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AS GOOD AS IT GETS

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sun, Aug 5, 2007

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

AS GOOD AS IT GETS By John Grafman

"What could be better than one of these?" I wrote a year ago about the CLS 500. I was justifiably impressed. The comments made then do hold true today: "Mercedes takes the inherently good behavior of the E and drapes it with trend-setting bodywork, a strong and well-balanced motor, and a suspension that works on the highways and canyons. The motor stock layout by today's standards might not offer the utmost in power output, however I'm lying if I said this wasn't a fantastic power plant with superior smoothness and a perfect pitch as well."

You might notice in the last comment that alludes to the power being plenty, but not over the top - or at least in stock configuration. Ah, but that was last year. For 2007, the CLS is endowed with Mercedes' potent 5.5-liter engine that churns out 382 ponies. What this means is a horsepower increase of over 25 percent. Torque is an outstanding 391 pound-feet. Reading between the lines, this is one damn fast car. But the Benz is not just fast, it's agile as well. Power and control are equally balanced. Freeway jaunts are real world tests that mean far more than specs sheets. What a company claims, and what is really possible are not always the same. This isn't to say the companies embellish, but not all cars feel comfortable enough for most drivers to execute the specs that are claimed. On the road, this provides a driver confidence that isn't unwarranted - and that isn't on the spec sheet.

Being able to take advantage of opportunities on the highway is always an occasion to celebrate. The CLS can weave through traffic in a composed manner that won't ruffle the feathers of either the occupants of this car or the neighboring traffic, although they might be a bit jealous. As before, the Airmatic Dual Control Air Suspension can be thanked for blending driving performance with comfort. It's nice to see the inherent goodness still survives. Now, the car is just this side of perfection. In the world of automobiles this is about as close as one gets for this price point. Unlike the wonderful CL 550, the CLS feels more purposeful in a sporting sense. The CLS feels alive in a way most cars can only dream of. The motor always is eager to play, and the rest of the car is more than capable of handling the job. While the steering input wasn't overwhelming in the CL (feeling a bit disconnected), the CLS is far better at providing the required info to the driver. The CLS 550 offers great features just as in the prior model year. Included are four zone climate control, 10-way power front seat with three memory settings, multi-function steering wheel, Harmon Kardon LOGIC7 digital surround system, in-dash six-disc CD changer, 18 inch alloy wheels, leather upholstery, hand finished wood trim, Tele Aid emergency calling, low tire pressure warning system, and more airbags than one would ever hope to use, comprise some of the standard features.

The optional equipment range from a premium package adding well-desired items like DVD navigation, Sirius satellite radio, heated and ventilated front seats, rear window sunshade and a hands-free communication system. However, as handy as the optional iPod integration kit is, at $425 dollars, it eclipses the cost of the iPod. It makes you think, doesn't it? Alas, even the best of intentions might have some unwanted side effects. The slippery shape of the car does impact visibility, albeit minimally. The exaggerated door perimeter has a trailing corner that can clip a driver's leg on exiting, especially in tight parking spots where the door isn't opened completely. But these are small, and maybe beyond significant foils in a stylish sedan. An overview of the sedan market provides few comparisons that are as dynamic-looking as the CLS. With brilliant styling, materials, and drivability, the 2007 CLS is well on its way to becoming a classic within its own time.

SUMMARY JUDGMENT The right way to do a four-door coupe - expect to see a whole lot of copycats in the next few years. For more information on Mercedes products, go to www.mbusa.com

SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: Mercedes-Benz CLS 550 Price: $66,900 (base price) $74,250 (as tested) Engine type: 5.5-litre 90-degree eight-cylinder, chain-driven single overhead camshaft per cylinder bank, two intake valves and one exhaust valve per cylinder, aluminum block and head Horsepower: 382 @ 6,000 rpm Torque: 391 pound-feet @ 2,800-4,800 EPA mileage estimates City/ Highway: 15/22 Drive configuration: Front engine/rear-wheel drive Transmission type: Seven-speed electronically controlled automatic with Touch Shift and driver-adaptive shift logic, five-speed auto with 4MATIC Suspension: Front: Four-wheel independent with AIRmatic DC air suspension Four-link independent, coil springs, gas-charged twin-tube shock absorbers, stabilizer bar, computer-controlled air springs and four-stage variable damping Rear: Four-wheel independent with AIRmatic DC air suspension, Five-link, coil springs, gas-charged shock absorbers, stabilizer bar, computer-controlled air springs and four-stage variable damping Wheels and tires: Front: 8.5 x 18-inch, 245/40 ZR 18 Rear: 9.5 x 18-inch, 275/35 ZR 18 Brakes: Front: Vented, with four-piston fixed calipers 13.0 X 1.3 inches diameter Rear: Vented, with single-piston floating caliper 11.8 X .9 inches diameter Electronic, power-assisted 4-wheel vented discs with 4-channel ABS anti-lock, Brake Assist and electronic brake proportioning Overall length: 193.3" Overall width: 73.7" Overall height: 54.7" Curb weight (lbs.): 4,020

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