First Look: 2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class

Mercedes-Benz struck styling gold with the first-generation CLS-Class, creating a new segment that sent rival automakers scrambling back to their design tables.

First images of the new 2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class. Photo: Mercedes-Benz

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.

First images of the new 2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class. Photo: Mercedes-Benz

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.

First images of the new 2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class. Photo: Mercedes-Benz

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.

First images of the new 2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class. Photo: Mercedes-Benz

The CLS remains a four-passenger car and we’re eager to see first-hand how that sloping rear roofline affects rear seat headroom. Perhaps that’s a trivial concern for most CLS buyers compared to powertrain options. Mercedes-Benz has been silent on this front, but we expect the CLS to retain a V-8 engine as its bread-and-butter powertrain in the U.S.

Currently, the base 2011 CLS550 is powered by a 5.5-liter V-8 producing 382 horsepower mated to a seven-speed automatic.

First images of the new 2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class. Photo: Mercedes-Benz

While that engine may carry through to the 2012 model, we wouldn’t be surprised to see the automaker’s new 4.6-liter twin-turbo V-8 under the hood of the 2012 CLS.

Producing 429 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque in the 2011 CL coupe, an engine that powerful could finally leave room for a direct-injected V-6 option in the States, which has been rumored. Expect Mercedes-AMG’s new twin-turbo 5.5-liter V-8 to power the coming high-performance AMG variant.

So is Mercedes-Benz worried about its newfound four-door coupe rivals? On the contrary, the German automaker thinks its experience with this market niche could help, going forward.

First images of the new 2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class. Photo: Mercedes-Benz

“The new edition of the CLS also benefits from the fact that we are a whole generation ahead of the competition with our four-door coupe,” says Dr. Joachim Schmidt, member of the board of Mercedes-Benz Cars, Sales & Marketing.

Premiering at the Paris Motor Show in October, the CLS helps bridge the sizable pricing gap between the E- and S-Class sedans.

Until that happens, call the CLS a coupe or a sedan as long as you call it Mercedes-Benz’s most stylish four-door. Expect to see the new CLS hit U.S. Mercedes dealers by mid-year next year. [via Motor Authority and Automobile Mag]

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