2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS550 Review & Test Drive

One of the most unmistakable marks in the history of the automobile rests with Mercedes-Benz. They continue to introduce remarkable vehicles year after year, not only for the affluent community but those who seek unsurpassed build quality and luxury across the board. The introduction of the all-new 2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS embarks on the same principles that Benz has embodied for over 100 years. Yet the new CLS brings innovative styling and modern technology into the mix conjuring up a perfect blend of luxury and performance.

I had the opportunity to partake of the latest offering from Mercedes-Benz in the form of a 4-door coupe design. First introduced in 2003 as a 2004 model, the Mercedes-Benz CLS pioneered a daring design, which attempted to blend the sports appeal of a modern-day sports-coupe into a 4-door luxury vehicle. Did it work? Sales figures will prove that Benz played their cards well. For 2012 the designers and engineers were faced with a major hurdle of taking what was already great in the current CLS and making it better. I have to say after spending a week in the all-new 2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS550 that the design team and engineers pulled out a winning hand.

Although I am no serious poker player, those with an acquired taste would indulge in the new Mercedes-Benz CLS550 finding no faults with the hand they were dealt. Because I get to compare the new CLS to everything else I have driven in the past, I cannot say that it won the game of poker with the best hand ever. The CLS is more of a full house than a royal flush regarding a sports luxury sedan. In other words, it excels in some areas making up for very few faults if any.

The all-new Mercedes-Benz CLS550 utilizes a force-fed 402 horsepower twin turbo 4.6-liter V8 engine. The goal here, as with many other new vehicles introduced lately, is more efficiency in a smaller displacement but more power output. This combination is easily attainable through forced induction and Mercedes-Benz does it well with the new turbocharged V8 engine yielding an EPA estimated 24mpg on the highway. I saw an average of 19.8mpg around town mostly using the aggressive Sport mode.

Full throttle in the new CLS550 is intoxicating and well managed through its smooth shifting and improved 7-speed automatic transmission. 0 to 60mph times are just under the initial Mercedes-Benz conservative figure of 5.2 seconds. All 443 lbs-ft of torque from the air-feed V8 come on early at 1,800 rpm, just when you start to hear an apparent whirlwind surge of air instead of the typical whistle expected from your common ball bearing turbos. The only other noise you will hear is the faint purr of the exhaust in just about any RPM range. It is all music to your ears and never overbearing to the point that you have to turn up the stereo to overpower the engine noise.

Power is rather abrupt in the CLS550’s default E-Economy mode. This may be due to the computer deciding if you want to cruise in the CLS or put the hammer down. It does not do so well when you apply half throttle in E-mode. If you need some oomph, your going to have to stab the gas pedal. Selecting the sport mode for throttle and transmission management puts the CLS550’s senses in an advanced setting, making the transition from normal driving to full-throttle more manageable. In E-mode the transmission seems to start off in 2nd gear instead of 1st where the torque converter feels like it does a little extra slipping similar to slipping a clutch in a manual transmission. This is more noticeable in the monstrous top-of-the-line 550-horsepower CLS63 AMG, which utilizes a wet-clutch setup instead of a torque converter.

The new CLS has improved  much over the outgoing model. Gas mileage is up to 24mpg from 21mpg in the previous model, power is up from 382-horsepower to 402-horsepower in the 2012 CLS550, and the new design is simply stunning. All exterior lighting is composed of LEDs on Premium Package 1 equipped vehicles, where each front headlight cluster has an astonishing 71 individual LED lights portioned off for the headlights, turn signals, and intuitive day-time running lights/park lights.

Affluent owners and passengers will feel right at home inside the new 2012 CLS550. My test vehicle was equipped with the Premium Package 1 featuring “active cooling” ventilated front seats, seat massager, and even “Active Multicontour” active bolsters that add instant support when lateral Gs are detected during a turn. Other notable options on my test vehicle was the Lane Tracking Package combining a vibrating steering wheel to alert you when you are about to travel outside of your lane, and a blind spot assist system to alert you audibly and visually when signaling into a lane occupied by a vehicle in your blind spot.

