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Mercedes-Benz Review Roundup:  The SL65 AMG Black Series, GLK-Class, CLS550 And ML320 BlueTEC
Posted January 8, 2009 At 9:50 AM CST by T. Philips

Exterior views of the Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG Black Series, GLK-Class, CLS550 and ML320 BlueTEC

Kicking things off this morning we've got a healthy dose of brand spanking new Mercedes reviews.  In this, our latest Mercedes Review Roundup installment, a total of four  models – the Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG Black Series, the GLK-Class, the CLS550 and the ML320 BlueTEC – are all tested, so if you're in the market for any, read on to see what reviewers thought of each.

As always, you can find excerpts from each review as well as links back to the full articles immediately below.

Enjoy ladies and gentlemen.

Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG Black Series (via Motor Trend)
Reviewer's rating:  Unspecified

"For roughly $300,000, the SL65 AMG Black Series is significantly different from the $198,175 SL65 AMG from which it springs—except for the interior, which is almost stock. The Black Series sheds 210 pounds of curb weight, much of which comes from ditching the power folding hardtop for a fixed roof made of carbon fiber.  The rest of the weight savings, and most of the price increase, comes from using carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic on every body panel save the doors and rear fenders. Giant, mesh lower intakes, vents behind the wheels, and other sundry scoops and holes give the low, wide bodywork a look of purpose. A pop-up spoiler hides in the trunk. The gigantic wheel arches cover the increased track, up 4.9 inches in front, 4.8 in back. The visual effect is one of true menace.

The engine, familiar as the twin-turbo, 6.0-liter V-12 from the SL65 AMG, gets bigger turbos and increased cooling capacity to bump power to 661 horsepower, 57 more than the SL65. Torque is still capped at 738 pound-feet to limit stress on the five-speed automatic transmission.

Controlling the wheels are adjustable coil-overs mounted to a revised suspension setup. The electrohydraulic brake-by-wire system has been replaced with a conventional, vacuum-assisted hydraulic unit, and surprisingly, it’s the car’s biggest flaw. The soft pedal went spongy during the track portion of our drive, and while the brakes never did give up, they should be better.

The Black Series is as much of an SL65 on steroids as the photo suggests. As in the other turbo V-12s from Mercedes, every part of the car, even the engine-management control, struggles to keep the power in line.

Compared with the previous CLK63 Black Series, the SL65 is less of a finely balanced track weapon and more of an overwhelmingly powerful GT. There will be just 350 of them, half of which are bound for the U.S."

Read Full Review »

Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class (via Welt Online)
Reviewer's rating:  Unspecified

"With its civilian version of the G-Wagen, first built for the German armed forces and first offered to the public in 1979, Mercedes began its 4WD history. The first vehicle with the ‘4Matic’ label was an E-Class model introduced in 1987. The car, originally designed as a rear-wheel drive, gained a bad reputation among those riding shotgun due to its additional driveshaft and front-axle gearbox, which made for less legroom. Mercedes has stayed true to the basic design, even if technical advances led to a permanent four-wheel drive replacing the optional version, and the parts taking up less room.

During a winter test-drive at the Tyrolean ski resort Hochgurgl, the motor was of less interest than a yellow warning light in the cockpit. It flickered constantly, since the electronic regulating systems of the 4Matic had plenty to do on the snow. In the end, however—and this is the point of such tests—the GLK was responsive to turns of the steering wheel as it went over the snowy road. Whether through muddy tire grooves or packed snowy roads, modern 4WD technology can remove fear of getting to that winter sport destination, even for inexperienced drivers.

Electronic stabilization systems work by applying the brake to individual wheels, without the driver doing anything. Various car companies have improved upon this principle such that many four-wheel drive systems also accelerate individual wheels, thereby improving equilibrium and driving security.

Mercedes, however, doesn’t believe in it. The former racecar driver and Mercedes auto tester Klaus Ludwig says: “We don’t see a point to it. In testing we did not notice any advantages that would justify the extra technical cost.”

This might be because the 4Matic already takes care of some situations. Its mechanical basis divides power by 45 to 55 percent between the front and real axles, respectively. A limited slip differential (LSD) clutch in the center differential allows the power to shift between 30 and 70 percent in front and rear axles. Even if the electronic stabilization system kicks in late, a large part of the power will be felt as thrust, even on slippery streets. And if the driver still approaches the start of the electronic driving assistance, he sees the yellow warning light in the instrument panel.

The GLK’s 4Matic is complemented by 4ETS technology. If the car is stuck in a slanted position on an icy incline, for example, or if both front or rear wheels are not finding purchase, then the system kicks in. The wheel with the least grip determines how much power can be used, the goal being to not have the wheels spin. 4ETS senses each individual wheel’s rotations, and brakes the wheel in question until all roll together."

