2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class Review by Carrie Kim

As I approached the all-new 2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class, I was filled with a mix of elation and bona-fide terror. It's similar to when you walk into a very nice home and the first thing you say to your children is, "Don't touch anything!" The CLS550 is so luxurious and well-equipped that it's easy to get intimidated by it, especially with kids in tow. Add in the twin-turbo V-8 engine and you may be a little spooked, but you won't be spooked for long.

You may have to endure some teasing and raised eyebrows as you proclaim the seemingly impractical 2012 Mercedes CLS550 a fantastic family car, but just as some women spend their nine months of pregnancy in stilettos without even flinching, the CLS550 performs well in this role.

With a surprising amount of cabin space and storage along with luxury features that end up being incredibly convenient for passengers big or small, the CLS-Class can do your family right — if you can afford it. Oh, and you should also be willing to sacrifice some function for form and not have a need to transport more than four people at a time, either. Buyers beware: The CLS550 is quite a seductress, and it does have the ability to distort your priorities (Yes, I do need a massaging driver's seat!). It also makes a convincing case as a way to transport your family while integrating your desires for power, safety and style all into one amazing package.

Driving a CLS550 is thrilling. Its V-8 engine is beefy, but it doesn't roar like a muscle car. It's fast but smooth, handles beautifully and never leaves you feeling unsafe behind the wheel. In tight corners, the active seat bolsters wrap around you to keep you from sliding in your seat, and if you want to feel even more adventurous, there's the option of switching to Sport mode to really take things up a notch. If you'd rather revel in its luxury, you can use Mercedes-Benz's Distronic Plus technology, which is more than just a cruise control feature; it will accelerate and brake for you, maintaining a safe distance between you and the car ahead.

The 2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS550 starts at $71,300. My test car, which had all-wheel drive, was priced at $84,875.

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