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When Mercedes-Benz first launched its CLS class in 2004, the car turned heads. Its sleek design led Mercedes-Benz to call it a four-door coupe, a type of car generally defined as having only two doors.
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For the 2012 model update, the CLS550 features a refined exterior design, LED headlights, and revised engine and cabin tech.
The CLS550 has a bold Mercedes-Benz badge on the grille, along with a badge in place of a hood ornament. This latter touch signifies a more sport-oriented model.
The new engine is a 4.6-liter with twin turbochargers. It uses direct injection to spray fuel into the cylinders, and achieves 402 horsepower.
With its low, curved roofline, the CLS550's rear seating area is not as large as in an S-class. Although headroom is not a problem, legroom is a little tight.
The CLS550 comes standard with an air suspension, giving the car one of the best rides for vehicles in its range.
The trunk space is not very tall, but extends deep into the car.
Mercedes-Benz bolsters its luxury message with the CLS550's cabin. It features fine materials, with liberal use of metal switchgear.
The steering uses an electrohydraulic system, with variable power depending on speed.
White gauge faces are a nice touch, and an LCD in the middle of the speedometer shows cabin tech information.
The voice command system, activated by a metal button on the steering wheel, covers phone, navigation, and, to a limited extent, the stereo. Paddles behind the wheel allow for manual gear changes.
The metal buttons in this array are a nice touch, although Mercedes-Benz should also update its climate controls, which feel cheap, and the plastic buttons around the volume control.
The optional multicontour driver's seat adds this control pod, which lets you activate massage and dynamic bolstering.
The COMAND controller is unchanged from previous years.
The navigation system offers 3D rendering of buildings on the maps, but doesn't show topographical details.
The navigation system uses traffic data to dynamically calculate routes.
HD Radio is standard in the CLS550.
Mercedes-Benz offers a number of audio sources, including Bluetooth streaming audio, but no Pandora to date.
The Bluetooth streaming audio interface uses an esoteric message to show it is working.
The iPod interface shows categories for album, artist, and genre. The car uses this same interface for its onboard music library.
The Harman Kardon audio system uses 14 speakers and Logic 7 digital processing to create a surround-sound experience.
The car provides a fuel consumption graph, so you can view your driving efficiency.
The rearview camera shows good resolution, but does not have trajectory or distance lines to help you park.
A triangular icon in the side mirrors lights up red to show when cars are in the CLS550's blind spots.