When Mercedes-Benz launched the CLS-Class in 2004, its low, swoopy four-door coupe roofline established a new breed of elegance within their line-up and spawned numerous copies. For the 2012 model year, the CLS enters its second-generation with a more performance-oriented personality, but a little less artfulness. Still touting its signature fastback profile, the CLS now wears a larger, more ominous grille flanked by optional full LED headlamps.

A longer hood and shorter overhangs also alter its once near perfect proportions. The US-bound CLS550 is powered by a smaller, yet more powerful engine. This 4.7-liter twin-turbo V8 makes 402 horsepower - 20 more than before.

We got a chance to acquaint ourselves with all of the car’s characteristics through the gorgeous Tuscan countryside just outside of Florence, Italy. Power was in serious abundance, making the CLS an effortless cruiser. But even more impressive is its handling prowess. Thanks mainly to a new steering system that feels nothing short of laser-guided.

“This second generation CLS is everything that the first car was, but with more aggressive styling, a wider array of technology, and ramped up driving dynamics. The steering here is just laser precise.” – Shamit Choksey

And on the crowed city streets of Florence, the CLS proved itself very nimble, feeling smaller than it actually is as it darted through hectic traffic. Inside, a more driver-centric four-seat cabin awaits, with all the creature comforts and technologies one would expect from Mercedes Benz.

One innovation is Adaptive Highbeam Assist, which automatically dips one or both beams in order to create the ideal lighting conditions for both you and an oncoming driver. The 2012 Mercedes Benz CLS will arrive in showrooms next year with a base price in the low $70,000 range.

"The Vue Two-Mode Hybrid proves that power and efficiency can coexist, and in a modern crossover you can have them both without skimping on any ability." – Ben Davis


  • 4.7-liter twin-turbo V8:
  • 402 horsepower:
  • Base price: low $70,000 range: