2019 Mercedes-Benz CLS450, Image: Daimler AG

What is it about the new crop of vehicles? It’s great that the”cheerful” phase in automotive styling is over (the demented visage of those old Mazda 3s still haunt my nightmares), but what we’re left with, at least in the passenger car segment, is enormous, angry grilles or, in the case of the 2018 Ford Mustang and next-generation Mercedes-Benz CLS, a kind of sad face.

Why the droopy eyes, Mercedes?

Whatever the reason, the automaker is bringing more than a questionable front end treatment to the table with its third-generation CLS. The sedan that started the four-door coupe craze (which then jumped ship to the SUV segment) adopts a host of changes for 2019, not the least of which is a new engine that should have both purists and futurists smiling.

All hail the inline six.

Under the CLS’s long hood rests M-B’s latest powertrain offering — a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six that adopts a hint of green in order to reduce fuel consumption. Featuring a 48-volt electrical system and integrated starter-generator, the mild hybrid setup also offers drivers a shot of added grunt.

2019 Mercedes-Benz CLS450, Image: Daimler AG

The gasoline engine’s potential tops out at 362 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. Should a driver request extra puissance, its electrical alter ego goes to work, adding a further 21 hp and 184 lb-ft for a “short period.” Mercedes calls the engine’s electrical alter ego “EQ Boost,” claiming it assists the gas engine during acceleration and makes gas-free driving at speed (“sailing”) a possibility. It also restarts the engine when the driver releases the brake pedal at a stoplight, furthering gas mileage gains.

Sending the power to the rear (or all four) wheels is the responsibility of a nine-speed automatic transmission.

If you’re wondering what all of this electrical magic can do for the smooth six’s thirstiness, keep waiting — Mercedes hasn’t endowed the CLS450 or CLS450 4Matic with any fuel economy estimates. Rather, the automaker claims the electrified straight six offers the performance of a V8 with “significantly lower consumption.” Acceleration times, like the model’s price, will also have to wait.

Beneath the model’s “Sensual Purity” skin (characterized by sharp edges, clear contours, and reduced lines) lies more than just a fancy engine. The driver assistance package contains features too numerous to mention. Some of the features, borrowed from the new S-Class, are significantly improved, among them Active Lane Change Assist. Mercedes’ Energizing Comfort system allows drivers to program all elements of the vehicle’s creature comforts (including HVAC controls, seating position, seat and steering wheel heaters, lighting, and, yes, fragrancing) to suit their ever-changing mood.

Among other new features, the key dimension is width. The cockpit’s wavy dash design is meant to give an appearance of added breadth. The central digital display stretches to 12.3 inches, and can be coupled with a second display of the same width for a true Digital Age driving experience. Even the LED headlamps adopt an extra-wide low beam setting.

Beneath the car, an improved Air Body Control air suspension offers enhanced damping that drivers can change up at will. Surely, no driver wants road bumps perturbing their fragrance-enhanced ride, or that of their four passengers (yes, there’s a full rear bench now).

The 2019 Mercedes-Benz CLS goes on sale in late 2018.

[Images: Daimler AG]