EXTERIOR

From the outside, the CLS550 is a knockout. I lost count of how many times the word "stunning" was used when people saw my family and I pull up in it. Called a "four-door coupe," it's got all the sportiness of a two-door car minus most of the hassles. The long hood and giant grille can come off a little menacing, but its gorgeous sculpted frame and sleek rear end balance things out to make the CLS a top choice for anyone with a penchant for style.

What's controversial about the CLS550 is its low-slung body and roof height. It plays a big part in why the car looks so great, but it's a deal-breaker for some. My family is on the short side so it didn't bother us, and I was so enamored with the exterior design that I didn't mind taking extra care when getting the baby in and out of her child-safety seat. For those less enamored with the CLS550's looks, ducking to enter the vehicle will be a drag, and you'll most likely get a few complaints from those who are a little less limber. However, the silver lining here is the low step-in height definitely makes entries and exits easy for the kiddos.

The trunk's family friendliness is also subjective. I found it to be cavernous for a sedan. It fit my stroller, portable crib, plus my workout gear and grocery bags, so I had no complaints. However, my husband seemed irritated by it. Due to the ultra-sleek styling, the cargo area tapers toward the back. He found the trunk opening and height to be too shallow. Everything fit in it, though, which was all that mattered to me.

Under the hood, you'll find an eye-popping 402-horsepower, twin-turbocharged 4.6-liter V-8 engine. With those kinds of specs, there may be a few fights over who gets the keys. At first, I thought this much power was excessive, but Mercedes managed to tame this monster to make it less daredevil and more refined. For such a beefy engine, its EPA-estimated 16/25 mpg city/highway was a surprise. I averaged just about 18 mpg for the week. You do need to keep up with appearances at the pump, though — the CLS550 requires premium gasoline.

SENSE AND STYLE

Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Fair-Great
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Groove-On

    See also:

    Notes for 4MATIC vehicles
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    The suspension: a proven design in a new guise
    As on the E-Class, the front suspension takes the form of a 3-link front axle with McPherson struts, which has been especially modified for the new CLS. The key feature of this modified suspension ...

    Washing by hand
    Carefully remove all deposits of road salt as soon as possible when driving in winter. Also, clean the insides of the wheels when washing the underbody of the vehicle. Do not use hot water and ...