Jeff Thisted: Welcome to AutoTrader's New Car Video Review of the 2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS series with two truly remarkable cars: the extraordinary CLS550 and the race-bred CLS63 AMG.
Amanda Salas: The 2012 CLS exhibits the essence of the Mercedes-Benz design language: a wider stance, the world's first all-LED active headlamps, a more pronounced rear quarter, deeper wheel wells outlining the hefty 18-inch wheels in the CLS550, like the one we have here, or 19-inch forged aluminum wheels on the CLS63 AMG.
Jeff: Curb appeal aside, the CLS has next-generation improvements under the skin, too, that generate beefier performance and better fuel economy with heightened interior comfort.
Amanda: Hand-finished burled walnut wood trim and leather seats are CLS standards. Choose the CLS63 AMG, and you get carbon fiber or piano black inlays that complement the sport seats.
Jeff: The Premium package adds heated and ventilated front seats that adjust 14 ways.
Amanda: This full-length console makes it clear that just two passengers can ride in the back, although it may be tight for two adults.
Jeff: Getting into and out of the CLS can be a little awkward, too, thanks to the sloping rear roofline of the CLS series.
Amanda: A feature we would have expected to come standard on this luxury cruiser is the rear-view camera. That camera and a lot of other high-tech options like radar-based Intelligent Cruise Control and Driver Attention Assist can add thousands to the CLS's price.
The twin-turbo 4.6-liter V8 pumps its 402 horsepower through a seven-speed automatic transmission. It has driver-adjustable settings for shifting response and adds more of a fun element to the CLS driving experience.
Jeff: And the handmade 5.5-liter V8 in the CLS63 AMG is even more impressive, producing a jaw-dropping 518 horsepower. Add to that the Performance package, you get 550 horsepower. That thing is a beast.
Amanda: You know what, Jeff? New this year, too, is an all-new all-wheel-drive version of the CLS550, adding go-in-snow ability to this traditionally rear-wheel-drive car.
Jeff: Very nice. Fuel economy has improved, as well, and that's due in part to the stop/start feature that shuts off the engine whenever the car comes to a standstill. And 2012 EPA ratings for the CLS550 are 16 in the city, 24 highway. For the CLS63 AMG, 15 in the city, 22 highway.
Prices for the CLS are expected in the luxury range, with the base price for the CLS550 at $71,300. The entry level for the CLS63 AMG: $94,900.
Amanda: But keep in mind, these rolling works of art make a statement about all-out performance, fabulous style, and in some ways...the person behind the wheel.