Musings on the Motoring World

The CLS in the new Mercedes-Benz CLS isn’t right

Ignore the title for a moment and just savour Mercedes-Benz’s new CLS in all its glory. It looks absolutely stunning, and it should be. The four-door coupe is the only 21st-century niche that has enthusiasts getting all excited over, and even if it ended up as a botched nose job on an E-Class, it would still stir the loins of petrolheads everywhere.

They say “third time’s the charm” and looking at the first pictures of the third-iteration of Mercedes-Benz’s trailblazing CLS four-door coupe, I’d say they have got the CLS styling just right, marrying the sleek proportions set by the first with the aggressive cues and taut lines of the second, without the former’s odd “melted banana” looks or the mismatch nose-and-tail of the latter.

It certainly owes its looks to AMG’s Geneva GT Concept, which was supposed to preclude the AMG’s exclusive four-door model that is due sometime next year, which is great news as most plebs won’t have to take out a mortgage for the privilege of having AMG’s four-door baby sitting on the driveway of their now mortgage house instead; they could have the showstopper as a plebian Benz CLS now.

If some reports are to be believed, AMG’s upcoming four-door coupe will retain some exclusivity by being the only V8-powered four-door coupe in Stuttgart’s line-up. So Mercedes hasn’t shoved that proposed model aside for the CLS.

So what isn’t right about Mercedes’ new E-class based four-door coupe? Well, it is the E-Class part.

Not too long ago Mercedes consolidated its naming convention. The ML-Class became the GLE, the GLK was reborn as the GLC to reflect its relation to the C-Class, the gargantuan GL was made into the GLS to highlight its place at the top of the range, and the SLK was turned into the SLC at the other end of the roadster spectrum. It was all a methodically thought combination, even if the new names have lost some of the old world romance, but hey, most of us have come to accept that from the Germans.

By right, the CLS should be the CLE, thus neatly aligning itself with the mini-me CLA four-door coupe on the base of the Mercedes-Benz hierarchy. And in a similar definition, the CLS should be an S-Class four-door coupe, considering that the CL has now been discontinued for the less imaginatively named S-Class Coupe and Cabriolet, but it isn’t, and that is what bugs me.

It isn’t just Mercedes that has gotten a bit careless with the CLS name of late. BMW too had broken up their decades-long methodical name game to squeeze in a fat family hatchback and MPV into the “even number”-for-coupes 2 Series and killed the 6 Series only to elevate the piggy 5 Gran Turismo into the 6 Gran Turismo to wear that designation like a skin suit. It would have been an unforgivable sin to the faithful if BMW hadn’t revived the 8 Series name in return.

The only reason for the CLS to retain its name is that somewhere, deep in Daimler Benz headquarters, the eggheads came upon the stark realisation that if they were to finally get around to building a four-door coupe based off the C-Class to match BMW’s 4 Gran Coupe, they would have to do the unspeakable and revive the CLC.

Now that I have mentioned it, keeping the CLS around might have been a neccessity, even if it didn’t neccessarily make sense.

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