Mercedes-Benz C-Class

The Mercedes-Benz C-Class, or the "Baby Benz" as it is affectionately known, has been a favorite of entry-level luxury/sport sedan buyers for years. More than just a small sedan with a few three-pointed stars thrown on it, the C-Class provides the core strengths of the brand, such as cutting-edge safety features, lively performance and a feeling of security. Fans of ultra-high performance have been thrilled by the AMG versions, which boast blistering performance and tenacious handling along with unique yet tasteful styling accents.
Style plays into the equation of the small Benz's appeal as well, with the C-Class drawing inspiration from bigger Benzes. The crouching stance with its arcing beltline, and the front and rear fascias are instantly recognizable throughout most of the Mercedes family. In the past, the cabin of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class has been criticized for some lapses in fit and finish, though current models show this issue has been addressed.
Invariably, the C-Class is cross-shopped with its countryman rivals, the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series. While the 3 Series is the most sporting of the trio and the A4 the more luxury-themed, the Benz offers a little of both personalities, along with superior technology features and more prestige for those concerned about such things.
Current Mercedes-Benz C-Class
The current Mercedes-Benz C-Class was completely redesigned for 2008. There are four trim levels available. The C300 Luxury and C300 Sport share the same engine (a 3.0-liter V6 that produces 228 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque), but differ in exterior styling elements, interior trim, front seat design and standard transmission. A seven-speed automatic is standard on the C300 Luxury and optional on the C300 Sport, which comes with a six-speed manual. Both C300s can be had with an all-wheel-drive system known as 4Matic. The C350 comes only in Sport guise and powered by a 3.5-liter V6 that makes 268 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. The seven-speed auto is the only transmission choice.
The ultimate C-Class is known as the C63 AMG, a high-performance sports edition with a 6.3-liter V8 shoehorned under the hood. Sending 451 hp and 443 lb-ft to the rear-wheels via a seven-speed automatic, the C63 is one truly wild machine that accelerates to 60 mph in a lightning-quick 4.4 seconds. Other performance upgrades include a wider front track, revised steering and suspension, meaty 18-inch wheels, upgraded brakes and aggressively bolstered seats. There are also subtle styling differences.
Overall, we view the current Mercedes-Benz C-Class as a welcome improvement. The more distinct Luxury and Sport trims should help attract a wider array of new and traditional buyers, while the interior is now fully up to date in terms of features and design. Plus, the C63 AMG is an absurdly powerful small sedan that can keep up with the vaunted M3. While the C-Class may be a tad too expensive given its size, power and equipment level, there's no denying the attraction of this refined, luxurious Baby Benz.
Previous Mercedes-Benz C-Class
The previous-generation Mercedes-Benz C-Class debuted in 2001 and there were a variety of changes made to the numerous different models and body styles during the car's lifespan.
The initial models were the C240 (168-hp V6) and C320 (215-hp V6) sedans. These were joined the following year by a C320 wagon and the C230 Kompressor two-door hatchback coupe (192-hp supercharged four-cylinder). The C32 AMG also showed up for 2002 saddled to a 3.2-liter supercharged V6 producing 349 hp. Mercedes' 4Matic all-wheel-drive system became available for 2003 on sedan and wagon body styles, while the C320 two-door hatchback, C240 wagon and supercharged C230 sedan arrived. A variety of Sport upgrades debuted for particular models for 2004, while the following year saw freshened exterior styling and a revised interior. The C32 AMG was also replaced for 2005 with the C55 AMG, which featured a 362-hp V8.
The biggest changes occurred for 2006, when the hatchback coupe and wagon were discontinued and a new selection of models and engines debuted that would remain with the car until it was replaced by the current C-Class. This was also the first year for the Sport and Luxury trim designations, which differed in wheel size, transmission choice, suspension tuning, styling elements and interior trim. The C230 Sport (201-hp V6) and C350 Sport (268-hp V6) were joined by the C350 Luxury (same engine as Sport) and the C280 Luxury (228-hp V6). 4Matic all-wheel drive was available on Luxury models.
Those considering this generation Mercedes C-Class probably won't regret their purchase, as there should be more than enough performance and luxury to satisfy them. As with the current model, savvy shoppers should know that other automakers, particularly those from Japan, offered roomier, less costly alternatives that equal or better this C-Class in performance and features, although certainly not status. This C-Class didn't exactly hold its value well, so there are certainly deals to be found. However, given the staggering amount of model designations, body styles, engines and feature content, it's important to make sure you know exactly what you're getting in a used C-Class.
The original Mercedes-Benz C-Class debuted in 1994 as a replacement for the small 190-Class sedan. With more room, a more luxurious cabin and styling that mimicked the larger E-Class, the first C-Class could be had with four-cylinder (C220) or six-cylinder (C280) power, with output ranging from 148 to 194 hp. There was no wagon offered at all during this generation's run (1994-2000). Safety has always been a priority with Mercedes, and as such the C-Class benefited from the early adoption of such technologies as stability control, emergency brake assist and side airbags. Performance of the base C rose through the years, as the 2.2-liter four gave way to a 2.3-liter, which was then replaced by a 2.3-liter supercharged unit.
The hot-rod AMG versions started in 1995 with the C36 that featured a 268-hp inline-6. Serious firepower arrived in 1998 with the debut of the C43, whose 4.3-liter V8 pumped out 302 hp. Die-hard enthusiasts should know that only automatic transmissions came with the AMGs, though this hardly hurt the performance of these fast little sedans.
Either way, used-car shoppers should know that the Mercedes C-Class historically scores high in crash tests, and ownership satisfaction is generally quite high, with consumers praising handling, ride and reliability. However, maintenance is typically costly.

