Test Drive: The 2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS550 Makes Driving Mandatory

Test Drive: The 2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS550 Makes Driving Mandatory

2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS550
Power: 402 hp, 443 lb-feet
Engine: V8 twin turbo
Fuel Economy: 17 city, 25 hwy

After owning a Mercedes-Benz car service, I’ve adopted an opinion regarding large sedans. I believe that one should be driven in a Mercedes-Benz, not drive oneself.

If you consider having a chauffeur elitist, by all means walk. We New Yorkers depend on them, specifically taxi drivers, every day. Much as a corner office expands one’s horizon, a professional driver transforms stressful, time-consuming trips into seamless, productive experiences. With the options offered by Mercedes-Benz, it’s possible to turn your back seat into a mobile office. Add the freedom of not having to park, or find a ride after dinner, and it’s hard to find a single reason to drive in the city.

Unless you own a 2012 CLS550.

For those with an appreciation for elegance and a passion for horsepower, Mercedes-Benz has introduced the 402 hp, V8 twin turbo CLS550 to the U.S. market. The inspired ride pairs the crafted elegance of Mercedes-Benz’s S-Class series with an aggressive, aerodynamic body and a 4.6-liter engine capable of offering 443 lb.-feet of torque.

If a butterfly flaps its wings near the CLS550’s gas pedal, the car screams away from the stoplight. While I chose not to push it while in Manhattan, official stats have the four-door CLS550 bridging the 0-60 mph gap in 4.7 seconds. This is just .1 second slower than Porsche’s 2012 911 Carrera. In case you missed it, this is a four-door.

To add comfort to its newest sports sedan, Mercedes-Benz’s design team has installed front seats with motion sensing side bolsters, each of which supports your body as the vehicle makes lateral movements. While the hugging seats take a little getting used to, they provide superior ergonomic driving positioning and added confidence when entering and exiting corners.

I cut across Manhattan on 14th Street listening to the trembling roar from the engine bouncing off the city towers. As I pulled onto one of Manhattan’s main arteries, the FDR, a car slid into my lane with far too much speed. What could have resulted in a scratch, or even worse—a side collision—was dealt with instantly by Mercedes-Benz's Active Blind Spot assistant. With the flash of a bright light on the mirror and a gentle sound in the salon, I noticed the car’s presence and adjusted accordingly. The Active Blind Spot assistance is just one of the safety breakthroughs offered by Mercedes Benz in the CLS550, along with Pre-Safe braking and Active Lane Assist.

With Vermont entered into the GPS, I opened up the sunroof and stretched out both the CLS’s engine and my legs. While some traditionalist friends of mine foreswear cruise control for its ability to land even the best drivers in trouble, the CLS550’s Distronic cruise control system with active radar managed my highway movements better than anything I’ve reviewed in the past. The Distronic system marries precise speed controls with a front and rear, radar-based, distance monitoring system, which maintains a specific distance between you and the next car. Should your wife or a ringing phone distract you at a critical moment, the Distronic system will automatically adjust the speed and the breaks, coming to a complete stop if necessary, before starting off again.

While the price is beyond average budgets—$71,300 base—the CLS550 is an ideal blend of comfort, quality, and capability. With ample room for four passengers, the CLS550 is a true hybrid. Forget the batteries—we’re talking about an incredibly safe car for taking the kids to school, a comfortable ride for commuting, and a chest-beating whip for the Nurburgring track. Whether you are on the track or Distronic-ly cruising home along the Palisades, the CLS550 provides first-class comfort with F1 handling, power, and poise. You’re not going to let anyone else get behind the wheel. 

Tags: mercedes-benz, cls550, test-drive
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