2011 Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic

I just returned from driving multiple Mercedes-Benz 4Matic vehicles in the Alps. Among the various all-wheel-drive models was a CL550 similar to the car I drove here in Michigan. Of the four different CL powertrains, only this twin-turbo V-8 comes with all-wheel-drive. Mercedes' 4Matic is particularly sophisticated; it uses a fixed 45/55 percent torque split with open differentials at each axle, relying on electronic intervention and manipulation of the brakes to move the vehicle forward when a wheel starts slipping. In Austria, we tackled a man-made 20 percent grade that had quickly turned into a sheet of ice as we repeatedly stopped, spun wheels, and accelerated in the same spot. While it occasionally took several seconds of the engine and brakes interacting, the cars consistently moved forward up the grade. As someone who sometimes drives hard, I also appreciate Mercedes' use of a fixed torque split rather than a less predictable variable system. While it may not be ideal for some low traction systems, I'd rather drive this than a system that relies on electronics to apportion torque.
- Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor

Even with all-season tires, this car is great in the snow. I had it the day after our first winter snowstorm, when the roads were snow- and ice-covered, and I never felt even he slightest hint of a loss of traction. Of course, it helps that this thing weighs 4600 pounds, but the 4Matic system worked just as advertised. That, combined with the ultra-opulent interior and the heated seats almost made me forget that the temperature outside was in the single digits.
- Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor

The nose looks crisper, but the rear is still as bland as can be. It's the only thing I would change on this wonderful car.

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