Sport Cars

The last of its kind: The last Mercedes-Benz CLS

The automotive industry has mastered the art of effective presentation for decades. Many cars have special editions, popular limited editions and valuable unique pieces. But nothing is as exclusive as the last thing off the production line.

For those unfamiliar with the car scene, the term “last off the line” may not mean much. It is the very last model in a series. This means that after this single unit, production stops and the manufacturing facilities are repurposed for the next generation or a completely different vehicle. Manufacturers like Mercedes celebrate this last model in special vehicle series and include it in their own collection as an exceptionally exclusive model. This vehicle often remains unnoticed in the collection or museum for a few years because the model that has just been discontinued initially has no significant value. This changes after a few years when it is brought back into the spotlight on anniversaries or special occasions.

This happened in the snowy beginning of 2023, when production of the Mercedes CLS, internal name C257, was discontinued. Not only the current generation, but the entire CLS series, once positioned as an extremely exclusive and image-enhancing model between the E and S-Class, has been discontinued. Although the Mercedes CLS has not set any volume records since its debut in 2004, it has contributed greatly to the brand’s image and established a vehicle segment that did not exist, at least in Europe. The first generation of the Mercedes CLS, the elegant C219 series from then chief designer Peter Pfeiffer, particularly caused a stir. The differences to the technically similar E-Class W211 were significant. Visually, the four-door coupé was a showpiece that one would otherwise only have expected from luxury brands such as Alfa Romeo, Maserati or Aston Martin.

Around 170,000 CLS models were sold between October 2004 and July 2010. Around 170,000 units of the successor generation C218 with a second body variant of the Shooting Brake station wagon were sold from the beginning of 2011 to the end of 2018. The current generation C257, which has been in production since the beginning of 2019, is being retired after 140,000 vehicles. The reason for the discontinuation is not a lack of success, but rather the technical similarity to the E-Class. The new E-Class, the last newly developed Mercedes vehicle with a combustion engine, will not have a technical coupé derivative. The new CLE generation, a synthesis of the C and E-Class as a two-door coupé, will appeal to aesthetes. The increasing number of electric models with star emblems means that the Stuttgart brand also has to reduce its combustion engine portfolio due to too much vehicle variation.

The Mercedes CLS is retiring with a truly impressive final model. Painted in dark emerald green metallic, the Nappa leather interior is a stunning combination of saddle brown and black. It is a CLS 450 4matic that had just 14 kilometers on the clock when it was finally handed over to the production site. Its new price: 110,000 euros. The 270 kW / 367 hp coupé with the M256 in-line six-cylinder is almost fully equipped and rides on 20-inch wheels in AMG design. Since the car will be used for communication purposes at some point, the otherwise dark-tinted rear windows were omitted for possible photo shoots. “Usually, a molding from the assembly line is recorded in the production system with a configuration that includes the special equipment and color combinations that were common at the time of production,” explains Matthias Knebel, responsible for the vehicle collection at Mercedes, “simply put: a molding from the assembly line reflects the buyer preferences of the respective era reflects and documents how a typical Mercedes-Benz appeared on the streets.”

The Mercedes vehicle collection, housed in a secret and closely guarded hall in Fellbach, contains numerous particularly exclusive Mercedes models. These include 600 state limousines, the armored S-Classes of former Chancellor Helmut Kohl and several final series models. The pattern of the last series vehicles can be seen in the example of the S-Class Coupé from the C126 series. It is painted in the then popular exterior color “Blue Black Metallic” (code 199) and has a mushroom leather interior (265). Ordered and delivered with optional extras such as an electric sunroof, air conditioning and the prestigious headlight washer system, the coupe represented the luxury of the era. “The last series models are usually facelift vehicles and document the final state of the respective series. The often extensive full equipment is also documented in the documents,” explains Matthias Knebel. “Special editions, usually limited editions, are reserved for our customers – accordingly, such vehicles are sometimes only purchased on the open market several years later.”

It’s not every year that a decommissioned vehicle is included in Mercedes’ exclusive, multi-million dollar classic car collection.

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