Vehicle: Vision CLS
When: Fall 2003
Where: Frankfurt International Motor Show
What: Spacious four-door coupé
Drivetrain: Six-cylinder diesel engine, 195 kW (265 hp), rear-wheel drive, 7G-TRONIC seven-speed automatic transmission
Innovative coupé body with four doors and generous interior space
Active Light System
Introduced 2003 as bi-xenon headlamps with Active Light System in the Mercedes-Benz E-Class (W 211)
Electrohydraulic brake system Introduced 2001 as Sensotronic Brake Control (SBC) in the Mercedes-Benz SL (R 230)
A highlight of the Mercedes-Benz stand at the 2003 Frankfurt Motor Show (IAA) was a concept car which took new directions in both styling and engineering: Vision CLS. Never before had two distinct genres been combined so satisfyingly and so attractively as in this vehicle, which was a coupé and a sedan rolled into one. Once again, Mercedes-Benz had created a milestone in automotive history.
‘Vision CLS is a coupé generation ahead of the rest,’ was the verdict of Professor Jürgen Hubbert, former member of the DaimlerChrysler Board of Management and Head of the Mercedes Car Group. ‘The idea of a four-door coupé opens up exciting possibilities. It is aimed primarily at people who have a passion for motor cars and motoring.’
In recent years a whole succession of Mercedes-Benz concepts and show cars have courted debate on new, intriguing, and for the most part subsequently commercialised, vehicle concepts. Like them Vision CLS too, which went on show at the IAA, was looking to test the waters with the public. As ever, the product planning team felt that it should be the public's verdict which determined the future of this unique concept. As it turned out, that verdict was so positive that the decision could be taken right away: volume production would start in autumn 2004.
Vision CLS’ big attraction was its combination of coupé looks with the practical advantages of a sedan. Four doors and a capacious interior gave Vision CLS a clear edge over other coupés. At the front end, both innovative and familiar themes were on parade. Although the new-design headlamps created a Mercedes-Benz face which was intriguing and different, the centrally positioned star and the slatted radiator grille were established and typical Mercedes-Benz design features.
The side view exhibited the taut lines and naturally rounded forms for which modern Mercedes-Benz design is noted. One example was the high waistline. Emphasised by a clearly defined feature line, it added to the sense of security when sitting inside the Vision CLS. This was crowned by a striking roofline which extended above the body in a sweeping arc, then dipped gently away to the rear.
Bright colours made the interior of the Vision CLS inviting and cheerful. Wood and leather were much in evidence. The dashboard and A-pillars were finished in natural leather processed in accordance with traditional methods. Soft leather upholstery was also used on the seats and door panels. Hand-finished oak veneer meanwhile attracted the eye with a light colour and an interesting, open-pored grain, while the roof, largely made of glass, let in a lot of light and added to the pleasant sense of spaciousness.
The interior space of the Vision CLS set new standards for a coupé. The distance of 83 centimetres between the front and rear seats put Vision CLS firmly in sedan territory. The headroom in the rear of 92 centimetres went well beyond the usual dimensions for a coupé of this size. Trunk capacity too, at 470 litres (VDA norm), was significantly more than that offered by other coupés and some sedans, making the Vision CLS a fully-fledged tourer for four.
On the safety front, the vehicle was equipped with adaptive front airbags, window bags and side airbags, along with belt tensioners and adaptive belt force limiters on all seats. Other technical highlights of the Vision CLS included the Active Light System, cornering light and the electrohydraulic brake system Sensotronic Brake Control (SBC).
The powerful diesel engine meanwhile was typical of the concept vehicle’s combination of charisma and practicality. Maximum power of 195 kW (265 hp) and maximum torque of 560 newton metres provided an exciting driving experience. The power was transferred to the road by the world’s first seven-speed automatic transmission, the 7G-TRONIC. Zero to 100 km/h was accomplished in 6.4 seconds, with an electronically limited top speed of 250 km/h. For all this impressive performance however, the six-cylinder unit was fully Euro 4-compliant and had a fuel consumption (NEDC, New European Driving Cycle) of just 7.5 litres per 100 km.
Vision CLS – this Mercedes-Benz was in a class of its own among coupés and defined a new market segment. Mercedes-Benz is confident this segment will see steady growth. After all, the company has always shown a knack for setting trends. And it has no intention of stopping now.