Born in 2004, the Mercedes-Benz CLS defines sleek, its elegant body seemingly drawn entirely from the simple sweep of the body-side crease. In the car business, falling in love with a design is dangerous, but we did. As previous spy shots (and one frightening concept said to lend cues to upcoming Benzes) trickled out, we feared the next-generation CLS might be headed in the direction of a Hollywood plastic-surgery disaster.
Although slightly obscured, the most recent photos captured by our spies prove the 2012 CLS will thankfully do without the superfluous forms of the F800 Style concept, although the shape won’t be quite as dramatic as the CLS-shaped sculpture Mercedes trucked to Detroit. The new look does little to quell the debate in our office about whether or not the upcoming car will be an improvement on the last generation.
Our past peek at a car wearing tight-fitting vinyl camouflage had already exposed the modifications to the new design. The nose is reshaped with a larger grille, more sculpting to the front bumper, and bigger headlights. The grille has to grow to match up with the taller hood, raised to provide more space between sheetmetal and hard bits in accordance with stringent new European pedestrian-protection standards. (Relatively speaking, sheetmetal is softer than engine components, and more space between hood and engine ostensibly means less-severe injuries in car/human collisions.) The most controversial aspect of the new shape will likely be the buff new E-class–style rear haunches, which are decidedly outside the standard of conservative elegance established by the first CLS. Like the rest of the Mercedes-Benz lineup, the 2012 car is going in a more muscular, angular direction.