The CLS has been an automotive fashion trend-setter since 2003 with its sleek and slinky profile, and the Los Angeles Auto Show is the forum for its next incarnation, a world premiere. Due to appear in dealerships in the fall of 2018, the third generation CLS will feature slightly smoother contours—fewer character lines, not so edgy—a front fascia that tilts slightly forward, wider low-set LED headlights, and two-section LED taillamps.

Styled by AMG, the Mercedes high-performance subsidiary, the latest CLS maintains the arching roofline and fast backlight of its predecessors, a shape that makes the rear doors something of a surprise. The design inspired Mercedes to obfuscate body style classifications with a new term. By conventional definition, the CLS was and is a sedan, but Mercedes continues to characterize it as a “4-door coupe.”

Places for five

There is one dimensional difference between this CLS and its predecessors: a roomier rear seat area. Passenger capacity has expanded from four to a more sedan-like five. Other distinctions include an all-new powertrain with what could be called a mild hybrid feature, a new suspension option, a sumptuous new interior, and a host of driver-assist features that edge closer to autonomous operating territory.

Offered in rear- and 4-wheel-drive (4Matic) editions, the CLS 450 will be powered by a new 3.0-liter inline six (362 horsepower, 369 lb-ft of torque) augmented by a 48-volt electrical system that powers an integrated starter-generator which can contribute 21 hp and 184 lb-ft to propulsion. Mercedes calls the system EQ. In addition to amplifying acceleration, it’s also capable of taking over for the engine in steady state cruising, delivering fuel economy benefits. Mercedes expects the performance of the new powertrain to at least equal that of the current 402-horsepower 4.7-liter V8.

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The standard suspension consists of a 4-link arrangement up front, a 5-link design at the rear. However, a new pneumatic system—Mercedes calls it Air Body Control—is on the option list.

Interior highlights include a standard 12.3-inch central touch screen with the option of a screen double the size and dominating the cockpit. The digital cockpit is driver configurable under three headings: classic, sport, or progressive.

A zany touch: Occupants can choose from 64 shades of ambient lighting. Another intriguing feature: Energizing Comfort, integrating various vehicle systems—for example, HVAC (including fragrance dispensing), seats (heating, cooling and massage), ambient lighting—to optimize occupant comfort. There are a half-dozen presets: Refresh/freshness; Warmth; Vitality; Joy; Comfort/Well-being; and Training.

Training includes three sub-categories—muscle relaxation, muscle activation, and balance, each with a set of exercises.

Driver assistance

Like the Mercedes S-class, the 2019 CLS will offer an extensive menu of driver-assist features. Standard elements include Active Brake Assist, Attention Assist, Pre Safe (cinching seatbelts, etc.), and Pre-Safe Sound (preparing occupants for collision noise, with the object of reducing hearing damage).

The optional Driver Assistance Package includes a much longer list: Active Distance Control (cruise); Active Steering Assist; Active Speed Limit Assist (anticipates speed limit changes); Active Brake Assist (with cross traffic alert); Evasive Steering Assist; Active Blind Spot Assist; and Active Lane-Keeping Assist.

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Beyond that, the CLS has an improved camera system, and its micro brain is capable of calculating driver behavior by interpreting map and navigation data.

The on-sale date and pricing will be announced later. Current CLS MSRPs range from just under $76,000 to $78,345.

                                        

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