With the third generation CLS, Mercedes-Benz dials down the Purity but ups the Sensuality. Oh Gorden!
Having trawled through Mercedes-Benz’s predictably hyperbole-laden press release for the new CLS, the temptation to point both barrels feels overwhelming, but the author nevertheless promises to do his best. Instead, I’d like to reflect upon whether nu-CLS embodies a return to form for a model which perhaps did more to shift Mercedes-Benz’s image and median age than any single model over the past decade or so, or if indeed, its moment has passed.
From its inception in 2003, the original CLS was the epitome of the ephemeral. A fashion statement which (as the sales figures attested) quickly lost its allure. The comically over-styled (W219) second iteration (introduced in 2010) saw the nameplate lose even more of its lustre, while gaining a short-lived and even more pointless estate version, so this new iteration sees Daimler revert to first principles.
But inconvenient truths are PR poison, Daimler clearly being of the view that given sufficient repetition one can bludgeon one’s audience to a bloodied pulp. The Stuttgart-Untertërkheim party line being of course the notion that the four-door coupe template was established in Sindelfingen, coupled with the idea that Mike Fink’s curiously flaccid silhouette has (like Audi’s TT) been elevated to iconic status.
But to ignore the press release completely is an impossibility, not when it contains gems like the following. “Like its predecessors, the new CLS exudes self-assured sportiness in exemplary style: a highly emotive vehicle offering impressive long-distance and acoustic comfort coupled with thrilling, unrivalled technology”. Well it’s hardly going to exude the introverted variety, is it? Surely Assertive Athleticism® would be more in their line? [My rates are quite modest by the way].
Anyway, back in the room: In 2015, Mercedes-Benz showed Concept IAA, an interesting, if polarising study in applied aerodynamics and surfacing. At the time, it was said to prefigure the next generation CLS and while it can to some extent be said that it has, one is left wondering if the result has been worth it. However, in Mercedes’ defence, nu-CLS’ claimed drag coefficient of 0.26 illustrates that perhaps the IAA concept taught them something.
Mercedes themselves appear to view the model as the beginning of a new era, saying “The new CLS pioneers the new design idiom of Mercedes-Benz, which is recognisable by its clear contours and reduced lines.” A statement which doesn’t strictly pass the credibility test, given the results of Sensual Purity® we have been privy to so far.
Robert Lesnik, Mercedes-Benz Director of Exterior Design told journalists last year, “we’re taking lines out of everything”. This is apparent both in last year’s C213 E-Class Coupe and the similarly formless looking AMG-GT saloon shown at Geneva earlier this year, so quite frankly, it would have been staggering if nu-CLS hadn’t followed a similar stylistic path. Clarification on the matter however, [and you probably saw this coming] emanates from an altogether higher plane.
Floating precisely 2.5 metres above ground level on a little white cloud of his own hubris, Chief Design Officer Daimler A.G, Gorden Wagener said – (although to be strictly accurate, the Gorden no longer forms actual words, more impulses one feels through the soles of the feet) – “The new CLS is a design icon as the archetype of the four-door coupé. In line with our hot & cool© design philosophy, we have reduced its DNA to an extremely puristic level while emotionally charging it with an almost erotic beauty.”
Look, it’s not my fault. I tried. I really did. But ‘erotic beauty’? For the love of God! But having involuntarily stumbled into the Blessed One’s boudoir, the stock “it’s not what it looks like” defence really isn’t going to butter anyone’s turnips. The imagination boggles – well mine does anyway. But the nu-CLS press release takes matters further still, and frankly, it’s the purist filth.
“ENERGISING comfort control (optional) links various comfort systems in the vehicle. It systematically uses the functions of the climate control system (including fragrancing) and the heated [and multi-function massage] seats, as well as lighting and musical atmospheres [I’m envisaging Barry White here], and allows a specific wellness [oh right – wellness] set-up tailored to the mood and need of the customer. As a result, well-being and performance levels are enhanced. [Yeah baby!]
These six programmes can be selected: Freshness, Warmth, Vitality, Joy, Comfort, Training (three training modes – muscle relaxation, muscle activation and balance – each with several exercises). [Way, and furthermore, hey]
I’m not making this up, honestly.
But leaving ‘Sexy-Gorden’ to one side, to our blessed relief, let’s return to the question of whether nu-CLS marks a return to form or a point that simply no longer needs to be made? With the current E-Class saloon and coupe doing the numbers in an entirely satisfactory manner on one hand and the forthcoming Panamera-baiting AMG four-seater model on the other, surely Mercedes-Benz have all bases covered?
Having squandered the not inconsiderable (if fleeting) impact of the original with the frankly, ludicrous second generation, it’s not inconceivable that this could well be the CLS’ last hurrah. Why? Largely because it’s difficult to avoid the sense there’s too much model overlap here and that the CLS for all its erotic sensuality has become a somewhat blunt [ahem] tool.
One final observation: According to no greater an authority than his blessedness himself, nu-CLS represents Sensual Purity v3.0®, which follows his pronouncement earlier this year; “Form and body remain when creases and lines are reduced to the extreme.” This got me wondering: if this is how we now define Sensual Purity, what could v4.0 possibly be? The answer soon became obvious.
Remove the vowels and what you’re left with then is Snsl Prty. Yes I know it’s meaningless twaddle, but… well, I’ve done enough work here – draw your own conclusions.