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Mercedes-Benz Review Roundup:  The Mercedes S550, GLK350 4MATIC And C-Class
Posted December 29, 2008 At 12:15 PM CST by T. Philips

Mercedes-Benz S500, GLK350 4MATIC And C-Class

After a slightly extended Christmas break we're back ladies and gentlemen, and hopefully your Christmas was as fantastic as ours were.  To each and of you that sent us a holiday greeting, thank you, sincerely, from the bottom of our hearts.  We are truly appreciative for the many kind words, and as we enter a new year, we wish all of you much joy and happiness in whatever journeys you embark on.

As you can imagine, our time away has left us a little behind schedule, but we'll do our best to get you caught up on that which we missed, starting with a batch of new Mercedes reviews that analyze a total of three models:  the S550, the GLK350 4MATIC and the C-Class range. Like each and every one of our other Review Roundup installments, you can find excerpts of what reviewer's thought of the trio as well as links back to the full articles immediately below.

Enjoy ladies and gentlemen.

Mercedes-Benz S550 (via
Reviewer's rating:  Unspecified

"The S550 moves with ease and elegance. This car is too well-bred to feel bumps or potholes while driving; it won't make unseemly noises or offend passersby with its power and speed. This car is comfortable with its superiority. Of course, it's faster than dignity requires, but then how dignified is it to be beaten by anything else on the road? There's power beyond what the autobahn requires.

The S550 isn't the sort of speedster that necessitates a two-handed death grip on the steering wheel. Nope, it's geared more toward loosely resting a perfectly manicured hand upon the wheel and thinking about where you'd like the car to go. It's almost telepathic in its responsiveness, much like a fine butler. Actually, now that I think about it, the S550 is exactly like a good butler. It's perfectly prepared for any situation, and it handles everything with quiet dignity. It's never surprised and never caught off-guard. All I have to do is speak a wish and the S550 obliges. I mean that literally, because this Mercedes sedan comes with Comand, a cockpit management and data system. All I have to do is tell the car a desired temperature or a wished-for musical selection and my wish is granted. No finger-lifting required.

Picture the most classically elegant luxury sedan imaginable, then add a dash of sportiness to the wheels and lower body styling, and you have the Mercedes-Benz S550. It manages to look modern while maintaining that classic Mercedes look. The chrome grill and upright hood ornament recall bygone days, while a lowered front and sly lighting speak to the technology and speed contained within. Subtle chrome accents show an understated luxury. The body panels are smooth, without any bulges or fabricated lines. It would scream elegance if screaming weren't so low-rent.

The doors of the S550 somehow manage to be substantial without being too heavy. My kids never had any problems opening or closing them. A proximity key makes sure they unlock before you get there, and the power trunklid makes loading groceries or strollers into this car smooth and easy. Getting in and out is also easy thanks to the wide door openings and a flat stepping surface on the thresholds.

My test car was a special edition Key to the Cure S550, and it came with a few styling options that spoke to the speed and power of this 382-horsepower V-8 sedan. Extended rocker panels give the S550's profile a low look, keeping things close to the road. Twenty-inch AMG wheels are bigger and bolder than the standard rims. The gorgeous Diamond White Metallic paint job was so rich and creamy I wanted to lick the car. I didn't, but I bet it would have tasted like buttercream frosting; it's just yummy. Even better, proceeds from the sale of this special edition S550 benefit women's cancer research.

I got lots of envious looks while I was driving this Mercedes. Several people said it "looked good on me." Imagine that - a car that looks flattering on Mom. If only I had the wardrobe to keep pace... There's so much packed into the S550's interior that my brief test-drive only gave me a taste of the possibilities. The seats are made of rich, buttery, perforated leather that are both heated and ventilated. With a degree of luxury that's positively seductive, the front seats have a massage feature to make driving as relaxing as getting a pedicure."

Read Full Review »

Mercedes-Benz GLK350 4MATIC (via
Reviewer's rating:  Unspecified

The GLK350 is the first compact SUV from Mercedes and, fuel economy notwithstanding, it is a tidy, well-engineered package that should not disappoint Mercedes aficionados.  At just 14 feet 10 inches long, it has maneuverability for narrow European and Asian streets, as well as enough heft for American freeways and urban byways. Mercedes unveiled it at the Beijing auto show, a nod to the burgeoning vehicle market in the world’s most populous nation.

