CLS Design
 CLS Design
 CLS Design
 CLS Design

In 1970, Mercedes-Benz Design Chief Bruno Sacco initiated the philosophy that every Mercedes-Benz must be intuitively recognizable by members of the general public as being part of the Mercedes family, in any cultural setting, anywhere in the world. He was thinking ahead without losing sight of Mercedes-Benz's roots.

Move ahead forty some years to the introduction of the 2012 CLS 550 and CLS 63 AMG, which took place in Napa Valley, Calif. at the Bardessono Hotel, Restaurant and Spa. It is one of only three hotels worldwide to receive LEED Platinum Certification, the highest rating. That means the hotel is one of the greenest buildings in the world.

The Bardessono is located in the pastoral vineyard town of Yountville where people can walk between wineries for tastings. The hotel's guest rooms are temperature controlled by heat pumps and 72 geothermal wells. Additionally, nearly a thousand solar panels provide up to 200 kWh of the hotel's electrical needs. Wood throughout the property is milled from salvaged trees and the stonework is recycled from an old wine cellar. And as expected, the hotel uses organic linens and cleaning supplies, and restaurant and spa products are sourced from local, sustainable producers.

This all fits in with Mercedes-Benz' new approach. "Green design is a fixed element of our strategy…designers are faced with the question: What can we learn from nature?" explained Hubert Lee, Head of Mercedes-Benz Advanced Design Studio in Carlsbad, California, who created the new CLS.

The second-generation CLS has a completely new look and feel, while retaining the roots of its forbearers. The front design harkens back to the SLS AMG. The separately formed radiator grille creates a longer, sportier hood. At the grille's center is the large, esteemed Mercedes star.

The dropping line that slopes off towards the rear of the vehicle completes a lower roof on broad shoulders with toned and expansive wheel arches and wrap-around around LED tail lamps. In fact, Lee mentioned Beyoncé when describing the graceful flanks of the CLS four-door coupe. When talking about the long tradition of coupes at Mercedes-Benz he said, "… the coupe must appeal to all the senses and also offer something unexpected and bold. In short – it has to set pulses racing – through its elegance, as well as its dynamics."

That said, the dynamics carry through to the cabin where the interplay of satin and shiny metallic finishes wrap around the space. Hand sewn leather covers the dash, and the central display is integrated into the top of the instrument panel. The effect is one of utter harmony.

"I do consider Mercedes-Benz an art," said Lee, the designer of this vehicle, who says that he utilizes influences he gleaned from growing up around the world. We were dining in the vaults of Hall Winery, tasting wines that have an extremely small production run. As the sommelier explained while pouring the main course, a 2006 Bergfeld St. Helena Cabernet Sauvignon ($100 a bottle), "You are tasting a wine that most people in their lifetime will never get to taste." Does that remind you of a Mercedes-Benz CLS?

author photo

Holly Reich writes about cars, travel, lifestyle and more. Her work has been featured in publications that include: Elite Traveler, The New York Daily News, The Washington Post and The Boston Herald. She contributes monthly to Motor Matters syndicate and her blog, "Riffs on Rides," appears on

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