27 February 2004

Four-door coupé or sleek saloon? Both, according to Mercedes, which reckons its new CLS-Class merges the two to form a unique challenger to the two-door forms of BMW’s 6-series and the Jaguar XK.

The wraps come off the new Merc at next week’s Geneva Motor Show. It goes on sale in Europe this autumn, and in the UK early next year.

Differing only in details from the Vision CLS concept unveiled at Frankfurt last September, the production car gets a new grille, door handles, alloys and mirrors, and the concept’s panoramic sunroof is omitted.

The CLS carries over the concept’s dimensions, 90mm longer than the E-Class on which it is based at 4110mm, although the two share a 2854mm wheelbase. Two engines will be available from launch, a new 272bhp 3.5-litre V6 – the engine from the new SLK – and a 5.0-litre V8. The latter packs 306bhp and sprints from 0-62mph in 6.1sec.

Prices will be around £6000 above the equivalent E-Class, on which the CLS is based, which means a starting tag of £43k, rising to £50k for the CLS 500.

The CLS gets Merc’s new 7G-tronic seven-speed auto transmission as standard, 17-inch alloy wheels on the 350, and 18-inchers on the CLS 500. A host of additional engines are also in the pipeline, including a trio of new diesels that make their Benz debut in the CLS. The smallest version is the 188bhp 280 CDI with 369lb ft of torque, the middle unit a 300 CDI with 228bhp and 413lb ft, and the top diesel is a 4.4-litre V8 with 296bhp and 516lb ft of torque. Petrol engines to follow include three V8s: a 355bhp 4.6-litre, a 404bhp 5.5 and the new 500bhp 6.3-litre for a CLS 63 AMG model. The company has also registered the name CLS 65, tipped to be a special-edition AMG version with the 603bhp 6.0-litre V12 from the CL65 AMG.

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