Mercedes-Benz CL-Class

The Mercedes-Benz CL-Class is a rare animal in the automotive kingdom; a large luxury coupe capable of seating two rear passengers while simultaneously shoving them into their seatbacks with abundant power. Other two-doors can boast either of these, but the CL manages both and features sumptuous leather-adorned interiors to boot. Now in its fourth generation, the CL has undergone a few name changes over the years, but it has continuously maintained its status as Mercedes' quintessential large luxury coupe.
Whether it was called 560SEC or S500 coupe, the CL-Class has essentially been a two-door version of the Mercedes-Benz flagship sedan -- today's S-Class. Although the CL now ventures a little farther from momma in terms of styling, it has retained its close family ties. As in the past, the two vehicles share similar interior design, features and engine options. Since it's based on such a large sedan, the CL is more of an autobahn-storming, boulevard-cruising luxo coupe, rather than a road-carving GT like a BMW 6 Series or Jaguar XKR.
Current Mercedes-Benz CL-Class
The current Mercedes-Benz CL-Class first donned its pretty face (and tail) as a 2007 model following the successful launch of the recently redesigned S-Class. Like the Benz flagship sedan, the CL is crammed full of the latest and greatest safety, comfort and entertainment technologies the engineering wizards from Stuttgart have been able to craft. The CL ventures farther from the S-Class than past generations in terms of exterior styling, featuring curvier, more muscular lines than its subdued predecessor. It also grew slightly in length, width and height versus the previous CL, while remaining 5 inches shorter than the S-Class. This girth makes the CL much larger and hundreds of pounds heavier than its closest competitors.
There are four trim levels and engines: CL550 (382-horsepower V8), CL600 (510-hp V12), CL63 AMG (514-hp V8) and CL65 AMG (604-hp V12). A seven-speed automatic transmission is standard on the V8-powered models, while a more robust five-speed auto is standard on the torque-rich V12s. Highlights for the CL550 include 18-inch wheels, 14-way power front seats with heat and memory, a hard-drive-based navigation system, Bluetooth phone connectivity and an 11-speaker surround-sound system with a hard drive capable of storing MP3 files. There are also a full array of Mercedes' latest high-tech safety features should all that high-speed fun come to an abrupt stop.
Standard features on the CL600, and options on the CL550, include Keyless Go entry and exit, cooled front seats, infrared night vision system and Distronic Plus adaptive cruise control that can automatically accelerate and brake even in stop-and-go traffic. The AMG models are equipped more like the CL550, but focus on performance with unique exterior enhancements, a sport-tuned suspension, high-performance brakes and AMG multicontour leather sport seats.
In our Mercedes-Benz CL-Class reviews, we were impressed by the CL's striking appearance, top-quality interiors, competent handling and three thumping engines. We had a tough time finding anything wrong with the CL550 and as the model number rose, so did our appreciation -- especially of the CL600's V12 that pumps out a whopping 612 pound-feet of torque. For a step further, the CL65's 738 lb-ft is enough torque to slightly alter Earth's orbit. In fact, one of the only complaints was that the long doors make it difficult to exit in small parking spaces. But chances are, you'll be parking this stunning $100,000-plus Mercedes coupe as far away from other vehicles as possible.
Past Mercedes-Benz CL-Class Models
The third-generation Mercedes-Benz CL-Class produced from 2000-'06 was lighter, less expensive and much sleeker than its massive, brick-shaped predecessor. The CL500, powered by a 302-hp V8, was the only model offered initially, with the 362-hp, V12-powered CL600 and the 354-hp, V8-powered CL55 AMG arriving in 2001. As usual, Mercedes used the CL to showcase its latest technologies such as Active Body Control, Distronic adaptive cruise control and PreSafe (for 2003). Mercedes also used '03 to introduce the now-turbocharged CL600 and now-supercharged CL55 AMG, both pumping out 493 hp. The CL500 added a seven-speed automatic transmission in 2004, while an AMG Sport Package was added to the CL500 and CL600 as standard equipment for this generation's last year.
With many of these cars available as "certified pre-owned" (meaning a pristine, lower-mileage example with all maintenance up to date and an extended warranty), this generation represents the best choice for a consumer looking to get into a Benz CL-Class that should serve them for a long time without their having to spend a small fortune. At the time, our editors were impressed with its powerful engine choices, dizzying array of high-tech features, classic styling and comfortable long-distance cruising ability. We weren't fond of its complex COMAND navigation and audio system, and found the rear seat to be cramped.
The second-generation Mercedes-Benz CL-Class had a slight identity crisis, beginning its life as the 500SEC and 600SEC in 1993, changing into the S-Class Coupe in 1994 and finally settling with today's CL-Class moniker in 1998. Its sturdy, boxlike body changed very little during its run, giving it a strong resemblance to the S-Class/500SEL. It was offered with a 315-hp V8 and a new 389-hp V12 engine, neither of which changed during this generation's lifespan. As with today's generation, our editors couldn't find much to fault about this generation with its ample combination of size, luxury and power. Its blocky styling did not age well, however, and its huge price tag led us to suggest taking a look at cheaper alternatives.
The original flagship sedan-based Mercedes-Benz luxury coupe was known as the SEC, which lived from 1981-'91. The 1986-'91 editions had a 238-hp, 5.6-liter V8, whereas the prior years were underpowered with a 3.8-liter, 155-hp V8. With its especially commodious rear seat, the 560SEC was actually considered a two-door sedan. This generation was also one of the first vehicles to offer airbags, antilock brakes, traction control and a self-leveling suspension.

Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class

Throughout most of the 1980s and '90s, Mercedes seemed to focus strictly on the business side of the luxury spectrum by producing sedans, sedans and, well, more sedans. With the exception of one stratospherically priced roadster, style seemed to be a secondary concern, and there was nary a two-door to be found.
The Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class put an end to that. Born as a coupe first and a cabriolet (convertible) second, the CLK combined a curvy, low-slung body with four-seat practicality at a price digestible to the moderately wealthy masses. To no one's surprise, it was a hit.
Like its competitors, the Mercedes-Benz CLK traces the majority of its mechanicals to an existing sedan -- in this case, the compact C-Class. However, Mercedes has always tried to position the CLK as a higher entity than its entry-luxury source material. To that end, the company has offered the CLK with engines and transmissions from the more upscale E-Class, and the first-generation CLK even went so far as to crib its front styling from the E-Class of the time. Unfortunately, Mercedes has also felt that this higher pedigree deserved higher pricing, too.
But the sum of the CLK's parts has mostly gone over well with us. Both CLK generations offer refined road manners, a sufficient amount of sportiness and the expected levels of Mercedes-Benz luxury, safety and prestige. And while the CLK's interior control layout might be too complicated for its own good, this coupe and convertible pair does a passable job of seating four adults -- and remains the only two-door Benz besides the ultra-expensive CL-Class that can make such a claim.
Most Recent Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class
While the design of this current (second-generation) Mercedes-Benz CLK only dates back a few years, engine changes have altered the names of every family member during the model cycle. Currently, both the coupe and convertible come as a CLK350 powered by a 3.5-liter V6 with 268 horsepower and a CLK550 powered by a 5.4-liter V8 with 382 hp. A seven-speed automatic transmission drives the rear wheels of all CLKs.
For buyers needing still more, Mercedes' AMG in-house performance division offers a CLK63 AMG coupe and convertible. The CLK63 convertible is the more mainstream of the two -- that is, if you can call a car with a 475-hp 6.2-liter V8 mainstream. The AMG coupe, known as the CLK63 AMG Black Series, is an altogether different animal. In addition to getting an even 500 hp from its 6.2-liter, this special car incorporates a fully adjustable, track-tuned suspension and numerous weight-saving measures (including the removal of the backseat). Both AMG cars use modified versions of the seven-speed automatic.
Major standard equipment on the CLK350 includes 17-inch alloy wheels, leather upholstery, power seats, dual-zone climate control and a power tilt-telescoping steering wheel. Interior accommodations are airy in CLK coupes, thanks to their B-pillarless design; CLK convertibles have a quick-acting power-operated cloth top. In addition to their extra power, CLK550 models add a body kit, different-colored interior pieces and paddle shifters for the automatic transmission.
The Mercedes-Benz CLK63 convertible adds a sport-tuned suspension, performance exhaust, laterally bolstered front seats, seat heaters, two-tone leather, aluminum trim and an upgraded stereo. Compared to the CLK63 convertible, the Black Series coupe features harder-edged running gear including larger brakes, lightweight wheels and stickier tires. Inside, it's outfitted more like a racecar, dispensing with the typical myriad of power seat adjustments in favor of true sport seats with manual fore/aft adjustment. It also does without side airbags, but otherwise has all the safety equipment of other CLKs, including stability control.
We've generally been pleased with the driving character of the current Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class, although in non-AMG form, it's definitely more of a grand touring car than a sport coupe. The steering is slower than we'd like, but it's more precise than that of the previous model, and overall, the CLK350 and CLK550 handle fairly nimbly while riding comfortably. They're plenty quick, too.
As you'd expect, the faster CLK63s are firmer-riding on the expressway, but there's a payoff in balance and grip through the corners. The CLK63 AMG Black Series coupe is a particularly impressive machine in this environment and that's no surprise considering its origins: It's basically a street-legal version of the Formula One pace car and is, without a doubt, Mercedes' most serious performance car besides the SLR McLaren. A limited run of 700 cars worldwide should ensure instant collectible status.
Black Series aside, there's a lot to like in the Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class, though there are two major caveats for would-be buyers. First is its high price tag, which leaves the CLK thousands of dollars out of whack from its closest competitor, the BMW 3 Series, but still unable to equal the more elite 6 Series in either performance or prestige. The second issue is that despite the CLK's formidable power, it simply isn't as engaging to drive as either of these Bimmers.
If you're interested in purchasing a used, second-generation CLK, there are a few changes to be aware of. This line of CLK originated in 2003. First came the coupes, which at the time were a CLK320 with a 215-hp 3.2-liter V6, a CLK500 with a 302-hp 5.0-liter V8 and a CLK55 AMG with a 362-hp 5.4-liter V8. Convertible equivalents to all three joined for 2004.
In 2005, the CLK500 switched from a five-speed automatic to the current seven-speed automatic transmission. This was also the last year the CLK55 AMG was available in coupe form, and the year the navigation system switched from a CD-based to a DVD-based unit.
The following year, the CLK320 became the CLK350 (and also adapted the seven-speed), while 2007 was when the CLK500 and CLK55 converted to the current CLK550 and CLK63 AMG, respectively. During the transition, the CLK63 convertible adopted a sport-tuned version of the seven-speed transmission. An AMG coupe also returned for '07, albeit only in limited-edition Black Series form with a six-figure price tag.
Past Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class Models
The first-generation Mercedes-Benz CLK was produced for the 1998-2002 model years in coupe form. The convertible was available from 1999-2003. Each debuted as a CLK320 powered by a 215-hp 3.2-liter V6. The CLK430 variant, motivated by a 275-hp 4.3-liter V8, arrived a year later. The high-performance CLK55 AMG coupe and its 342-hp 5.4-liter V8 joined the line in 2001. Its convertible equivalent followed in 2002, and both went away at year's end.
All models had standard leather, dual-zone automatic climate control, SmartKey keyless entry, a Bose cassette stereo, power seats with memory, front seat side airbags and antilock brakes. CLK430 models added 17-inch wheels, aero enhancements and different-colored interior items. CLK55 AMGs went further with a stiffer suspension, performance exhaust, xenon headlights, a sunroof, rain-sensing wipers, multicontour front seats, front seat heaters and a rear sunshade.
The first changes came for 1999, when stability control became standard on the CLK430 and optional on the CLK320. In 2000 this safety feature became standard across the board, as did Mercedes' new TeleAid emergency communications system. Also, the five-speed automatic transmission on all models gained a manual mode.
The original Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class didn't drive as nicely as the current one. Power wasn't the issue, as all CLKs of this generation were fine performers. In reviews at the time, we took issue with the transmission, which often second-guessed the driver's intentions and delivered badly timed shifts. In addition, the brake pedal was on the spongy side, and the CLK's old-fashioned recirculating-ball steering setup was numb and heavy. On the highway, the car always felt solid and composed, however. Actual braking distances were excellent, too. Besides that, the CLK55 AMG coupe was then the quickest production Benz in history, hitting 60 mph in 5 seconds flat.
Our gripes on the inside concerned the lack of a tilt steering wheel, limited rear-seat headroom and the complexity of many of the controls. CLK Cabriolets suffered from cramped rear legroom, mediocre rear visibility and a power top that wasn't fully automatic (all of which were improved on the second-generation CLK).
In general, we still think the BMW 3 Series coupes and convertibles of the time were more rewarding cars to drive, not to mention less expensive. Still, if we were buying a CLK, our choice would be either the CLK320 or the CLK430. The Mercedes-Benz CLK55 AMG, as fast as it was, didn't offer a big enough performance enhancement to justify its price hike.

Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class

When it comes to shaking up the luxury car world, no amount of power, technological sophistication or supple leather in the cabin can top an alluring design. More stunning in person than even the most flattering photography might suggest, the coupelike Mercedes CLS-Class has a visual presence that few other luxury sedans can match. And that is something that's not likely to change for some time to come.
The Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class offers a level of athleticism and sumptuousness that in the past has been difficult to find in one car. Although it makes use of a number of unique pieces throughout, a lot of the underlying structure and hardware comes from the well-regarded E-Class. The engines in the CLS550 and CLS63 AMG, for example, are shared with its brethren and are connected to Mercedes' excellent seven-speed automatic transmission with manual-shift capability.
While its rakish visage does wonders for the CLS' image, it also reduces interior dimensions in several key areas. Up front, the effects are minimal as the CLS feels every bit as accommodating as Mercedes' full-size luxury flagship. But in back, its dimensions are tighter in nearly every direction when compared to more mainstream sedans. Additionally, the small rear windows can make occupants feel closed in.
But these are pretty minor complaints. The Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class isn't really a case of form over function; rather, it's a rare combination of the two that makes them satisfyingly complementary. For the luxury car buyer who desires distinctive styling, strong performance and a sumptuous interior, the CLS is easy to recommend.
Current Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class
The Mercedes-Benz CLS is available as the CLS550 or the CLS63 AMG. For both models, expect all the typical powered controls and luxury accoutrements. Mercedes' Airmatic suspension system comes standard, too, giving the CLS enough adjustability to suit every type of driver. Left in its standard comfort mode, it responds with typical luxury car motions -- soft when it needs to be and stiff enough to maintain sufficient control at all times. Additional settings programmed for more aggressive driving are available should you desire more precisely controlled handling.
As the rear-wheel-drive CLS is meant to be a relatively exclusive and upscale car, Mercedes hasn't bothered to offer a V6-powered model. Rather, the lineup starts with the CLS550. It's equipped with a 5.5-liter V8 developing 382 horsepower and 391 pound-feet of torque. The CLS63 AMG has a 6.2-liter V8 that makes 507 hp and 465 lb-ft. A seven-speed automatic with Sportronic manual-shift capability is the sole gearbox for both trims. Paddle shifters are standard on the CLS63 and optional on the CLS550.
With so many gears at its disposal, the CLS is never far from its sweet spot -- making the sizable luxury sedan feel just as quick as its horsepower number might suggest. Response from the advanced, world-class transmission is satisfyingly quick. Mercedes says the CLS63 AMG needs only 4.5 seconds to hit 60 mph.
Inside the cockpit, sweeping wood panels, chrome trim surrounds, premium materials and beautiful detailing set the CLS apart. However, the car's coupelike roof line and tighter door openings can make getting in and out of the rear seats more difficult. Once in place, the aft quarters are surprisingly accommodating. Six-footers might brush their heads, but plenty of leg and shoulder room keep it otherwise comfortable. The short windows make it feel less airy than a typical sedan, but compared to a traditional two-door coupe, the Mercedes-Benz CLS is legitimately comfortable in back rather than merely tolerable.
Although it's about 5 inches longer than its midsize stablemate, the CLS550 weighs only a few pounds more. Transitioning from one curve to the next makes it obvious that this is no full-size land yacht. Unlike its larger sibling that reminds you of its size when pushed, the CLS550 invites spirited driving at every turn thanks to its quicker steering and reduced body roll. The CLS63 AMG, meanwhile, pushes the envelope even further thanks to its sport-tuned suspension, more powerful brakes, and bigger wheels and tires.
Past Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class models
Mercedes-Benz introduced the stunning, performance-oriented CLS500 sedan in 2006. As the CLS500's name suggests, it came with a 5.0-liter V8 rated at 306 hp. In that first year, Mercedes also offered the 469-hp CLS55 AMG. These models were superseded by the CLS550 and CLS63 AMG for 2007.

