All the status, none of the speed.
The Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class has evolved from the early days of droopy styling to be the most iconic four-door coupe in modern motoring, but if you want one in the United States, the most affordable way of getting behind the wheel requires you to shell out $69,950 for a 362-horsepower CLS450, powered by a 3.0-liter inline-six engine with a turbo and mild hybrid assistance. It's a picture that just works - a smooth six-pot and a sleek luxury coupe - but in China, where vehicle buyers are heavily taxed for large displacement engines, the German automaker has resorted to an unusual tactic to help make the CLS more attainable. In the East Asian country, you can have your CLS with an absolutely puny 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that produces only 184 hp.
Despite boasting 207 lb-ft of torque, the CLS260 also features mild hybrid assistance and is able to run from 0-62 mph in only 8.7 seconds, just 3.6 seconds slower than the CLS450 despite having nearly half the power. There's a 4MATIC version too, but the added weight of all-wheel-drive doesn't aid acceleration, in this case resulting in a nine-second 0-62 mph run. Like the US models, RWD is the default, and the CLS260 makes use of the same nine-speed automatic gearbox.
While in the United States, buying something like a CLS with so little power and such a small engine would be a cardinal automotive sin, in China, vehicles with engines larger than 1.5 liters are heavily taxed.
Not only that, but at $10,000 less than the CLS300, the CLS260 is vastly more attainable. That doesn't mean it comes cheap, though, and at the current exchange rate, the CLS260 is priced at approximately $81,500. In the US that's $300 more than the base MSRP of the Mercedes-AMG CLS53 with all of 429 hp and 384 lb-ft and a 0-60 mph sprint time of 4.4 seconds.
While it might seem slightly outrageous, legislation like that in China (the world's largest car market) is affecting manufacturers' product planning immensely, and might even result in the next Mercedes-AMG C63 being powered by a 2.0-liter hybrid four-cylinder or six-cylinder.