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Published on Sat, Mar 12, 2005
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
By JOHN GRAFMAN
Those poor guys (and gals) in marketing. They have to pull a gem out of thin air like a magician pulling a rabbit out of his hat. Mercedes-Benz recent ad campaign regarding their latest offering, the CLS, draws a relationship to Mercedes from day's gone bye. While the advertising might be clever, it still narrowly misses the mark.
"The Four Door Coupe" is the slogan for the latest ad campaign for the CLS. The Mercedes is a four door and it does posses a certain coupe-like appearance. After just an hour or so behind the wheel, a different tagline might seem more appropriate. I think that "Four Door Cool" really get the point across.
Ford has revived the image of Steve McQueen, one of the coolest of the cool, for their advertisements. While they have made some headway in usurping the word "Cool", the new Mercedes is inescapably the very meaning of the word.
The underpinnings are essentially E Class, but the impression is beyond that of a sedan. The CLS is not a small car. As a result the Mercedes has a very different feel than that of a smaller coupe like the SLK, CLK or such. There is a certain solid feeling that only comes with size. Likewise, the same solidness and security is also found in the CL, Mercedes big, two-door, coupe. The CLS 500 does come off very driver oriented in all the important aspects from acceleration to braking.
The steering effort of this package does remind me of a sport oriented machine rather than a luxury cruiser. Tire grip is also impressive which is again confidence boosting.
The new seven-speed is so smooth that shifting up or down just one gear is all but imperceptible. Thankfully, the readout in the instrument cluster is a clear reminder of just what gear the car is in. I find the gear selection far better than the C Class where the transmission needs to work its way down from the top gear and the readout is not as noticeable. With the new toggle paddle on the back of the steering wheel, one can easily up or down shift from either side of the steering wheel. Of course what is cooler or, dare I say in today's PC world, manlier than an ass-kicking engine? The CLS can make many four-door cars seem lack luster. This car is no flyweight yet considering the way this moves not just from a stand still, but also anywhere and at nearly any speed is definitely impressive.
As smooth as this machine moves it can be misleading as to the speeds at which it blasts down the roadway. In a short period of time we start to get a handle on this product and thereby avoid any conversations with the police. Our ride can effortlessly encroach into triple digit territory if we don't pay close attention.
The interior does differ from the E Class in that it is a dedicated four seater. The center console extends from the dash the rear seats effective keeping crowds out of the back. There will be no fooling around in the back of this car without dinging the trim. Oh the price we pay for style.
Another small revolution takes place in the cup holders. The old Rube Goldberg designed, fold out, articulating cup holder is nixed in favor of a much simpler configuration. While this can accommodate a larger beverage container with much greater security, this new and improved version still has a flaw. We notice that with two water bottles of nominal size in the holders, the shifter in the center console is difficult to use in the manual mode. It seems the beverage blocks the arm from resting as it should in order to shift. This new cup holder is two steps forward and one step back.
In a lunch meeting with Ray Addison, product management specialist, we come to understand why this machine exists. The company party line is the CLS will generate its own fan base rather than stealing customers from the E Class. I didn't believe it until I drove the car. While the styling goes along way to make new friends, the feel behind the wheel is what drive the point home.
If the buyers embrace the design of the CLS, who knows, maybe the CLS could be the first of other designs with a similar flavor. Unlike some other automobiles, the ability of this machine doesn't fall shy of the styling. One might say this is really truth in advertising.
Is it important that we embrace this as a "four-door coupe"? Well, call it whatever you want, but no one will ever forget this is one cool car.
For more information please go to www.mbusa.com
Engine type:90-degree V8, aluminum cylinder heads and block, SOHC per bank, two intake valves and one exhaust per cylinder
Horsepower:302 @ 5,600 rpm
Torque:516 lb.-ft @ 2,650-4,500, rpm, 339 lb.-ft @ 2,700-4,250 rpm
Drive configuration:Front engine / all-wheel drive
Transmission type:Seven-speed electronically controlled automatic with Touch Shift and driver-adaptive shift logic, ESP electronic stability control, ASR electronic traction control
Suspension: Front: Double control arms, stabilizer bars Rear: Five-link, stabilizer bar
AIRmatic Dual Control - computer controlled air springs; gas shocks with four-stage variable damping
Wheels and tires:Front: 18 x 8.5, 245/40 ZR 18 Rear: 18 x 9.5, 245/35 ZR 18
Brakes:Front: Vented discs 13 X 1.3 inches diameter Rear: Vented discs 11.8 X .9 inches diameter
ABS, Brake Assist
Overall length:193.3" Overall width: 73.7" (w/o mirrors) Overall height: 55.2" Curb weight (lbs.): 3,812
EPA mileage estimates City/ Highway:17/25 (est)
Top Speed, mph:155