Mercedes-Benz E-Class

Long a favorite in the midsize luxury sport sedan segment, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class has provided comfort, performance and safety for decades. The trademark qualities of Mercedes-Benz vehicles, such as vaultlike solidity and leading-edge technology, have also contributed to the E-Class's great popularity among luxury sedan and wagon buyers.
With a breadth of variants in both body styles, ranging from fuel-efficient diesels to ultra-high-performance AMG models, there's usually an E-Class well-suited for anyone -- provided they have the financial resources to own one, of course. Through the years, V6-powered models such as the E320 and E350 have offered respectable performance along with respectable fuel efficiency, while V8 models such as the E430, E500 and E550 have delivered truly autobahn-worthy driving dynamics.
The overall design of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class has always been understated yet elegant. The interiors of the early models were comfortable but hardly lavish. Only with the more recent models have the cabins grown luxurious, with generous helpings of leather, wood and chrome trim throughout.
The chief long-standing rival to the E-Class is its countryman, the BMW 5 Series. Although the E-Class typically offers comparable performance, the Bimmer remains the better choice for serious driving enthusiasts due to its more communicative steering and chassis.
Current Mercedes-Benz E-Class
Introduced in 2003, the current Mercedes-Benz E-Class sports classy and aggressive styling, with a rising beltline that gives the car a stance like that of a crouching feline. Currently, the sedans come in four trim levels: the turbodiesel E320 Bluetec (208 horsepower), the gasoline V6-powered E350 (268 hp), the V8-powered E550 (382 hp) and the pavement-scorching E63 AMG, which boasts a 507-hp, 6.3-liter V8. Rear-wheel drive is standard, but the 4Matic all-wheel-drive system can be had on the E350 and E550 sedans. E-Class wagons are offered in E350 4Matic and E63 AMG trims. All models are equipped with an automatic transmission. Rear-drive E-Class cars have seven-speed automatics, while the 4Matics have five-speed units.
All E-Class trims come with all the expected luxuries, such as a sunroof, dual-zone climate control, leather seating, power front seats and a powerful audio system. Moving up through the trim levels adds features such as adaptive air suspension and four-zone climate control. Of course the AMG versions have unique exterior styling and interior trim, sport seats, upgraded brakes and a sport-tuned Airmatic suspension.
The performance of any Mercedes-Benz E-Class is impressive — the E320 Bluetec and E350 can each hit 60 mph in less than 7 seconds; the E550 sprints to that speed in around 5 ticks; and the AMG sedan will run it in well under 5. The handling and ride balance should please most folks, though hard-core enthusiasts may find all but the AMG too softly sprung for their tastes.
There are very solid reasons for the E-Class's popularity, namely strengths in every area that counts in this segment, such as luxury, performance, safety and prestige. That said, serious driving enthusiasts might want to also consider this Benz's archrival, the more athletic and communicative BMW 5 Series. And shoppers more concerned with purchase price should consider the Audi A6 or the Japanese luxury brand offerings, all of which offer comparable performance and luxury for considerably less money.
Past E-Class models
If you're looking for a used late-model Mercedes-Benz E-Class, there are a few points to keep in mind. The initial 2003 lineup consisted of the E320 sedan and wagon (221 hp) and the E500 sedan (302 hp). The wagon continued in previous-generation form for '03. Later that year, the E55 AMG sedan came on line with a 469-hp supercharged V8. The 2004 model year brought the "new" generation wagon, which could be had in both E320 and E500 versions. Mercedes also began offering the option of 4Matic all-wheel drive for both sedans and wagons. The 4Matic system was standard on the E500 wagon (which was discontinued after the '06 model year). In 2005, Mercedes added an E55 AMG wagon to the lineup, and for 2007, the AMGs were renamed E63 with the arrival of the larger V8 engine.
Also for '05, a diesel E-Class, the E320 CDI, returned to the family after a five-year hiatus. The E320 CDI was only available in 45 U.S. states due to stricter emissions standards in the remaining five states (California, Maine, Massachusetts, New York and Vermont) but was quick for a diesel; it could run to 60 mph in under 7 seconds. In 2006, the gasoline E320 became the E350, the new name indicating a new 3.5-liter V6 making 268 hp. The E500 became the E550 for '07, marking the arrival of the current 5.5-liter V8.
The previous generation of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class ran from '96 to 2002. This generation initiated the marque's signature cue, the four ellipsoid headlights, which carried through to the current generation. Although a few inches longer than the car before it, this E-Class had basically the same chassis as its predecessor.
Offered at debut were sedans called the E300D diesel (134 hp), the E320 with an inline six-cylinder engine (217 hp) and the E420 V8 (275 hp). By '98, the diesel had gained a turbo and more power (174 hp), a wagon returned, 4Matic all-wheel drive was offered and the gasoline inline-6 was replaced by a 221-hp V6. The E420 also became the E430 via a slightly larger (4.3-liter) V8. The following year, the hot-rod E55 AMG with its 349-hp V8 bowed. Side curtain airbags came in '99, while the 2000 model year saw a revised cabin and front end, the exit of the diesel and more standard safety equipment (including stability control, as well as front and rear side airbags). Changes were minimal for the next couple of years.
Durable and well built, a second-generation E-Class from this generation should serve you well. As with any used car consideration, look for a complete and up-to-date maintenance history, since upkeep on an E-Class can be quite expensive (as with any German car).
The first-generation Mercedes-Benz E-Class (1986-'95) was praised for its excellent combination of performance and safety. At first, it was available with either an inline-6 (300E) or a turbodiesel (300D), with V8 power coming a few years later. In addition to the sedan, coupe and wagon versions were offered.
The 300E furnished strong performance for a midsize luxury sedan of its day -- zero to 60 mph took less than 8 seconds and top speed approached 140. Serious enthusiasts might be interested in the limited-edition 500E sedan, which packed a Porsche-designed 322-hp V8 and was offered from 1992-'94.
Still desirable and known for a long service life, a well-kept E-Class from this generation will nonetheless be a costly vehicle to own when repairs are required.

