Mercedes-Benz is preparing to officially introduce the third generation of it’s popular CLS this fall at the 2017 Los Angeles Auto Show. They’ve been busy doing extensive testing and refining to meet it’s tough production benchmarks. In the course of testing, they’ve racked up over 8.5 million kilometers (roughly 5 million miles) in 9 countries across 4 continents. We were cordially invited back in July to get a sneak peek while the engineering team was in the San Fransisco area, wrapping up the last of it’s extended test drive sessions before the cars headed off to an inordinately hot Arizona for hot weather testing. Here’s what we were able to learn.

The design refocuses on the original CLS’s styling cues, but also introduces a new body styling language from Mercedes-Benz. The cars we rode in were all heavily camoflaged but the lines appeared to be very attractive. The car was mid-sized with fluid lines. We’re eager to see it undisguised this November in Los Angeles.

The new CLS utilizes the new E-class chassis, but offers the new S-class engines. There will be an extensive line of 4Matic models available across the range. There will be several engine choices, though the US will only get the gasoline I6 engine. It will make 367 hp (270 kW, 500 N-m). Other engines offered outside the US include new I6 diesel engines making from 286 hp (210 kW, 600 N-m) to 340 hp (250 kW, 700 N-m) and a four-cylinder turbo gasoline engine making 300 hp (220 kW, 400 N-m). A four-cylinder diesel is in the works as well. We can tell you that the engines make excellent power and feel strong and smooth. The cars displayed excellent power accelerating up steep mountain roads and while passing slower traffic in short passing areas in the mountains.

The I6 gasoline engine and the new turbo four-cylinder gasoline engine utilize a new electrical charging system that promises to revolutionize the industry. Besides the standard 12-v battery, Mercedes-Benz includes a 48-v battery system as well. This larger battery is capable of electrically running all the accessories that are normally run by accessory belts on cars. This means that the engine is essentially beltless, with the exception of the timing belt. It also means that the power steering pump, the a/c compressor, the alternator, the water pump, and the starter are all electrically powered now and that when the engine shuts off at lights, all the accessories can still run full power, uninhibited by a still engine. In fact, the A/C can run full power for 15 minutes before it needs to kick on the engine to generate more power.

It also means that the car can now “glide” in freeway situations when the active cruise control is activated. The engine can shut off while coasting down the highway, regenerating energy, saving fuel, reducing CO2 emissions, and still running all the accessories (like power steering and brakes) without issue. The Distronic radar system will activate the brakes or refire the engine to generate engine braking if it senses that it’s approaching a slower car too quickly. Further, when the car is in “Eco” mode, the battery can recapture energy through simply letting off the accelerator to recharge the 48-v battery. This captured energy can be used as a “boost” in the 48-v battery that can be used for short spurts of additional accelerative power, not unlike the KERS system in Formula 1. And it’s a noticeable boost over the standard engine. You can’t miss it when you activate it. These are fascinating and forward-thinking concepts being brought to market.

The car will have four control settings: Eco, which allows the 48-v battery to recharge through several regenerative methods and maximizes efficiency; Comfort, which is the default setting and provides a comfortable ride and good economy; Sport, which tightens up the suspension and the engine responses; and Sport+, which further tightens up the suspension and the engine responses, giving the car a frenetic, aggressive, racing feel.

The suspension uses an Air-Body Control system that utilizes an advanced airbag suspension to control the body motions and improve the ride quality. No matter which control setting is on, the ride is composed, controlled, and effective. It’s firm, but not harsh. It never feels caught out or surprised. The ride in “Sport+” has a noticeably harder ride but it corners flat.

The brakes are powerful and strong and do a fantastic job of hauling the car down from high speed. Even at speed in the mountains outside San Fransisco, the brakes offered incredible stopping power that inspired confidence.

Other features you can expect are multi-beam LED headlights; PRE-SAFE, which can sense a situation that might result in a crash and prepare the car for it by pre-tensioning the seatbelts, adjusting headrests to absorb head impacts, and closing windows and the sunroof; Car-to-X communication, which allows the CLS to communicate with other cars and municipal signals that are also communication enabled for active accident avoidance. As you can see, the new CLS is loaded with technology.

The interior isn’t lacking in technology either. The CLS dashboard gauge screen is borrowed from the S-class. It looks like a single 2.5’ long retina display in the dash with two display windows showing side-by-side. It’s also a touch screen. Many controls, the steering wheel trim and the door trim are also borrowed from the S-class. There’s a wireless smartphone charging station built in. The trim was exemplary – really beautiful stuff. The seats have a hand-built feel to them and I’m told it’s not due to being a pre-production prototype. They’ll be available in the production model as well.

Some newer cars are utilizing ambient interior lighting. The new CLS goes all out with it. The occupant can choose from 64 available colors via the touchscreen dash. Accent lines running throughout the cockpit will softly glow in whatever color is chosen. Bi-color settings are available as well. The HVAC vents will glow blue or red to indicate whether A/C or heat is on. After dark, door puddle lights, park lights, and lit door handles provide safety and security and style.

The new CLS promises to blaze new trails with it’s innovation and style. We’re looking forward to the official unveiling in November and will bring you a full report soon.

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