If you were in the market for a midsized luxury sedan from Europe, you could certainly do worse than the Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class. While it sacrifices a bit of interior volume for the sake of style, it remains an opulent and sedate experience for the driver with just enough performance to keep the office commute from becoming dull. Of course, those seeking enhanced trills could pay AMG to transform the sedan into the 429 horsepower CLS53. But it has been retired for the 2022 model year, along with the base CLS450 with rear-wheel drive.
That just leaves the CLS450 4Matic, which Mercedes has given some new accouterments — perhaps to take the sting out of the company dumping the more interesting trims.
What is it about the new crop of vehicles? It’s great that the”cheerful” phase in automotive styling is over (the demented visage of those old Mazda 3s still haunt my nightmares), but what we’re left with, at least in the passenger car segment, is enormous, angry grilles or, in the case of the 2018 Ford Mustang and next-generation Mercedes-Benz CLS, a kind of sad face.
Why the droopy eyes, Mercedes?
Whatever the reason, the automaker is bringing more than a questionable front end treatment to the table with its third-generation CLS. The sedan that started the four-door coupe craze (which then jumped ship to the SUV segment) adopts a host of changes for 2019, not the least of which is a new engine that should have both purists and futurists smiling.
All hail the inline six.
Coupé-like styling is one of the biggest buzzwords at new car launch parties. Although this is more of a modern phenomenon, the root of the seemingly contradictory four-door coupé is older than you might think.
In 1962, Rover dropped the rear roofline on its P5 sedan and dared to call it a four-door coupé. In 2004, Mercedes picked up on this idea with the CLS-class Coupe. It was only a matter of time before Audi and BMW joined the party with the A7 and 6-Series Gran Coupé.
Now, many of you may say we already have a name for the four-door coupé. It’s a sedan. I agree with you. Audi isn’t entirely convinced by the “coupé” designation either, and they only dare mention it twice in the 62-page brochure. This means the S7 is a $12,000 styling exercise atop a tasty and more practical S6.
While it may or may not be the next-generation Mercedes-Benz CLS-class (note: probably not), the automaker took the wraps off a transforming concept car that grows in length significantly at highway speeds to better cut through air.
The Mercedes-Benz IAA concept (Intelligent Aerodynamic Automobile) was shown off Tuesday in Frankfurt and, according to the automaker, can grow by 390 millimeters to achieve a drag coefficient world record of 0.19. (The current generation Prius is around 0.25, for reference.)
The whole thing is powered by a hybrid powertrain that’ll never see the light of day and sports an interior array of electronics that’s probably something out of “Minority Report.” It’s the moveable aerodynamic elements on the IAA that could see production, and there are a lot of them.
With a broader product portfolio and extra decades of established premium status in the United States, Mercedes-Benz USA sells a lot more vehicles than Audi USA. Through the first four months of 2015, Mercedes-Benz sales were up 9% to 107,344, excluding Sprinter. Audi, globally favored, was up 12% to 56,925.
But again, the comparisons are difficult to make because the lineups simply don’t, well, line up. We’ve discussed the CLA and A3 before, but even there, Audi is offering different bodystyles under one banner, which Mercedes-Benz does not. The S-Class has a significantly higher base price than the A8. The E-Class is available as a sedan, wagon, coupe, and convertible – the A6 is sedan only. The GL is significantly pricier than the Q7; the Q7 offers more seats than the ML. The C-Class is new; we might as well wait for a new A4 to draw realistic comparisons. The SLK is a hardtop convertible; the TT is either coupe or convertible.
You get the idea. Only in a handful of zones do the two brands offer truly direct rivals. GLA vs. Q3, GLK vs. Q5, and the matter at hand, Mercedes-Benz CLS vs. Audi A7.
My statement “BMW is the new Mercedes” may have ruffled the most feathers, but the second thing that gets thrown in my face is: “what then has Mercedes become?” I’m sorry if the forum fanboys can’t adjust to the new normal that is a softer, more civilized, more luxurious BMW that puts comfort over balls-out performance. Sometimes you just have to let the ostrich keep its head in the hole. If you think the M6 is the best thing since sliced bread, read no further. This isn’t about BMW, this is about the German luxury company. What of them? To find out we were tossed the keys to a six-figure beast for a week.
I appreciate the novelty of a new design as much as the next guy, but have never understood the four-door-coupé. I mean, aren’t these terms mutually exclusive? A coupé can’t have four doors and a car with four doors can’t be a coupé? Mercedes started this conundrum with the CLS back in 2004, and then Volkswagen decided to jump on the bandwagon to bolster Passat sales with the CC in 2008. It was only a matter of time before VAG decided to compete with the CLS head on with the A7. After all, Audi has had model envy for years, and if they are to stay on track with world domination, they need to attack the mainline Germans at every body style. Not one to rest on laurels, Mercedes has redesigned the CLS for 2011. Michael Karesh wrangled an A7 out of Audi back in July, and Mercedes let me take theirs for a week. Let’s see if the CLS has what it takes to reign supreme in this extremely small niche.