Nearly every advanced technology feature offered by Mercedes-Benz pokes its way through panels of wood and leather inside the 2012 CLS sedan. It all makes perfect sense in the context of its triglyceride-raising opulence, too.
Every CLS four-door totes an immense set of standard features. The basics--automatic climate control, power features, a sunroof, and leather upholstery--are complemented by an integrated suite of voice- and controller-driven functions, all bundled under the Benz COMAND system. COMAND connects Bluetooth and a knob on the center console to run all the audio functions, among them HD and satellite radio, USB connectivity, and a 10GB music hard drive. It also governs the navigation system, which stores maps on a 40GB hard drive, and taps real-time traffic information as well as a Zagat restaurant database--just in case Thomas Keller's latest effort is solidly overbooked, we suppose. COMAND runs your telephone as well, and grants access to your smartphone's database of numbers.
It does all this visibly on a pretty seven-inch LCD display on the center stack, and a smaller one between the gauges. Steering-wheel switches and buttons give a third option for steering your way through the infotainment options while you cruise safely down the road. COMAND may not be the clearest, most intuitive interface on the planet, but none of them are at this stage of the user-interface game--though we tend to prefer touchscreens in a parked car, given our choice.
The CLS' audio system also incorporates an SD card slot for portable music, and a six-DVD changer for...what? We're not sure. All the sounds produced are rendered through 14 beautifully optimized harmon/kardon speakers, given the surround-sound treatment, of course.
We're a little puzzled by some of the options on this pricey sedan. An iPod cable is part of a package with a rearview camera, ventilated and heated front seats, adaptive LED headlamps, and an electronic trunk closer, all priced at nearly $4400. (The iPod cable is also available as an accessory, but at these prices?) Blind-spot monitors and lane-keeping assist are options on the CLS 550 as well, as is an auto-braking safety package. An AMG-lookalike set of wheels, with a sport transmission mode, is a must at about $800--but the 19-inchers aren't much more at about $1300.
Other stand-alone options include the rearview camera and automatic parallel-parking assistance; fold-down rear seats; rear side airbags; active front seats, which have inflatable bladders that stiffen when the car corners for better support; a heated steering wheel; night vision; heated rear seats; and special dark ash interior trim.
Upgrading to the CLS 63 AMG brings a new set of interior trim, with an Alcantara headliner and dash stitching, and a power-telescoping steering wheel. It also adds a performance screen to the GPS display, where you can measure acceleration and grip, even time laps. Most of the base model's option packages are offered here as well, but if you're already in for $100,000 or more, why not spend $7300 on the Performance Package? The steering wheel alone is worth it, but you may be slightly more interested in the new 186-mph top speed, the 550 net horsepower, sport suspension, and red-dipped brake calipers.
Unique options on the AMG include piano-black interior trim, a carbon-fiber spoiler and interior trim, a limited-slip differential, and a breathtaking $12,625 carbon-ceramic braking package that applies some SLS AMG-style stopping ability to this fine four-door.