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2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS Class Comfort & Quality

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While the 2012 CLS is longer overall than before, the passenger space grows only a little better in some dimensions, while it loses fractions of inches elsewhere.

On the same 113.2-inch wheelbase, the CLS is almost the same size as in the first-generation car, and width is similar, while overall height is actually down by less than an inch. Mercedes has carved out almost an inch more of shoulder space in front by sculpting the door panels differently, and elbow room is up a third of an inch. That said, we're more impressed by the CLS' seats than by the attempts to boost its snug interior room. The front chairs on the CLS 550 are excellent, even the base ones, with 14 ways of power adjustment, firm bolstering with a bit of plushness, and memory controls. We're sold on the optional ventilation, which cools down the seat cushions and keeps air moving where air should probably move on a long trip.

A tight back seat is still a hallmark of the Mercedes-Benz CLS, but front passengers and their carry-ons are well taken care of.

On the CLS 63 AMG, a pair of front sport buckets are tailored in Nappa leather, and the rear seats get stitching to resemble the more firmly bolstered fronts. On either CLS, the front chairs can be upgraded to active control, which pumps up bolsters and bladders to increase support in moderate to hard cornering. It sounds gimmicky, but feels very reassuring, in a peripheral way, when the suspension's doing deep knee-bends into tight corners.

In the backseat, the CLS really hasn't made measurable progress. It unapologetically leaves people-toting to the more upright E Class; Mercedes cuts down the size of its rear doors and drops a seat from the back, all in the name of style. What's left is a tight fit for bigger adults, who will need to fold feet in and swing into the back buckets with some precision. There's not much headroom for six-footers in back, either--though medium-sized adults and anyone smaller will be perfectly comfortable in the rear seats. (And who wouldn't be, swaddled in this kind of leather and wood trim, and with optional heated seats?)

As for trunk room and other storage, it's down a half-cube in the back, but the trunk lid does have an option for power closing. Two large cupholders dominate the front edge of the center console between the front seats, and a covered bin that's further back is split down the middle, probably to keep big arms from snapping off a big single-piece lid.


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