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2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class Overview

New styling, new engines and a new price are in store for Mercedes’ quirky coupe in 2012. Quirky was the main name from the beginning of the game with the CLS, with its 4-door layout and sloping roofline, and despite complaints regarding the lack of a third rear seat, the CLS has proven to be a profitable venture, with sales exceeding projections by more than 40 percent. In fact, Mercedes has moved nearly 200,000 quasi-coupes since introduction, and surveys indicate that one-third of those buyers were previously driving other brands.

The quirk continues with this Southern-California-born creation. Head of Mercedes’ Advance Design North America operation Hubert Lee looked to the gorgeous, late-30s Mercedes-Benz 540 K 'Autobahnkurier' for inspiration here, channeling the swooping lines of the rear fenders and deck for this newest iteration. It’s a fine example of how small changes can have big results in design, with the lines and creases adding a subtle yet severe style that prevents the CLS from being lost in an otherwise flooded market of German coupe/sedans.

Up front, you’ll see similar changes with a larger grille and a higher hood to accommodate new European safety standards which contend that flat sheetmetal is softer than a lumpy engine. Smart thinking, there. Luckily it looks good, too.

And speaking of engines, there are two new bi-turbo V8s to satisfy your atavistic aggression, starting with a 402-hp, 4.6-liter mill good for 443 lb-ft of torque in the CLS550. With the revised 7-speed automatic – which was too weak to handle duty in the CLS originally – you’ll see a return of 18 city mpg/ 26 highway. Choose the CLS63 AMG instead and you’ll be treated to a 5.5-liter V8 with 518 tire-shredding horses and 516 lb-ft of torque. In layman’s terms, that’s enough to stop the world from spinning, or so I’m told. Still not enough? The AMG Performance Pack will up the ante to 550 horses and 590 lb-ft of torque, while still being able to deliver 15/23.

Thorough as they are, the people at Mercedes couldn’t leave the interior alone, so here we see an E-Class-inspired layout with a few subtle changes. You’ll notice an analog clock here and knobs for climate controls as opposed to the toggle switches we’ve been seeing of late. You have your choice between five colors, five trim materials – three grains of wood, piano black lacquer and carbon-fiber – and three varieties of leather for a truly personalized style. Special note should be made of the matte galvanized vents – a stand-out touch.

And because it’s a Mercedes, the electronic excess is apparent. Dynamically adjustable air suspension, electromechanical power steering, Attention Assist, PreSafe and traction and stability control are all standard, with Active Blind Spot and Lane Keeping Assists as optional features. Ten airbags are standard, but you can opt for 2 more in the rear if you so choose. What’s more, the CLS550 can be equipped with Mercedes’ 4Matic AWD system for the ultimate in all-weather performance.

No matter the angle, the CLS has been a winner. With performance to spare, unique – and somewhat controversial – styling, and actual utility it’s hard to argue any other position. Factor in a price drop of almost $3,000 for the CLS500 and more than $4,000 for the CL63 AMG, and detractors can simply fade away, most likely in the rear-view mirror.


A CarGurus contributor since 2008, Michael started his career writing about cars with the SCCA - winning awards during his time as editor of Top End magazine. Since then, his journalistic travels have taken him from NY to Boston to CA, completing a cross-country tour on a restored vintage Suzuki. While his preference is for fine German automobiles - and the extra leg room they so often afford - his first automobile memories center around impromptu Mustang vs. Corvette races down the local highway, in the backseat of his father's latest acquisition.

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