an evolutionary new design. The controversial wheel-arch extensions disappear, as do the heavy-handed trunk lid and the beefy bumpers. Fresh accents include LEDs integrated into the headlamps, a more upright grille, and more of those random, lateral swooshes that seem to be part of every future Benz. The bigger news is under the hood, as all S-class models will have hybrid powertrains and a new nine-speed automatic transmission. The power output of the small electric motor varies from 20 to 40 hp. For those with a greener conscience, Mercedes will also offer a plug-in hybrid, which increases electric boost to between 60 and 120 hp, depending on the engine it's paired with. Almost all the gasoline engines are new, including a direct-injected 3.5-liter V-6 (producing about 300 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque); a 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6 (350 hp/390 lb-ft); a twin-turbo 4.6-liter V-8 (400 hp/445 lb-ft); and a 5.5-liter V-8 (510 hp/590 lb-ft). Good news for the power-mad: the S63 AMG's output climbs from 518 hp to about 565 hp. The not-so-good news: it appears that the twelve-cylinder engines are history. On the latter point, one wonders - can Audi, BMW, and Aston Martin be far behind?