First Look: 2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS

German maker restyles its trend-setting coupe-like sedan.

by on Aug.23, 2010

Slated for a Paris Motor Show preview, the 2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS

Few new entries have had more of an impact on automotive design, in recent years, than the Mercedes-Benz CLS.

The launch of the original coupe-like sedan, in 2003, not only added a little more emotion to the often Teutonically-stern Mercedes line-up, but also influenced the industry overall, with a growing number of makers – like Volkswagen, with the curvaceous CC – to adapt a more coupe-like look for their four-door offerings.

Can Daimler AG’s flagship brand maintain its first-mover advantage – and also resolve some of the problems with the original CLS?  It’s certainly going to try, as these advance photos of the 2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS suggest.

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Set for a formal debut at the upcoming Paris Motor Show, on September 30th, the initial appearance of the 2012 CLS is familiar, starting with the oversized tri-star logo, on the grille, the long nose sweeping back to an abbreviated rear deck.

The four-door coupe maintains its frameless side glass and the sweeping accent lines that race from front to rear.

The original coupe-like sedan has had a strong influence on automotive design.

But a closer look reveals a number of updates, most subtle, some significant.

There are new lamps, including distinctive LED foglights integrated into the front bumper.  The sideview mirrors are squared off and appear to take a different approach to integrating turn signals from the old CLS design.

We’ll need to see the 2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS in the sheet metal to be sure, but it appears there are some dimensional changes towards the C-pillar that would, if we’re on target, address the single serious complaint frequently voiced about the luxury sedan: its lack of rear-seat headroom.

A more lavish and luxurious interior for the 2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS.

The interior of the new CLS has been upgraded, as well, and now looks even more like the top-line S-Class than before.  The images here show a version of the coupe-like sedan with a pairing of leather and carbon fiber panels, rather than wood.

The tactful use of chrome echoes that of the latest-generation E-Class Coupe, with which the CLS shares platforms.  There’s a larger navigation screen than before and what appear to be two systems controllers, one on the center console, another on the center stack.

Rear-seat headroom was the biggest complaint about the old CLS.

The carefully-cropped image of the rear bucket seats doesn’t make it easy to tell how much headroom is available in the new version of the CLS, though it appears that the seats themselves have been scooped out, a wee bit, to make for a better fit.

The seats shown here, incidentally, are from Designo, part of the customizable line of accessories and components offered by Mercedes.

Since the new model bears a 2012 designation, we don’t expect to see it hit showrooms until sometime next Spring, at the earliest.  It’s unclear whether Mercedes plans to launch the next-generation CLS in Europe and the U.S. simultaneously, or will hold back the State-side introduction, as it often does, for as much as a year.

Some of the changes for 2012 are subtle, such as the LED foglamps.

European customers will likely be offered a wide range of gasoline and diesel powertrains.  The line-up has lately been more select in the U.S., with the emphasis on Mercedes’s 5.5-liter petrol engine, which would be designated the 2012 CLS 550, and the maker’s naturally-aspirated performance engine, which would be the CLS 63 AMG.

But could other options be in the works?  Like its German luxury rival, BMW, Mercedes-Benz has been pressing into greener territory.  Could a hybrid version of the CLS be in store?  Or an American version of the BlueTec clean diesel?

We’ll probably have to wait until Paris to get some answers.

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