CLS Benz - Sedan or coupe?
The new Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class from Messrs
DaimlerChrysler is probably one of the best looking new cars I saw at
the Bangkok International Motor Show this year. Although released in
Europe in the latter half of 2004 in its left hand drive guise,
DaimlerChrysler left the release of the right hand drive variant until
2005, where it made its world debut in Bangkok. Since then, some CLS
models have been appearing on our capital’s streets, just keep your
eyes peeled for the ‘swishest’ four door on the motorways!
The CLS is a world leader in many ways. Mercedes
Benz has given us a four door, four seat coupe. And forget about
coupes having only two doors! This thing looks like a coupe. The low
roof line as it dips down in the rear, the shallow side glass, the
pillarless side profile, it all screams sports coupe. Inside you see
that this car has only four, very individual, very separate, places.
Despite the low roof-line, the two rear seat passengers do have
adequate headroom (even the latest Aussie testers were OK) and 829 mm
of knee-room between the front and rear seats is more than enough,
helped by the scalloped backs on the front seats. There a division
between the rear seats so that three people cannot sit side by side,
but results in giving 1464 mm of space between the two rear passenger
Based on the E-Series, but reputedly 40 percent
stiffer, the new CLS has all the under-the-skin cred to be a sports
car. In its top-of-the-line configuration with the 5.5 litre
supercharged V8 breathed upon by AMG and churning out a very healthy
350 kW/476 brake horsepower, the CLS goes from zero to 100 kmh in 4.7
seconds. The 5 litre ‘standard’ V8 CLS 500 with (only) 225 kW/300
bhp will propel the CLS to 100 kmh in 6.1 seconds and even the entry
level, ‘cooking’ model, the 3.5 litre 200 kW/272 bhp V6 CLS 350
can cover the same speed bracket in 7 seconds. Top whack for all CLS
models is a governed 250 kmh.
The transmission in all models is automatic, with
the smaller engines getting a seven speed, but the top of the range
AMG needs a five speed only. Gears can be changed manually with all
the trendy ‘Michael Schumacher F1 style’ buttons on the steering
wheel, but quite frankly, the micro-processors do it better! And
quicker! After the first half hour of ownership, you forget the
Being a car of the electronic era, this CLS has
much adding to the sporty feel such as the speed-sensitive steering
and Sensotronic Brake Control, which is tied in with the Electronic
Stability Program. One of the characteristics of these systems is such
that under adverse conditions like our torrential rain, the brake pads
‘pulse’ on the discs to stop lock-up and the wheels are
individually controlled through braking sensors to keep everything in
line. If you have been pressing on and suddenly lift your foot from
the accelerator, the micro-processors will have already told the brake
system to be prepared for a sudden stop. Everything is tensed up and
alert. This is not just the old skid control - this is everything
And in case you do have to come to an unplanned
sudden stop, both front and rear seats feature belt tensioners and
belt force limiters, everyone gets an air bag (or two) with the fronts
being adaptive with two stage deployment according to the severity of
All the other goodies you would expect in a car of
this calibre are there too, including the bi-xenon headlamps (once you
have driven a car with them, you will accept no other) with cornering
lights as well. Electric seats with a better memory than yours are
standard, key-less access and infra-red reflecting glass. And more -
if you are prepared to pay, of course.
There always is a price to be paid for perfection, and in this
country the price has several hundred percent of taxes, duties and
anything else that can be thrown at it in imposts. The CLS 350 - 8.6
million, the CLS 500 is 10.9 million, while the CLS 55 AMG is 14.85
million. While there is no other direct comparison, it is interesting
to note that the Jaguar XK8 is around 8 million, the BMW 6 series is
12 million and the Porsche GT2 is 23 million.
What did we learn from the
Well, the first thing we learned was that Herr Herman Tilke
can produce a good F1 track. Places for passing to occur (though Webber and
Schumacher the elder might question that) and an interesting layout, with hills
and hollows. Also of interest was the fact that there appeared to be more than
adequate run-off areas, with nobody hanging their cars on walls.
We also learned that Raikkonen really is the ‘class act’
at this point in the championship, and it is only because of previous
unreliability problems at McLaren Mercedes that he is not leading the
championship. His fighting through the two Renaults on the first lap was superb.
