Sunday, February 19, 2006

A Dude Ranch Dandy from Mercedes Benz

This is a tough review to write. Here’s the problem: The CLS500’s radical exterior styling has drawn raving reviews in virtually every corner of the auto critics universe ever since it was first seen as a concept vehicle three years ago.

Me? I reserved judgement, insisting on waiting to see what the real production version had in store. Now that it is here, I can’t stop thinking it looks like a Dude Ranch Dandy.

You know the type I mean. It’s the Drugstore Cowboy who shows up at the Dude Ranch for two weeks of making like he’s the real thing, but knowing all he’s gotta do is survive a week or two. Then he can go back home and tell his high-falutin’ city slicker friends that he really is a cowboy now.

I’ve looked at the CLS500 from every possible angle. I drove an Iridium Silver tester for a week and loved it’s performance, supplied courtesy of the 302 horsepower, 5.0 liter V-8 that puts the power to the rear wheels with a seven-speed automatic transmission.

And if that’s not enough gumption to go with your gawker-killing looks, Mercedes will even sell you a supercharged 5.5 liter AMG edition of the CLS500 that boasts 469 horsepower. Talk about wretched excess!

Anyway, I loved the interior, with its four bucket seats and sumptuous appointments. Nobody will ever sit in a CLS500 and think to themselves how cold and emotion-less it looks.

It’s even got neat stuff for techno-obsessives. How’s nanotechnology based paint that Mercedes claims improves the CLS500’s surface resistance to scratches by 300 percent, thanks to the millions of tiny little ceramic particles that go into the mix before it’s applied?

I loved pretty much everything else about the CLS500, except the $76,740 sticker price. But being an humble journalist, I did have to ask what kind of gas mileage the CLS500 gets and you know what that means about my prospects for ever being able to afford one.

Still, I keep coming back to those looks. I’m sorry but the front end droops too much and that curved shoulder line that rises from the front fender up to the greenhouse and down again to the rear lamps … I’m sorry, it just looks like one multi-linear curve too much.