The new CLS550’s interior is top notch demonstrating Mercedes-Benz superb build quality. Finding a comfortable seating position is an easy task while rear passengers have just enough head and legroom even with the front seats adjusted far to the rear. The two rear seats, with an integrated center console and armrest, provide great support and room for adults 6 feet and under. Anyone taller may find themselves a little cramped. Some of the dials are real metal instead of plastic, however other  instruments inside display top craftsmanship featuring Burl walnut wood trim, and soft-touch plastics. Even the cup holders are instinctively designed to fit large coffee mugs.

Ambient lighting adds a nice soft-touch to the new CLS550 giving the driver the ability to adjust lighting to their specific taste when night falls. The instrument panel and multi-information LCD screen are clear and concise during the day and night. Although the center navigation/infotainment LCD screen is rather small ( 7-inches), when compared to some competitors, it provides excellent brightness a high enough resolution to clearly read all words and street names without eye strain.

The new CLS550 has an excellent 14-speaker Harmon Kardon stereo as part of the Command system featuring LOGIC7 5.1-channel surround sound, a 40gb hard drive for music storage, 6-disc in-dash DVD/CD changer, in-dash memory card slot, aux input jack, Sirius XM, and an optional iPod/MP3 media interface. Dual-zone A/C and heater controls are kept simple while the Command system controller is easy to get used to with some redundancy in motions to navigate screens. Controls mounted on the wood-trimmed steering wheel provide quick access to the LCD instrument cluster display for specific vehicle settings and functions with limited control over the Command system.

Driving the new 2012 CLS550 is a joy that can potentially put you in a state of serenity when activating the driver’s seat massager.  The cabin is ultra quiet, the ride is ultra smooth in the air-suspension’s conform mode, and the sheet metal is ultra sleek turning heads from miles away after they spot the ultra-bright day-time running lights headed in their direction. Performance is never an issue as is the characteristic luxury ride that you expect from a Mercedes-Benz. The Air Suspension system has a lot to do with this offering the driver two modes, Airmatic Sport and Airmatic Comfort. In the Sport suspension setting the CLS550 is lowered to the ground for a low center of gravity and stiffer dampers to aid in handling. In the comfort setting the vehicle is raised and dampers are set in an optimal position to smooth-out bumps in the road. At any given time the driver may select to raise the vehicle even further for uneven terrain. The steering feel is surprisingly connected to the road despite the electric assist. An ample amount of rubber, 19-inch 285/30 Pirelli P-Zeros in the rear and 255/35 in the front, aided in the handling capabilities of the new CLS550. Although it is not the best performer in its class, the CLS550 can hold its own and some when put to the test.

Overall the new 2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS550 is ultimate choice for a plush luxury sports sedan that has a defined coupe silhouette. The price of admission for a 2012 CLS550 starts at just $71,300 while my test vehicle crept up to $80, 995 with a multitude of options that include park assist, 19-inch wheels, Active Multicontour driver seat, wood/leather steering wheel, lane tracking package, premium package 1, and split folding rear seats.


Copyright: 2011 AutomotiveAddicts.com


  • Price: Base CLS550 $71,300 As-Tested $80,995
  • Wheelbase: 113.2in.
  • Total length: 194.5in.
  • Total width: 74.1in.
  • Total height: 55.8in.
  • Track: f/r-62.9/64.1in.
  • Headroom: f/r-36.9/36.1in.
  • Legroom: f/r-42.1/35.0in.
  • Cargo volume: 15.3cu.ft.
  • 0-60mph: 5.1 seconds
  • EPA mileage est.: 16 mpg city / 24 mpg highway
  • Fuel tank: 21.1 gallons
  • Curb weight: 4,158lbs.