First Look: 2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class

Mercedes-Benz pioneered the so-called 'four-door coupe' segment with the first-generation CLS-Class. But with its 2012 CLS sedan, Mercedes now faces plenty of competition in the segment it created -- most notably in the form of coming offerings from German rivals Audi and BMW.

To meet that challenge, 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.

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