GENEVA -- Mercedes-Benz model names look like alphabet soup with their one-, two-, and three-letter combinations, but things are about to get a little simpler as the CL-class goes away. In its place will be the S-class Coupe, a new two-door version of the S-class sedan.
Mercedes-Benz released a new generation of its S-class sedan last year, which showed enough technological innovation to win CNET's Tech Car of the Year award. This new coupe will offer all the technology, luxury, and power of the S-class sedan, but with a sleek two-door body.
The S-class Coupe, which will be sold in the US in just one type, the S550 Coupe with 4Matic all-wheel-drive, uses a new toolbox of styling elements that Mercedes-Benz has begun to use on other coupe models. A pincushion grille with a single louver has previously found its way to the compact CLA250. Likewise, the S550 Coupe carries a hood badge rather than a standing ornament, something Mercedes-Benz has reserved for its sportier models.
Most importantly, the two-door design allows for a roofline that merges fluidly into the rear fenders. The seductive design should help lure potential buyers from the staid but more practical sedan. A panoramic glass roof comes standard on the S550 Coupe, and buyers can option up to Mercedes-Benz Magic Sky Control system, which changes the translucency of the glass.
As with the S-Class sedan, LEDs make up all the lighting, even in the headlamps. But Mercedes-Benz takes things into the luxury stratosphere by offering a special edition, called the Edition 1 S550 Coupe, with 47 Swarovski crystals making up the turn indicators and daytime running lights in each headlight casing.
Rather than just being a two-door version of the S-class, the Coupe version shows substantial differences, with a wheelbase shortened by 8 inches. The overall length comes in 10 inches shorter than the sedan, which might shave a golf bag's worth of space out of the trunk.
One innovative technology Mercedes-Benz developed for the coupe, but not currently available on the S-class sedan, is called Active Curve Tilting. This feature uses a lateral tilt sensor and cameras analyzing the road ahead to push the car's outermost side upwards in turns, making the car bank even on nonbanked turns.
Oddly, Mercedes-Benz notes that this feature is not intended to improve cornering performance, but to give passengers a more comfortable ride. In turns, Active Curve Tilting will make inertial forces push passengers into their seats rather than to the outer side of the car.
As with the sedan, the S550 Coupe will get Mercedes-Benz's rich COMAND interface for cabin electronics functions. The system uses a wide LCD in the dashboard with a console controller incorporating a dial and trackpad. Maps for the navigation system show lush detail, but the overall menu paradigm is in need of a usability update.
The S550 Coupe should also be one of the first Mercedes-Benz models to get Apple CarPlay, a technology that presents a simplified interface from a connected iPhone on the car's LCD.
The S550 designation means the Coupe will have the same engine as the sedan, a direct injection 4.7-liter V-8 with twin turbos, good for 449 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque. Through a seven-speed automatic transmission in the S550 sedan, this engine delivers easy power and comes with an idle-stop system that saves significant fuel in city driving while working unobtrusively.
With monthly US sales in the double digits, the CL-class is not a big seller for Mercedes-Benz. The S-class sedan, however, averages closer to 1,000 sales per month. Tying the new Coupe to the S-class will encourage cross-shopping, potentially raising its sales and visibility.
Pricing has not been announced for the S550 Coupe, but it should come in around $100,000, making it a sleek and very technically advanced car for the wealthy. The S550 Coupe will first appear as a 2015 model in dealer showrooms this fall.