Mercedes-Benz Concept S-Class Coupé: Belle of the ball?

“Class.” Mercedes-Benz uses the term to distinguish its model lines from one another. It is also a fitting word to use in discussion of the Concept S-Class Coupé unveiled at the Frankfurt motor show.

This is not always the case where big Mercedes are concerned, which can often skew towards “imposing” or even “bombastic”.

Not so with the coming coupe version of the company’s redesigned flagship sedan. The coupe has long been viewed as the glittery ornament atop the S-Class Christmas tree, with a higher price tag and more exclusivity than even the company’s standard-setting sedan commands.

With the Frankfurt concept, Mercedes returns to its earlier nomenclature, as the company streamlines its product labels. Just as the CLK returned to its origins as an E-Class coupe, so now does the CL rejoin the S-Class family from whence it sprang in the mid-1990s.

The concept car is not a production announcement, but Daimler chairman Dieter Zetsche promises the production version will not disappoint. “You are in for a ‘wow,’” he said at the show. And while we can only admire the conceptual sheetmetal now, “it drives better than it looks,” he assured onlookers.

A feature that traditionally distinguishes the S-Class/CL-Class coupe from lesser machines is the absence of a B-pillar, the roof support between the front and rear seats that spoils the lines of too many otherwise slippery two-doors that pose as coupes. In the S-Class Coupe, the roof arches majestically from the windshield to the trunk in a continuous line.

With the side windows lowered, a good coupe (what Americans used to call a “hardtop” because it was essentially a convertible with a fixed roof) is open, airy and light. The S-Class Coupe achieves that, though not without an eye also fixing on the blunt, heavy prow. So is life in a world of pedestrian protection standards that do not spare even low-volume models such as this.

Inside, designers took some liberties that will probably not be reflected by the production model, with touches like aluminum door panels etched with topographic lines that catch the light to create a sparkling effect. Likewise, the dashboard world clock designed by the company’s Advanced Design Center in Palo Alto, California, was probably just a nod to jet-lagged show-goers as its four clocks reflect time zones around the world.

The S-Class line expanded among the four-door ranks, too, with the announcement of an S63 AMG muscle sedan and the S500 Plug-in Hybrid. The AMG hot rod boosts power by 43hp over the outgoing model, to 577hp, but weighs 220lbs less and achieves slightly better gas mileage.

For much better fuel economy, the company revealed the 2015 S500 Plug-in Hybrid, which can run on electric power alone for a distance of about 18 miles using its 107hp electric motor, or join forces with a 329-hp twin-turbo V6 engine to vault to 60mph in 5.4 seconds. The car arrives in US showrooms in late 2014 at a price to be announced later.