Read Full Review »

Mercedes-Benz CLS550 (via
Reviewer's rating:  Unspecified

Most observers of the automotive scene credit the Mercedes-Benz CLS with being the first in a new generation of “four-door coupes” - sedans with four doors, but boasting a low, coupe-like roofline and sleek profile.  The argument as to whether any coupe can have four doors could go on forever, but the fact is the concept works very well. It works so well in the case of the CLS that it's widely regarded as one of the best looking cars in the world, regardless of configuration.

Like so many automotive terms (phaeton, spider, cabriolet, limousine etc.), the word “coupe” has its origins in the field of horse-drawn carriages. Before the existence of motor vehicles, a coupe was a closed carriage for two people with the driver sitting outside in the rain. But those days are long gone and the CLS is about as removed from such ancient transportation concepts as could possibly be imagined.

The CLS looks especially nice from the rear, and fortunately M-B didn't mess with the look in the 2009 update.  The CLS sits almost at the top of the Mercedes-Benz four-door model range, just behind the roomy S-Class sedan and ahead of the E-Class series. The bodywork is truly beautiful and even after seeing them around for a couple of years they still turn my head every time one passes by. Mercedes' efforts to create a four-door saloon that really DID look like a coupe worked wonderfully, the only penalty being that rear headroom doesn't match that of conventional large sedans. Of course, Mercedes-Benz will happily sell you an S-Class if you need to carry three adults in the back on a regular basis. Let's just call the CLS a rather large 2+2.

Most of my testing was carried out with the CLS550, which provides amazing flexibility and out-and-out performance. At autobahn speeds, the car feels supremely stable and safe and wind noise is surprisingly low - possibly due to its sleek profile. These cars have the usual roster of electronic stability aids and the brakes are just amazing. So effective is the Brake Assist system, the driver's worry in an emergency would mainly center around how close the car behind is. When you put the anchors on with a CLS, you stop quicker than you can possibly believe. The computer senses an emergency and does the job for you, and does it outstandingly well. The CLS550 might get you to 60 mph in just 5.3 seconds, but it'll bring you right back down again with comparable poise.

As with other Mercedes-Benz high-end cars, the CLS can be specified with a variety of interior treatments - all wonderful, but some more appealing than others. At the international media launch, I managed to snare a CLS in my favorite combination of interior trim tones - light beige leather and pale-colored chestnut wood accenting. For some reason or other, trim shades like this always make a car look even more opulent than it actually is. Of course, each to their tastes and beauty is, as ever, in the eye of the beholder, but I always find the alternative black leather and dark wood combinations dreary. Whichever trim option you choose, it will be executed in industry-benchmark style by Mercedes-Benz with flawless quality."

Read Full Review »

Mercedes-Benz ML320 BlueTEC (via
Reviewer's rating:  Unspecified

"Mercedes updated the ML320's diesel powerplant to BlueTEC specification for 2009, and that entails the addition of AdBlue for cleaner emissions. What does that mean? AdBlue is an aqueous urea solution that helps to clean up the more harmful nitrogen oxides, so the new ML is greener and therefore meets tougher emissions standards. The only negative is that the addition of the AdBlue system necessitated the removal of the spare tire, which is actually a positive as you'll have to change another spare again due to standard run-flat tires. The urea solution only needs to be replenished during regular maintenance intervals, so the ownership experience stays the same. The engine isn't more fuel efficient than the previous version, but at 11.8 L/100 km in the city and 8.2 on the highway it's still amazingly thrifty.

Oddly, the engine makes less power this year than it did in 2008, but not by much. Instead of 215-horsepower it produces 210, although anyone who has experienced a diesel will attest to horsepower meaning very little in Rudolf's grand scheme of things. More importantly, the new engine ups torque by an entire two lb-ft! OK that's not much, but two lb-ft of torque gets the engine out of the 3s and into the 4s, with an even 400 lb-ft of torque.

The premium is worth it though, as the ML320's cabin is hands-down the nicest in the midsize luxury class. It looks fabulous and delivers a high level of quality, the kind expected among the vehicles that compete in this category but not always realized. Its seats are brilliant, but more than that, the general layout of the cabin, ergonomically and aesthetically is a feast for sore eyes, a great place to return to after a day's spent energy amid stress, deadlines and all too often headaches.

And the 3.0-litre V6's 400 lb-ft of torque can be quite the stress removal machine, as it pulls forward as if a big, brutish V8 were under the hood. Mercedes has integrated its impressively smooth seven-speed automatic transmission into the mix too, giving the SUV snappier acceleration and much better fuel economy than it would if a less inspired five- or six-speed unit were doing shift duty.

The ML320 doesn't get the Airmatic air suspension, adaptive damping system and new 20-inch wheels that comes standard with every ML550, but its standard 19-inch rims, revised for this year, with run-flat tires do a good job of tracking over rutted or grooved pavement, or smooth for that matter, in absolute control, and its standard active bi-Xenon headlamps make sure the road ahead, and around corners, is lit up clearer than daylight. Safety in mind, the ML320 also gets standard PRE-SAFE, plus a driver's side power four-way lumbar support to apply a little pressure to the lower back and keep you away from the chiropractor longer."

Read Full Review »

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