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CES 2007: Alpine debuts the Mercedes RLS

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Alpine is well known for their great-sounding home and car electronics. They're also known for their, um, shockingly overdone show cars. You might remember last year's Sinister Six. This year Alpine started with a Mercedes R350 on which to build a showcase their new gadgets. Gary Bell looked to the CLS's roofline as inspiration for the beginnings of Alpine's RLS. From there he borrowed from Bentley and other classic marques for design cues trying to keep this year's car as classy as possible. "We started out saying we wouldn't do anything on this car we wouldn't do on a Bentley," a proud Gary said immediately after the unveiling. The radically altered R class rides on 30" wheels wrapped with Pirelli rubber.

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Be sure to check out the gallery for 50 images of the RLS.

For entry, Gary and his team took the suicide door idea to the next level. Instead of two doors opening opposite and out, there is only one door per side that pivots inward, allowing access to the two front seats. Control over the steering and electronics is located in a central hub between the front seats. Alpine integrated the vehicle with it's Imprint module, which takes sound readings from around the cabin of any car to perfecty tailor the sound system.

The builders stripped the R350 to the basic frame before beginning the build, being careful to leave all the Mercedes drivetrain and electronics intact. "I'm not a Mercedes mechanic," Gary said. They did, however, choose to remove the electronics from the car's ride-leveling system. While the suspension air bags are still installed, ride leveling is totally manual control and must be used to raise the car an inch to let the tucked front wheels steer lock to lock.

We overheard Gary telling someone else at the unveiling that he spent the previous night in Vegas polishing his baby until 4 a.m. "Then we had someone from Meguiars come in and polish it more," he said. "This is by far my favorite car I've ever touched."

While maybe not as classy as the CLS from which it was inspired, it is definitely an improvement over last year's monstrosity.

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