Seat TimeMercedes-Benz CLS 550Four-Wheeled Mood Elevator
It's probably the best-looking sedan on the market. Jag S-Class? Retro pastiche. Lexus GS? Yawn. Audi A6? Close. BMW 5 Series? Oh, please. Augmenting the looks on this car is an AMG Sport Package. It's not the full Affalterbach treatment, but column-mounted shift paddles, a tweaked chin spoiler, bespoke 18-inch alloy wheels and exhaust tip snips $775 from your checking account.
With the dash readout showing C (for Comfort Mode) and the adjustable Airmatic suspension devoid of red LEDs, the CLS is the perfect car for busy freeways. It will sashay languidly through the traffic, staking a territorial claim that none would argue with. The 5.5-liter V8 engine has enough torque (391 lb-ft from 2800 to 4800 rpm) to grab that free space with the speed of thought. All it takes is a flick of the right foot. Or the car will squeeze the brake rotors with a seemingly tireless clasp.
Naturally, the seats are comfortable and the stereo (with steering wheel-mounted controls) sounds great. If you wanted to split hairs, you could say the air-conditioning was noisy for this class of car and some of the plastics would be put to shame by a VW Passat. But a Passat could never look this good, inside or out.
Then your eyes fall upon the paddles. You put the shift lever into S (that's right, Sport Mode). You press the Airmatic suspension button twice (there's an intermediate mode, but who wants to be half-comfortable or half-sporty?). You can let the seven-speed 'box do the shifting, which is now more willing to kick down and less willing to change up until the revs build significantly. Or you can goose those paddles, like an F1 driver. Suddenly, you're making more use of the 382 bhp (peak power hits at 6000 rpm), and the CLS becomes the perfect car for less busy freeways.
Coming from the country that gave us derestricted autobahnen, this is no real surprise, but a more distinct character between Comfort and Sport would be nice. A bit more body control in the corners, a bit more commitment for the committed could work. It doesn't need to be as dramatic a difference as Bruce Banner and the Incredible Hulk, but right now it seems more like a subtle shift in mood.
2007 Mercedes-Benz Cls550
Longitudinal Front Engine,Rear-Wheel Drive
5.5-Liter V8, Dohc,Four Valves Per Cylinder
Peak Power: 382 Bhp @ 6000 Rpm
Peak Torque: 391 Lb-Ft @ 2100 Rpm
0-60 Mph:5.9 Sec.
Top Speed:155 Mph (Limited)
Fuel Economy:16 City/22 Hwy
Price As Tested: $79,235
From The Hip
+ Stunning Good Looks, Exceptional Ride
- Blurry Line Between Comfort And Sport