Mercedes Fascination

Auto Express is first behind the wheel of the Mercedes Fascination... A breathtaking vision of the future.

Overall Auto Express Rating

5.0 out of 5

Stunning looks and an upmarket interior made theFascination a star attraction at this year's Paris Motor Show. But we're just as impressed athow well developed it feels on the road. Our first drive proves theengineering backs up the promise of the looks - and it's whet our appetite to get behind the wheel of the new E-Class and CLK next year.

It's Mercedes' fascinating take on the future, and Auto Express has driven it first!

An undisputed star of this year's Paris Motor Show, the ultra-stylishFascination represents the very latest in the firm's design andtechnology.

Officially, the shooting brake is a blueprint for the all-new E-Class,and with its long, lithe bodywork, it also hints at the look of thenext CLK. And as both of those models are set to remain top-secretuntil early next year, our exclusive drive offers the clearest view yetof what will be on offer.

In the flesh,the Fascination is one of Mercedes' most dramaticallystyled models ever. As well as a distinctive headlamp design, it gets adeep front grille and a sharp crease along the flank. At the rear aresharp-looking tail-lights and an integrated exhaust system. Thehatchback tailgate - not confirmed for production - points to a new,practical evolution of the CLK coupé, and opens with the simple pressof a keyfob-mounted button.

Inside, the cabin takes inspiration from the S-Class limousine. It'sfitted with that car's COMAND multimedia control set-up, as well assafety kit such asnight vision cameras and collision avoidancesystems.The strict four-seateralso gets a generous boot, lined withwood and chrome. Mercedes says the radical shape was influenced by the Volvo P1800, aswell as limited-edition Aston Martin shooting brakes of the Seventiesand Eighties.

To get behind the wheel, drivers first need to press one of theflush-fitting door handles on the side of the car. The lever rises outof the bodywork, allowing you to grip and pull it. The door openssmoothloy, and its wide apperture means climbing in is easy.

Turnthe ignition key, and the 2.2-litre Bluetec turbodiesel engine firesinto life. It delivers 201bhp and more than 500Nm of torque, andprovides strong in-gear performance.

The unit complies with thetoughest emissions legislation, and will be offered in the new CLK andE-Class model line-ups from next year. The cabin is ergonomically superb,with a comfortable driving position.What's more, the wide body and tall roofline ensure there's plenty ofhead and elbow space, while each of the four occupants gets lots oflegroom and a great view of the road ahead.

On the move, the engine is refined yet responsive, and the seven-speedautomatic transmission gives smooth and swift gearchanges. Standardair-suspension delivers a smooth ride, even though the model hasenormous alloys.

Thebrakes felt reassuring this isunusual in our experience of driving suchprototypes, and an indication of exactly how well developed theFascination is.

For production, Mercedes promises this well rounded driving experiencewill be backed up bythe very latest safety technology. As well asoffering a full complement of driver and passenger airbags, the carwill be fitted with a feature called Attention Assistant. This promisesto wake the driver upif it senses they have fallen asleep.

New traction control and an updated, three-dimensional navigation package are also included while some of this technology is still under development, it'sincredibly promising, and gives an exciting glimpse of the future. Nowonder bosseschose to call this prototype the Fascination...

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