Mercedes-Benz G-Class

Mercedes-Benz GL-Class

Over the past decade, the increasingly popular large-luxury-SUV segment has been dominated by vehicles from American and Japanese automakers. Now, Mercedes has joined the world of the big, the bold and the beautiful with its all-new Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, which ushers in a new level of luxury, style and performance.
Initially planned to replace the comparatively ancient and crude, yet extremely capable, military-sourced G-Class (a.k.a. the Gelandewagen, which soldiers on), the GL320 CDI, GL450 and GL550 sport-utility vehicles are built at Mercedes' Tuscaloosa, Alabama, plant alongside the midsize M-Class SUV and R-Class luxury wagon.
The big advantage the Mercedes-Benz GL-Class has over its smaller midsize brother is its extra length and capacity behind the rear seats. It's about as long as its primary American competition, but with a longer wheelbase and more svelte dimensions. And while most competitors feature a heavier-duty, truck-based body-on-frame design, the Mercedes-Benz GL-Class takes the more sophisticated route with a carlike unibody architecture to maximize ride comfort and on-road agility.
What Mercedes has accomplished with its world-class GL-Class remains impressive. We believe the GL-Class is a very viable and possible top choice in the large-luxury-SUV segment. If you're in the market for such a vehicle -- and value on-the-road comfort and manners more than ultimate off-road prowess or tow capacity -- you'll definitely want to look for the three-pointed-star and check out Mercedes' new GL-Class.
Current Mercedes-Benz GL-Class
The Mercedes-Benz GL-Class is offered in three variants: the GL320 CDI, GL450 and GL550. The latter features the most powerful engine, a more pronounced front grille and most of the less expensive models' optional features. Other than sporting different engines, the GL320 CDI and GL450 are virtually identical in terms of equipment.
With all GL-Class models, Mercedes has done its research and knows what's expected in this segment. The GL has generous well-appointed seating for up to seven passengers, a roomy cargo hold, supremely capable all-weather performance and the ability to tow the typical myriad lifestyle accessories. Standard niceties include powered and heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, power-folding third-row seat and a full complement of airbags and advanced safety equipment.
For more frosting on your cake, a navigation system, surround-sound audio, parking assist and more are available, as well as luxury touches like adaptive cruise control, a sunroof and a rear-seat entertainment system. All Mercedes-Benz GLs come with stability control, antilock brakes with brake assist, whiplash-reducing front headrests, first- and second-row side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags with an integrated rollover sensor.
Under the GL450's hood is a well-balanced 4.7-liter V8 making 335 horsepower and 339 pound-feet of torque. The GL550 features a 5.5-liter V8 that produces 382 hp and 391 lb-ft of torque. The most intriguing powertrain option can be found in the GL320 CDI, which is powered by a 3.2-liter turbodiesel V6 good for 215 hp and 398 lb-ft of torque. That type of low-end power is well suited for such a large crossover SUV driven primarily in a suburban environment, while it gets better mileage than its two gasoline-fueled counterparts. We suggest taking a close look at the CDI. However, it is not presently sold in California or California-emission states due to strict emission standards.
All GL-Class models come equipped with a seven-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control. They also all come with air-adjustable suspension and an all-wheel-drive system that requires no driver input -- a wonderful system for the road. For buyers planning to do regular off-roading, we suggest opting for the more advanced, dual-range 4WD system in the Off Road Package available on the GL450 only.
If you're shopping for a top-ranked large luxury SUV that drives "smaller" than most full-size vehicles and can run circles around most of its competition -- both literally and figuratively -- the new Mercedes-Benz GL-Class deserves serious consideration.
Past Mercedes-Benz GL-Class Models
The Mercedes-Benz GL-Class was introduced for 2007 in GL450 guise only. The GL550 and GL320 CDI arrived the next year.

Mercedes-Benz M-Class

Since the introduction of the Mercedes-Benz M-Class, many other premium automakers have entered the midsize luxury SUV market attempting to dethrone the king of the hill. And Mercedes-Benz has responded with constant improvements to its midsize SUV over the years, including increased feature content and performance, updated styling and attempts to address the various quality issues plaguing early models.
Despite Mercedes' efforts, however, the original truck-based M-Class was starting to show its age against better-dressed and better-handling car-based SUV competition. So, after eight years on the same aging platform, Mercedes finally reached for a much-needed clean sheet of paper for the second-generation M-Class, which debuted for the 2006 model year. The resulting second-generation M-Class models are more powerful, better-handling and loaded with upscale features. They're also roomier inside for legs and shoulders: 6 inches longer and 2 inches wider, and riding on a 4-inch-longer wheelbase than the old ML. There are presently four distinct Mercedes-Benz M-Class models: ML320 CDI, ML350, ML550 and ML63 AMG.
Though it has less ground clearance than the original, the current M-Class' unibody chassis is also stiffer, lighter and better able to deliver the ride quality expected of a Mercedes-Benz intended primarily for use on pavement. Additionally, the second-gen ML offers a more aggressive stance and a more stable platform for powering its permanent 4WD system.
The design of the cabin isn't radically different, but thanks to its extra dimensions, the current M-Class has an airy feel that the old ML lacked. The quality of materials is much improved, and there are large expanses of wood and aluminum trim, as you'd expect in a vehicle with a base price in the $40Ks. One of the most noticeable changes inside is the lack of a console-mounted shifter, replaced by a small control stalk on the steering column to make room for American-size cupholders.
The original ML caught a wave of SUV popularity and rode it out longer than even Mercedes could have hoped. But even though there are now many worthy competitors in the premium SUV segment, we think the M-Class' combination of cutting-edge safety features, satisfyingly sure-footed on-road performance and bountiful creature comforts will keep it high on shoppers' lists.
Current Mercedes-Benz M-Class
The Mercedes-Benz M-Class is a tasteful and modern five-passenger sport-utility. Trim levels include the ML350 with a 268-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 and the ML550 with its 5.5-liter V8 churning out 382 hp. If you're looking to spice things up with a bit more distinction, you can now also choose a fuel-slurping 503-hp ML63 AMG high-performance version or a fuel-sipping 215-hp ML320 CDI diesel. The diesel ML doesn't cost much more than the ML350 and promises mileage in the 20s, while offering useful low-end power and none of that diesel stink you remember from the 1980s. However, it is not presently offered in California or California-emissions states due to strict emissions regulations.
The standard ML350 and ML320 CDI are well-equipped with full-time four-wheel-drive, automatic climate control, power-adjustable front seats and an eight-speaker CD stereo with an auxiliary audio jack. Other available features across the class include adaptive bi-xenon headlamps, larger wheels, a surround-sound audio system, DVD-based navigation, rear-seat entertainment system, keyless ignition/entry and a sunroof. The ML63 AMG adds unique styling elements and performance-oriented mechanical bits along with its larger engine.
In reviews, our editors have found that the current Mercedes-Benz M-Class feels lighter on its feet than the original, yet remains just as sure-footed. And with the optional air-spring suspension, the ride quality is as plush and responsive as one could hope for in a vehicle of this type. Behind the wheel one will find plenty of room and excellent support from the premium multicontour seats. If your goal is the head of the class and cost is no object, the new M-Class should be on top of your shopping list.
Past Mercedes-Benz M-Class Models
The present-generation M-Class was introduced for 2006 in ML350 and ML500 guises. The ML320 CDI and ML63 AMG arrived the next year, while the ML550 became the standard V8 model for 2008.
However, shoppers of used luxury SUVs will likely encounter first-generation ML320s and ML430s. Mercedes-Benz entered the SUV race in 1998 with the ML320, offering the best of both the car and truck worlds from a fresh new design. More standard equipment was added in 1999, as well as the addition of a more powerful and luxurious V8-equipped ML430 model. Detail improvements in 2000 include an interior freshening and optional third-row seating on all M-Class models, and in 2001 the TeleAid emergency calling system became standard across the lineup.
Earlier models did not escape Mercedes' quality control problems or fussy COMAND operating system of the late '90s era, however. For these vehicles, we strongly suggest you shop carefully and also consider an extended warranty to go with your vehicle purchase.
The Mercedes-Benz M-Class was vastly reworked and improved in 2002 with the modification of more than 1,100 parts and the substitution of the ML500 for the previous ML430, now featuring a 5.0-liter V8 packing 288 hp. Telltale signs include new bumpers, clear-lens headlights and restyled mirrors. In late 2003, the ML350 eclipsed the ML320, with a larger 232-hp V6 engine replacing the original 215-hp unit.
Mercedes was also first to market with a high-performance luxury SUV, offering the ML55 AMG from 2000-'03. Sold in limited numbers, this pricey ML had a 5.4-liter V8 good for 342 hp and 376 lb-ft of torque, along with a sport-tuned suspension.

