"Conservative" and "understated" were the adjectives most frequently used to describe Mercedes-Benz styling until the introduction of the CLS-Class, which forever changed the automaker's design paradigm and influenced numerous rivals with its coupe-like roofline and eye-catching lines. Now in its second-generation, the CLS features a somewhat busier look than its timeless predecessor but also offers a significantly more powerful motor and a host of new high-tech features.
More aggressive both front and rear, the latest CLS is considerably more styled than the original model as Mercedes-Benz continues to hone its entry in the four-door coupe segment it essentially invented. The flanks adopt the "pontoon" rear fenders, which recall Mercedes sedans of the 1950s, that are spreading through the automaker's lineup. A much flashier pair of tailights adorn the rear as well.
Up front, Mercedes-Benz opted for full LED headlamps, the world's first to offer the full range of turn signals, running lamps, low- and high-beam functions purely from LEDs. The advantage of LEDs comes in the form of reduced energy consumption and longer bulb life.
Inside, the all-new CLS gains a more wrap-around-style dashboard with more innovative and upscale materials before. Matte galvanized trim surrounds the air vents, while hand-sewn leather wraps the dashboard.
Style aside, substance comes in the form of a lengthy list of standard features, such as COMAND with 40GB hard-drive GPS navigation, Bluetooth, voice control, 14-Speaker Harman/Kardon LOGIC7 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound system, HD radio, in-dash DVD/CD changer, in-dash SD card reader, power sunroof, Burl Walnut trim, multifunction leather sport steering wheel, 14-way power adjustable front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control and more.
Motivation for the latest CLS comes from a new twin-turbocharged 4.7-liter V8 that produces 402 horsepower and 443 lb-ft. of torque. A seven-speed automatic transmission sends power to the rear wheels. The powertrain is good for zero-to-60 mph times of under five seconds along with fuel economy of 17 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway.
Mercedes' 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system is available as an option. It brings all-weather traction at the expense of one mpg in the city cycle.
Mercedes-Benz has long been known for its safety features, and the CLS-Class will only add to that reputation. In addition to ABS and ESP stability control, the car boasts nine supplemental restraints including two-stage front air bags, a knee air bag for the driver and pelvic air bags which work together with curtain and side air bags to provide extra protection for front occupants in dangerous side-impact collisions.
Also standard is an "ATTENTION ASSIST" system that can alert the driver to the first signs of drowsiness, a factor that causes more than 100,000 accidents a year in the U.S.A steering sensor is coupled to smart software that uses 70 parameters to establish a unique driver profile during the first 20 minutes of driving. Between 50 and 112 mph, the system identifies the erratic steering corrections drivers make as they begin to get drowsy and triggers an audible warning and a "Time for a Rest?" message with a coffee cup icon in the instrument cluster.
Optional safety equipment includes the Lane Keeping Assist system, which alerts the driver by simulating a rumble strip vibration in the steering wheel if the car drifts from its lane without the turn signals on. Part of the Lane Tracking Package, it operates at speeds above 37 mph via a system that recognizes lane markings, thanks to a small camera in the windshield and a computer that analyzes the video images.
The Lane Tracking Package also includes Blind Spot Assist, which monitors both blind spots behind and to the side of the vehicle. Whenever a turn signal is activated with a vehicle in the blind spot, the driver gets visual and audible warnings.
The one that started it all, the CLS now faces competition from the BMW 6-Series Gran Coupe and the Audi A7, as well as the Porsche Panamera S.