Now if we could only inject some personality into him, like Valentino Rossi, the
two wheeled champion!
After the great broo-ha-ha over Ferrari and the “team
orders” a few years back, we have the new and apparently politically
acceptable instructions from the pits such as those to Alonso that he was
“faster” than Fisichella and should pass him. This was done with total ease,
even though Fisi was faster than Alonso in qualifying, and had the same amount
of fuel as Alonso. So much for being “faster”. I have written about this
before, but it is a team, and teams have tactics and orders to make sure that
happens. The constructor’s championship is also for the “team”, not the
individual. Team managers have been working out the best scenario for their
teams for over 80 years, so why have people become horrified recently? Or was it
just part of the anti-Ferrari fever? The truth today is that team orders still
exist, and will always exist. Full stop!
We also learned that some of the pay-for-their-drive
back-markers are definitely not of an F1 standard. Monteiro’s, tagging of
Montoya being a classic example. So much for “super licenses”.
And speaking of Juan-Pablo Montoya, if you were Ron Dennis,
in charge of the purse strings at McLaren Mercedes, would you be all that happy
with your expensive “star” Colombian? You are supplying your drivers with
the best two cars on the track, yet you are not seeing the 1-2 finishes you
expect. Raikkonen’s determination is not possessed by Montoya. To me, it looks
as if Montoya, having been relegated to being “second” driver, is doing just
enough, and no more.
What about Williams and their “punctures” which are
certainly not a Michelin problem, or otherwise all the Michelin teams would have
had the same situation? It is a Williams problem, and the best guesses at this
stage are that there was a problem with the rim/bead seating for the tyres.
BAR’s Jenson Button did show tenacity and deserved his
finishing spot, up from his very lowly starting position, brought about by the
one lap blinder, make or break, qualifying. The sooner they bring back the best
time you can produce in X number of laps, the better. This is supposed to happen
Finally, Toyota must be happy with Trulli, but the highly
expensive Schumi Junior is certainly not living up to the image he has been
cultivating of his talents. He was upstaged at Williams last year by Montoya,
and is being outdriven by Trulli this year at Toyota. Would you keep him on for
The next GP is the Italian at the famous Monza circuit on the 4th of
September. It could be interesting.
Last week, I mentioned Ferrari in particular and asked who
was the youngest Ferrari importer in the world, and where? The clue was that he
also made exotic cars under his own name. The answer was Peter Monteverdi in
Switzerland, who was 22 years old. He built his first Monteverdi when he was 17.
So to this week. A very famous sports car began its life with
a 34 year old six cylinder overhead camshaft engine. This was then replaced by
another six cylinder engine having the same name as a British port. This in turn
was replaced by a six cylinder engine from a model of a car named after a wind.
Finally, someone threw in a large lump of American iron, and it became a
motoring icon. What was the name of the original car?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct
answer to email firstname.lastname@example.org
New circuit for Chonburi?
There have been mutterings about new circuits in Thailand for
some time, but most have been ‘get rich quick’ schemes by entrepreneurs.
However, the latest edition of the authoritative magazine ASEAN Autbiz claims
that there will be another FIA approved circuit built in the Chonburi province
and ready for opening in 2006.
The location is in Banglamung, so it cannot be far from the
existing Bira circuit, and it is apparently in two phases. The first will need
750 million baht and involves developing a 347 rai tract of land with a 4.2 km
race track, facilities for 60,000 spectators, parking for 4,400 cars and pits
and paddock for 200 race cars. A go-kart track and a multi-functional area for
driver education, autocross and drifting (that somewhat daft oversteering tyre
burning sport from Japan) are supposed to be built by April next year.
The second phase will need another 250 million baht to build
a 100 room hotel and a motorsport industrial estate, all of which is supposed to
be completed by December 2006. All I can say is that they had better extract the
digit, if all this is going to be completed by the end of next year, especially
as the article goes on to say that only 15-20 percent of the design for the
complex has been completed so far.
The next question, of course, is whether this is being built
to bring F1 to Thailand. After all if Turkey got a GP, why not us? Take a look
at the numbers being quoted - 750 million works out as less than USD 19 million,
and you don’t build a Formula One track for that. Round about USD 100 million
would probably be closer.
Yes, whilst it would be fantastic to have an F1 facility here, I doubt very
much that this will be it.