“The GLK unites all the strengths of our larger SUV models in a compact form,” said Klaus Maier, vice president for Mercedes cars, sales and marketing. “On the one hand, this makes it ideal for European driving while, on the other, making it interesting for the U.S. market, where it’s in line with the trend toward downsizing.”

Though attractive in an understated way, the new GLK350 does not turn many heads. It easily blends into the masses of compact and mid-size SUVs plying the roads.  Similarly, it goes about its business with little fuss or intrusions on the driver’s sensibilities. The 3.5-liter V6 engine delivers a solid 268 horsepower, enough to propel the GLK350 to 60 miles an hour in less than seven seconds, according to Mercedes test data.

It is linked to the Mercedes seven-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode, as well as an improved version of 4Matic, the company’s all-wheel drive system, which allocates power individually to all four wheels using a combination of selective braking and power regulation.  With a stiff, unit-body structure, supple suspension system, speed-sensitive steering and plenty of sound-deadening insulation, the GLK handles competently, and rides smoothly and quietly with minimal stiffness.

Up front, the seats are supportive and comfortable without being cushy. A tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel enhances the chances to find a comfortable driving position. But the small sun visors do not slide on their support rods and therefore do a poor job of blocking sunlight from the side, and the gray on black instrument markings are difficult to see unless you turn on the parking lights or headlights.

In back, the outboard seats also offer decent comfort, although knee room is in short supply and the fixed seatbacks are not adjustable. The center-rear position, compromised by a floor hump and intrusion of the center console, should not be considered for anything but emergencies.  There’s a well-shaped and finished cargo area with 23 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats. The seats fold flat to expand the area to nearly 55 cubic feet."

Read Full Review »

Mercedes-Benz S550 (via Car and Driver)
Reviewer's rating:  Unspecified

"Redesigned for 2008, the C-class has handsome exterior styling that mimics the top-of-the-line S-class sedan. C-class Luxury models come with a more traditional upright grille with the signature three-pointed star hood ornament. The Sport models have the three-pointed star within the grille itself, a treatment that Mercedes usually reserves for its coupes and convertibles. Inside, the C-class is comfortable up front, but the back seat is small compared with its competitors’—even the Honda Civic has more interior space. The controls are laid out logically and have an expensive feel to their action, but some of the interior plastics in the C-class look a bit cheap.

Over the road, all versions of the C-class feel solid and refined. Few noises make it into the hushed cabin. Handling errs on the side of luxury—even on Sport models—and the C300 and the C350 can’t match the dynamics of the BMW 3-series or Infiniti G37. The Sport models improve the handling by firming up the chassis, but even these seem to be more about solidity and luxury than carving up curvy roads. The C63 AMG has a specially tuned suspension that makes it ready for the racetrack.

In a recent comparison test of $38,000 sports sedans, a C300 Sport took on the BMW 328i, Cadillac CTS, and Infiniti G35. The Mercedes finished last, but that result isn’t quite as bad as it looks given the stellar competition. The C300 impressed us with its solidity, subdued mechanicals, supple ride, and easy-to-use navigation and radio controls. The last-place finish is largely due to the car’s smaller size, unimpressive interior materials, and bias toward luxury. We also pitted a C63 AMG against the BMW M3 and Audi RS4. The Benz finished second to the M3, on account of its rough ride and abysmal fuel economy.

Yes, some of the interior plastics aren’t up to par, but the C-class experience is about more than plastic. The C-class is instead a car that relies on mechanical grace and a quiet, solid, and refined driving experience—all hallmarks of Mercedes-Benz vehicles. The non-AMG models might not provide the dynamic thrills of a BMW 3-series or Infiniti G37, but they are every bit as refined as any car in their class, and that should be enough to satisfy most buyers. The C63 is a monster that any enthusiast worth his or her salt should want to own.

For 2009, the C-class is almost completely unchanged except for the addition of pelvic airbags for the front-seat passengers. The airbags sit lower in the door than side-impact and curtain airbags and help prevent injuries in side-impact collisions. Other changes include standard 10-way power seats with memory for C350 models and a compass integrated into the rearview mirror."

Read Full Review »

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