Mercedes-Benz R-Class

When Mercedes-Benz showed the Vision GST (Grand Sports Tourer) concept at the 2004 North American International Auto Show, it wasn't just a one-off showcar but a new type of vehicle for the company. The GST was the basis for what would become the Mercedes-Benz R-Class, a car that can best be described as a luxury touring wagon.
Part minivan, part station wagon, part "what were they thinking?" the Mercedes-Benz R-Class is several cars rolled into one and effectively combines the best features of each. Although the R-Class isn't quite as roomy as a minivan and only features six standard seats, it is essentially a luxury family hauler for those who would never consider owning a traditional minivan.
It's true that the R-Class isn't as versatile as a real minivan. Its traditional hinged rear doors, for instance, aren't as family-friendly as a minivan's sliding doors. Styling is another area where the R seems to come up short -- at least in the realm of luxury vehicles. Most of our editors find the big wagon's look ungainly and excessive.
Still, for those who can afford it, the positives far outweigh the negatives for Mercedes' "sports tourer." It's roomy, luxurious and available with two different engines, not to mention just about all of Benz's latest techno toys. It also comes standard with all-wheel drive for extra traction in inclement weather. For those wanting a versatile luxury vehicle that deftly sidesteps the perceived stigma of a minivan (or an SUV, for that matter), the Mercedes-Benz R-Class makes sense.
Current Mercedes-Benz R-Class
Both current trim levels of the Mercedes-Benz R-Class come with all-wheel drive and a seven-speed automatic transmission. A 2+2+2 seating arrangement (for a total capacity of six people) is also included for every model.
The entry-level R350 wagon is powered by a 3.5-liter, 268-horsepower V6 and comes standard with 17-inch wheels, heated outside mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone automatic climate control, real maple wood trim, a power driver seat, the COMAND control interface and a CD player with an auxiliary input jack.
In R320 CDI trim, a 3.0-liter diesel-fueled V6 engine powers the big wagon. It's good for only 215 hp but delivers an impressive 398 pound-feet of torque. While the diesel version boasts impressive fuel economy, it's not available in California or California-emission states due to stricter emissions standards. The R320 CDI comes with similar standard equipment to the R350.
Options are mostly grouped in large, expensive packages. Upgrades include seven-passenger capacity, a panoramic sunroof, power rear quarter windows, a power rear liftgate, park assist sensors, an adjustable air suspension (that improves handling), adaptive xenon HID headlights and an AMG Sport styling package with 19-inch wheels.
While the R-Class is certainly roomy inside, its overall size can be a hassle in tight spaces. Although the rear doors provide a very large opening to ease getting in and out, they are very long and can result in plenty of dings in the mall parking lot.
Past Mercedes-Benz R-Class Models
The Mercedes-Benz R-Class was introduced for 2006 in R350 and R500 guises. The latter trim featured a 5.0-liter, 302-hp V8. Even with the extra power, though, the 2.5-ton R500 still wasn't exceptionally quick, but it provided noticeably more grunt compared to the R350. Eighteen-inch wheels and heated front seats were among the extra features that came standard on the R500.
For 2007, the R320 CDI and R63 AMG debuted. This latter performance-tuned model was essentially a minivan on steroids, boasting a monstrous, naturally aspirated 6.3-liter V8 that made 503 hp and 465 lb-ft of torque. Mercedes estimated that the R63 accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds. The R63 also handled better than the other R-Class trims thanks to larger wheels and tires, and firmer suspension tuning.
However, soft sales signaled the demise of the two most powerful R-Class models. The R500 and R63 AMG were discontinued after 2007.

Mercedes-Benz S-Class
The Mercedes-Benz S-Class is as synonymous with state-of-the-art luxury and safety features as it is with country club prestige. As Mercedes' largest sedan, the S-Class offers the most room for rear-seat passengers, making it a favorite of wealthy dads and heads of state alike.
Mercedes has used its flagship sedan to pioneer many modern technologies, such as airbags, antilock brakes and stability control. And though the most popular versions like the S430, S500 and S550 have been powered by V8s, some of the earlier cars could be had with six-cylinder and diesel engines as well. Since the '90s, Mercedes has also offered the V12-powered S600.
A choice of standard or long-wheelbase has been a longstanding tradition, though more recent years have seen just the longer ones imported to the North American market. Even AMG, Mercedes' in-house tuning division, has imbued the S-Class with its magic, giving this substantial luxury sedan performance equal to that of a sports car.
Before the 1990s, the S-Class' chief competition was the BMW 7 Series sedan, which like the Benz could be had with six- or eight-cylinder power and also offered standard and long-wheelbase variants. Now the big Mercedes faces rivals from Audi, Jaguar and Lexus as well, all of whom offer powerful, long-wheelbase flagships stocked with every conceivable luxury feature known to mankind. In spite of the pressure from these worthy opponents, the finely engineered and crafted Mercedes-Benz S-Class still stands as a solid choice is this lofty segment.
Current Mercedes-Benz S-Class
Debuting in 2007, the current Mercedes-Benz S-Class heralded a new styling direction for the company, meaning aggressive wheelwell flares and a wedgelike profile that's emphasized with a rising character line. The cabin now has a multifunction controller (similar to but easier to use than BMW's iDrive setup) mounted between the seats, which reduces the number of buttons on the dash. There are five trim levels: S550 (382-horsepower V8), S550 4Matic (S550 with all-wheel-drive), S600 (510-hp twin-turbo V12), S63 AMG (518-hp V8) and S65 AMG (604-hp twin turbo V12). All S-Class trims are equipped with an automatic transmission (seven speeds in all but the V12 versions, which have a five-speed unit).
Luxury feature highlights include a navigation system, hands-free cell phone communication, a Harman Kardon audio system and of course, rich leather and wood trim. The AMG versions add 20-inch alloy wheels, an active suspension, larger brakes, sport seats and specific interior and exterior styling tweaks. Optional features for the V8 models, such as a keyless entry and start system, adaptive cruise control and an infrared night vision system, are almost all standard on the V12 models.
With even the "entry-level" model having nearly 400 hp, the S-Class provides stunning performance. Zero-to-60-mph times range from the low-4-second to low-6-second range -- seriously quick by any standard, let alone when one is referring to a large luxury sedan. Handling and ride dynamics are impressive as well, as the S-Class' athleticism on a twisty road makes it feel much lighter than its 2-tons-plus mass would suggest.
Past Mercedes-Benz S-Class models
The fourth generation of the S-Class ran from 2000-'06 and was lighter and sleeker than the massive version that preceded it, making it more preferable for driving enthusiasts. Two versions were offered initially, both V8s: the S430 (275 hp) and the S500 (302 hp). The V12-powered S600 (362 hp) debuted a year later, as did the AMG version, the S55 (354 hp). A midcycle refresh in '03 brought lightly revised light clusters, the availability of all-wheel drive (called 4Matic) and a big boost in power for the S55 and S600 (both rated at 493 hp). A seven-speed automatic came on line in '04. Hitting both ends of the spectrum for '06, the S350 brought back six-cylinder power (241 hp) while the S65 AMG offered no less than 604 hp.
With many of these cars available as "certified pre-owned" (meaning a pristine, lower-mileage example with all maintenance up to date and an extended warranty), this generation represents the best choice for a consumer looking to get into an S-Class Benz that should serve them for a long time without having to spend a small fortune. In reviews of the time, our editors were impressed by the car's spacious interior and state-of-the-art safety features. Downsides to this generation included a complicated control interface (the COMAND system) and some interior materials that seemed too low in quality for Mercedes' flagship.
Running from 1992-'99, the third generation of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class represented a big step in the ultra-luxury direction. Fitted with dual-pane windows and the availability of V12 power for the first time, this S-Class gained nearly 600 pounds compared to the previous car. Four trims were offered, ranging from the S320 (228-hp inline-6) and S420 (275-hp V8) to the S500 (315-hp V8) and S600 (389-hp V12). If you are considering the purchase of one of these, be forewarned that (as with any complex, high-end luxury vehicle) a clean Carfax report and an impeccable maintenance record are musts.
The S-Class cars of the second generation (1981-'91) were offered in turbodiesel (300SD, 350SD/SDL), inline-6 (300SE/SEL) and V8 (380 SE/SEL, 420 SEL, 560 SEL) versions. This is the generation that introduced cutting-edge safety technology such as airbags and antilock brakes as standard equipment. Perhaps the least desirable of the lot are the 380 series, which made just 155 hp and were prone to timing chain failures. Chances are good that if you find a used 380-series, it will have been retrofitted with a double timing chain. Diesel versions are known for their incredible longevity and it's not unusual to find an example with mileage approaching 300,000 on its original powertrain.

