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Marketed as a 'four door coupe,' the CLS recalls the fastback saloon designs of Robert Opron in the 1970s. According to a Mercedes-Benz press release, the CLS-class was produced to combine the "strong, emotive charisma" of a coupe with the "comfort and practicality" of a saloon. Save for its four-door design, the CLS's design tends towards a coupe, as its sleek body reduces the rear passenger room to a 2+2 arrangement, and it offers a smaller selection of engines tending towards high powered of the range, compared to contemporary sedans such as the E-Class.
The car was first offered for sale in Europe in autumn 2004.
The CLS marked Mercedes-Benz's return to the executive-size coupe market since the (W124) E-Class Coupe (a two-door sedan) went out of production in 1995. The (W210) E-Class did not spawn a coupe variant, as Mercedes-Benz choose instead to introduce a smaller coupe based on the compact C-Class, the CLK-Class. However, the CLK-Class was built with a lengthened C-Class wheelbase so it could be slotted as a mid-sized vehicle, and it also featured styling cues, engines, and similar pricing to the (W210) E-Class to give the impression that the (W124) E-Class Coupe was directly replaced.
The CLS name also caused some to confuse it as the four-door version of the CL-Class, the full-sized coupe based on the S-Class. Indeed, the styling cues of the next generation C216 CL has been strongly influenced by the CLS.
Priced to slot between the mid-sized E-Class and the full-sized S-Class, it competes in the range which was previously solely occupied by the BMW 6-series. Prior to the launch of the CLS, Mercedes had no direct answer to the executive-sized 6-series which positioned itself between the compact/mid-sized CLK and the full-sized CL. The CLK is slotted between the BMW 3 series coupe/cabriolet and the 6 series coupe/cabriolet, while the CL has no direct competitor.
During its development, Mercedes-Benz executives nicknamed the CLS the "Jag fighter," hoping that it would be the type of vehicle that Jaguar customers would be attracted to. Jaguar, however, has not launched a four-door coupe since production until recently announced as the 2009 Jaguar XF sedan. Due to the popularity of the CLS-Class, other manufacturers are offering similar four-door coupes. Possible CLS competitors include the Audi A7, BMW CS Concept or BMW LC5, Porsche Panamera, Aston Martin Rapide, Peugeot 608, and Jaguar XF.
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Check out the Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class wallpapers and Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class Pictures (pics) collection below: