Features & Pricing

The CLS550 starts at $71,300, which seems rather high considering its standard rear-wheel drive; it's $73,800 with all-wheel drive. The E550 with the same engine has standard all-wheel drive for a starting price of $59,790. Much of that price difference is soaked up in the added standard features you get in the CLS, namely navigation, a premium stereo, bi-xenon headlights with LED running lights, and a few others that are available in a package on the E-Class for an additional $6,900.

The CLS offers performance on par with BMW's 550i, which has better dynamics than an E-Class. And again, the nearly $10,000 price difference between the two is offset somewhat by the CLS' standard features.

You can add more to the CLS, of course Ч most notably full LED active headlights that come as part of a $4,390 package that includes a rearview camera, a power rear sunshade, and heated and cooled front seats. That's a package I doubt many CLS550 buyers will leave off. There are a few other stand-alone options, most notably a parking-assist feature that handles the steering for you during parallel parking Ч requiring the driver to handle braking Ч for $970 and a less-necessary night vision feature for $1,780.

Despite the impressive performance, I can't help but think there's still a "styling surcharge" attached to the CLS.

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