Mercedes-Benz SL-Class

Easily one of the most recognizable automotive icons of the last half century, the Mercedes-Benz SL-Class has long epitomized elegance and performance in the grand touring coupe/roadster segments. From the early 300SL models of the 1950s to the present-day retractable hardtops, this two-seater has never wavered from offering the best that Mercedes-Benz could offer.
Initially powered solely by various six-cylinder engines, the Mercedes-Benz SL-Class switched to V8 power in the '70s, and in the early '90s began to offer inline-6 and V12 engines as well. That latter time period also marked when the company adopted AMG, a tuning firm that had offered engine and suspension upgrades for various Mercedes-Benz models since the early 1970s. As testament to the power of this union, the current Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG makes an incredible 604 horsepower, making it one of the most powerful cars on the planet.
Regardless of what year SL you may consider, you can be certain that it will have cutting-edge technology and a comfortable cockpit. The downside to packing in all those safety and luxury features is that the SL typically weighs 2 tons or more. So even though it boasts strong performance and handling, a Benz SL isn't going to feel nimble in the vein of a pure, elemental sports car. Nor does all of this excellence come cheap. But for most shoppers, particularly those looking at the current generation, the SL is hard to beat.
Current Mercedes-Benz SL-Class
Debuting in 2003, the current Mercedes-Benz SL-Class luxury roadster has been one of our editors' favorite vehicles of any sort. In fact, it has been a winner or runner-up for our Editors' Most WantedSM> award every year since its debut. With its retractable hardtop that requires just the touch of a button to raise or lower, the latest SL offers the fun of an open roadster along with the security and quiet comfort of a closed coupe.
All current Mercedes-Benz SL-Class models are rear-drive and offer a wide variety of engines that are all teamed with automatic transmissions (a five- or seven-speed unit, depending on trim level). Even the least potent SL, the SL550, sports a 5.5-liter V8 with 382 horsepower. Next up is the SL55 AMG, which features a supercharged 5.4-liter V8 making 510 hp. A 5.5-liter, twin-turbocharged V12 in the SL600 also makes 510 hp, but puts out 612 pound-feet of torque, nearly 100 more than the SL55. Should those be inadequate, there is the SL65 AMG, whose 604 hp and 738 lb-ft allow it to hit 60 mph in just 3.9 seconds. The SL65's top speed (as with all high-performance Benzes) is electronically limited to 155 mph.
Handling is also a strong point, with Active Body Control (optional on some trims) keeping the SL eerily flat when ripping through a set of S turns. This athleticism doesn't come at the expense of ride comfort either, as the SL absorbs nasty bumps in the road without drama or excess body motion.
With its effortless performance, adaptive suspension, fast-retracting hardtop and wealth of luxury and safety features, we've found it easy to fall in love with the latest SL. Our complaints are few, centering chiefly on the multifunction COMAND interface that requires a fair amount of reading and time to master.
Upon the current generation's release for '03, the SL lineup consisted of just the SL500 (5.0-liter V8 with 302 hp), but it was joined by the SL55 (493 hp) a few months later. The SL600 (also making 493 hp) debuted in 2004, as did a seven-speed automatic for the SL500 and Keyless Go (which allowed the car to be entered and started without using a key). The following year the SL65 bowed, while 2007 saw more power not only for the entry-level SL (hence the name change to SL550) but also for the SL55 and SL600.
Past Mercedes-Benz SL-Class models
The chief differences between the current car and the long-running 1990-2002 generation are styling, a soft top (versus a retractable hardtop in the current car) and ultimate performance.
The 1990-2002 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class offered six-, eight- and 12-cylinder engine choices. Prior to 1994, the cars were named slightly differently, as the numbers came before the letters. Six-cylinder cars (300SL and SL320) made 228 hp, the 500SL/SL500 offered 322 or 302 hp (depending on the year) and the 600SL/SL600 made 389 hp. The sixes could be matched to either a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic, while the V8 and V12 versions initially came with a four-speed automatic only. (They were upgraded to a five-speed unit in 1996.) Apart from a navigation system, these cars could be had with most any luxury and safety feature, such as dual-zone climate control, integrated cell phone, HID headlights and stability control.
Although this generation of the Mercedes SL offered spirited performance, decent handling and plenty of luxury, the driving dynamics proved disappointing to our staff. The culprits were steering that felt somewhat loose on center, a platform that lacked this marque's typically solid feel (giving rise to interior squeaks) and brakes that, although strong in panic situations, felt mushy in normal use. At the time, we also felt the Benz SL was overpriced compared to other competing luxury roadsters, though depreciation has largely negated this potential drawback.
With a run that lasted 18 model years, the 1972-'89 SL was much simpler, both in terms of the vehicle itself and trim levels, than the ones that followed. This SL was powered by various V8 engines, starting with a 4.5-liter (around 180-200 hp), changing to a 3.8-liter of just 155 hp and then adopting a stout 5.6-liter (227 hp) for the final years. The names of these SLs went from 350SL (only for 1972) to 450SL, 380SL and then 560SL. Although you may see a 500SL advertised, be warned that it's a gray-market car, a European version modified by some unknown shop to meet U.S. emissions and crash standards. For obvious reasons, we recommend you steer clear of a gray-market example.
Enthusiasts interested in older generations will want to explore Edmunds' Model History section for the Mercedes-Benz SL-Class.

Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class
Introduced nearly a decade ago as an answer to its European rivals in the luxury small roadster segment, the Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class was the first vehicle to truly popularize the use of a power-retractable convertible top made out of steel panels rather than the more traditional fabric soft top.
Though more complex and bulky, a convertible hardtop design, with its coupelike profile and superior wind and weather protection, does provide significant advantages in the top-up position. Offering more security, as well as a quieter cabin than its competitors' soft tops, the SLK could convert from a closed coupe to an open convertible without leaving the driver seat.
Though suffering from uninspiring handling and questionable sporting credentials for hard-core driving enthusiasts, the original SLK230 and SLK320 were popular with consumers. Improvements over the years kept the first generation competitive, but after seven years on the market the Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class was ready for a redesign.
With a dramatic design inspired by Mercedes' Formula 1 racecars, the second-generation SLK is even more fetching than the original. It's also slightly larger and more powerful than its predecessor, yet still possesses the upscale roadster character that made it so likable over the years. Even better than the added space is the car's redesigned dashboard with its cleaner layout and higher-quality interior materials.
Though most SLK models are inexpensive by Mercedes standards, some potential buyers might flinch at the vehicle's above-average price — and others might prefer the sharper handling dynamics of its German rivals. But for a convertible that sacrifices little in performance and excels at luxury and prestige, we think a new or used Mercedes-Benz SLK is a very good choice.
Current Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class
The current-generation Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class luxury roadster has been available since the 2005 model year. It's a proper sporting roadster thanks to its stiff body structure, rear-wheel drive and available sport-tuned suspension and strong brakes. For power, Mercedes offers a choice of two V6s as well as a muscular V8 from AMG, Mercedes' in-house performance tuner.
The SLK280 features a 3.0-liter V6 that produces 228 horsepower while the SLK350's 3.5-liter V6 produces 268 hp. The SLK280 can be matched with a six-speed manual or a seven-speed automatic transmission, while the SLK350 gets only the auto. (Prior to 2008, it could be had with the manual.) The Mercedes SLK55 AMG is the performance model. It comes with a 355-hp 5.4-liter V8 engine stuffed under its hood. A seven-speed automatic is the only transmission offered.
When retracted, the hardtop takes up space in the trunk, but there's still 6.5 cubic feet left for luggage. Inside, the cabin is attractive with soft-touch materials for most surfaces. Soft and supportive seats remain comfortable even after several hours of driving. Keep the windows up while the top is down and there's minimal wind buffeting.
If that's not enough, consider the optional Airscarf system that channels warm air to your neck and shoulders via dedicated registers in the headrests. It actually works quite well; and when combined with traditional seat heaters, the Mercedes-Benz SLK becomes one of the most useful all-weather convertibles on the market.
While the old SLK was more of a boulevard cruiser than a canyon carver, the new SLK delivers solid all-around performance in acceleration, braking and handling. Obviously, the AMG model offers the most performance of the group, and indeed it posts impressive numbers. Even the 280 and 350 models are fun to drive. The SLK's slightly less communicative steering and slower handling responses only become apparent when comparing them directly against this segment's more deliberate sports cars.
Past Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class models
The original Mercedes-Benz SLK debuted for the 1998 model year. Introduced as an answer to the BMW Z3 and Porsche Boxster in the premium small roadster segment, the SLK's most unique feature was its retractable hardtop roof, which offered more security as well as a quieter ride than its ragtop-roofed competitors. With the touch of a button, one could convert the SLK from a closed coupe to a cool convertible in less than 30 seconds without leaving the driver seat.
Initially, the SLK was available only with one drivetrain, a supercharged 2.3-liter inline-4 sending its 185 hp through a five-speed automatic transmission. But the SLK230's lack of a manual gearbox, along with its anemic exhaust note, made for little excitement among serious driving enthusiasts.
The SLK's second year brought a manual tranny as standard, moving the automatic to the options list. Ever conscious of its buyers' fashion leanings, Mercedes introduced Designo editions in 2000 that featured special colors (such as Copper and Electric Green) along with unique interior trim.
Those who liked the Mercedes-Benz SLK but wanted a more refined power plant had their wish granted for 2001, when the SLK320 bowed complete with a 215-horse 3.2-liter V6. Other good news that year included the replacement of the five-speed manual with a six-cog unit and more power for the 230's force-fed four, with output now rated at 192 ponies.
Perhaps in an effort to quash the SLK's reputation as a "boutique" roadster, Mercedes brought out the muscle-bound, AMG-tuned SLK32 for 2002. The SLK32 AMG brought 349 hp to the party by way of a supercharged 3.2-liter V6. Along with the power infusion, handsome double-spoke 17-inch wheels with performance tires were fitted, along with a massaged suspension, full ground effects and a discreet rear spoiler.
During the first SLK's run, we commented favorably about its distinctive retractable hardtop, its quiet composure on freeway drives and the impressive performance from the AMG variant. Noted downsides at the time included a lack of steering feel and the big blind spots with the top up.

Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren
Essentially a tribute to the original SLR racecar from 1955, today's Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren is an expensive supercar that boasts a top speed in excess of 200 mph and sprints from zero to 60 mph in just 3.8 seconds. In terms of driving dynamics, the car's only drawbacks are excessive road noise and grabby brakes.
Otherwise, it's truly a phenomenal car but unless you're a CEO or media mogul, it's unlikely to show up on your shopping list, as it costs nearly half a million dollars. It's equally unlikely that you'll ever even see one, as fewer than 1,000 copies have been sold since the car's introduction for 2005.
In a nod to the original 300 SLRs, the SLR McLaren features doors that swing forward and up in a sort of gullwing-scissor combination. It may be largely a gimmick but it does make getting in and out much easier than in other high-dollar supercars. While the interior includes many tasteful features like aluminum and carbon fiber trim with leather seats, it looks too much like a standard-issue Mercedes sedan. For such an exclusive car, we'd like to see a more unique cabin.
The bottom line is that the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren is very fast and very expensive. Even if you're able to find a used SLR for sale, the car is still extremely expensive. Also, enthusiasts wanting a manual transmission will find that no such option exists for the SLR McLaren. Given the lack of a manual transmission and the SLR's ultra exclusivity, we recommend looking instead for one of the brilliant supercars from Aston Martin, Ferrari or Lamborghini.
Current Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren
The Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren is now only available as a two-seat, soft-top convertible. The SLR's hand-built 5.4-liter supercharged V8 remains unchanged from the previous coupe model, as it still pumps out an astonishing 617 horsepower and 575 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed automatic transmission sends power to the rear wheels and it features a shift-it-yourself feature with steering-wheel-mounted paddles. According to Mercedes-Benz, the SLR can achieve a top speed of 208 mph and go from zero to 60 mph in 3.8 seconds.
The SLR McLaren comes fairly loaded with plenty of features, as you'd expect for the price. The SLR offers a high level of comfort and luxury features considering its supercar pedigree. The seats are covered with Alcantara suede and a Bose surround-sound stereo with six-CD changer is included, as are adaptive cruise control and dual-zone climate control. There are three soft-top convertible color choices.
The SLR also features an impressive number of safety features for a supercar, including side and side curtain airbags, knee-protecting airbags, TeleAid, stability control and carbon-ceramic antilock brakes with brake assist. The SLR McLaren also employs a rear deck-mounted airbrake that automatically deploys under very hard braking.
Past Mercedes-Benz SLR McLarens
The Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren was introduced for 2005 in a two-seat coupe body style only. This original model was powered by the same 5.4-liter V12 found in the current convertible SLR. For 2007, the SLR McLaren could only be had as the 722 Edition coupe. This name was derived from the starting time -- 7:22 -- assigned to the original SLR racecar in 1955's Mille Miglia. Only 25 722 Edition coupes were imported into the United States, so finding one will be rather difficult. Nevertheless, this special edition featured a more powerful version of the SLR's V12, making 641 hp and 605 lb-ft of torque. It also received larger brakes, an adjustable rear spoiler, firmer suspension dampers, a slightly lower ride height, a carbon-fiber front air splitter, carbon-fiber seats and cockpit trim, red stitching and gauge faces, and "722" badges and embroidery.

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