Mercedes-Benz calls the CLS-Class a “four-door coupe.” Of course, it’s actually a four-door sedan with a raking roofline. But it’s sure handsome with its sleek, flowing lines. It also boasts a sumptuous interior, tons of tech, a smooth ride and decent fuel economy.
The CLS was introduced in 2003 and gets a makeover for the 2019 model year. The twin-turbo V8 engines are replaced with more efficient six-cylinder engines and a new mild hybrid technology; there’s room for five passengers, up from four in the outgoing models; and the infotainment screen increases in size.
Two models are available: the CLS 450 or the more performance-oriented AMG CLS 53. Starting prices range from $69,200 to $79,900. The price can quickly soar with the addition of packages and options. Mercedes-Benz’ 4Matic all-wheel-drive system is available on the CLS 450 and standard on the AMG.
The CLS 450 is powered by a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six and a mild hybrid system called EQ Boost that gives a quick zap of electricity when accelerating. It adds up to an output of 362 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. The AMG CLS 53 gets a sportier-tuned inline-six with EQ Boost that makes 429 horses and 384 pound-feet. Both powertrains are paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission.
The CLS 450 is responsive, composed, and very enjoyable to drive. While other rivals offer more athletic handling, the CLS 450 shines at being a super-comfortable cruiser. There’s more than enough smooth power for daily driving scenarios, and it’s almost effortless to drive whether you’re merging and passing in freeway traffic or slogging through stop-and-go city traffic.
Visibility is good to the front but limited to the rear due to the sloping roofline.
The CLS has many standard and optional driver assistance technologies, and like the S-Class, the CLS has a number of semi-autonomous driving systems that can basically take care of driving the car in certain conditions, with the driver remaining attentive, of course.
Standard are Active Brake Assist, Attention Assist and the occupant protection system Pre-Safe. Also standard is Pre-Safe Sound which prepares human ears for the anticipated noise when from a crash when there’s a risk of a collision.
The optional Driver Assistance Package adds Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC, Active Steering Assist, Active Speed Limit Assist, Active Brake Assist with cross-traffic function, Active Lane Change Assist , Evasive Steering Assist, Active Blind Spot Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist, Pre-Safe Plus and Pre-Safe Impulse Side. Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC and Active Steering Assist help the driver keep a safe distance and steer. The vehicle’s speed is now adjusted automatically ahead of turns, bends and junctions in the road. All of these controls are managed from the steering wheel.
So how does all of this work? Very well! I drove the CLS450 from Portland to the Bend area and the car adjusted speed as necessary, slowing down as needed when encountering traffic and also slowing and increasing speeds automatically as the road curved. It also automatically detected speed limits and adjusted the vehicle’s speed as necessary. In stop and go traffic, stops of up to three seconds are now possible, and the CLS will automatically start moving again with the flow of traffic.
All functions are now controlled from the steering wheel. The instrument cluster shows which assistance functions have been selected and to what situations the systems are responding. The system sounds an alarm when you remove your hands from the steering wheel for longer than a few seconds.
Fuel economy is great for a large luxury car. EPA ratings for my tester are 23 mpg city and 30 mpg highway with a combined rating of 26. I got 24 mpg during my week with a mix of city and highway driving.
The cabin is gorgeous with top-of-the-line materials. The front seats are comfortable and supportive with side bolsters, perfect for long road trips. The rear seats are comfortable as well; however the sloping roofline limits headroom so taller passengers will feel cramped. And while the second row can accommodate three passengers, it’s tight so two is a better fit.
The cockpit is fully digital and you can configure the information to your liking with three different styles: Classic, Sport or Progressive. The ambient lighting can be adjusted in 64 colors. When you change the temp of the HVAC system, the lighting briefly changes color to red if the temperature is increasing or blue if it’s decreasing.
The standard COMAND infotainment system dominates the center console with its high-res 12.3-inch display screen. The COMAND system takes some time to get used to but is easy once you get the hang of it. Instead of a touchscreen, you use your voice, a touchpad controller located on the center console, or steering wheel inputs for commands. The menus are user-friendly and the system responds quickly to commands.
In addition to the COMAND system, other standard features include Mercedes’ Pre-Safe, lane keep assist, driver drowsiness monitoring, blind spot monitoring, and traffic sign recognition.
Available features include an awesome 13-speaker Burmester audio system, heated, cooled and massaging seats, heated steering wheel, In-Car-Office (which lets you take part in conference calls), wireless charging, parking assist package, Car-to-X communication (which allows cars equipped with this technology to communicate with each other about traffic and road hazards), and the Energizing Comfort programs which let you choose from six preset programs to adjust the HVAC, heated or cooled seats, or start the massaging seats function.
The CLS has 11 cubic feet of space in the trunk which is small for a large luxury sedan. At least the rear seats split-fold so you have some flexibility in hauling bulkier items.
Smooth, cushy ride
Tons of tech including semi-autonomous driving systems
Great fuel economy for the class
Rivals offer more athletic performance
Backseat has limited headroom
Cost can skyrocket with options
Smaller trunk space than many rivals
My tester starts at $71,700. Selenite Grey Metallic paint is $720. Macchiato Beige/Magma Grey Nappa leather is $1,370. Illuminated door sills with Mercedes-Benz lettering are $350. 115-volt AC power outlet is $115. Heated and ventilated front seats are $450. Head-up Display is $990. 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster is $850. Air Body Control Air Suspension is $1,900. Power rear window sunshade is $440. Burmester High-End 3D surround sound system is $5,400. Pre-wiring for rear seat entertainment and comfort adapter is $170. Soft-close doors are $550. Special order is $250. Heated rear seats are $580. The PAF Acoustic Comfort Package is $1,100 and adds increased cabin insulation, windshield and side windows with acoustic and heat absorbing membrane. The P01 Premium Package is $650 and adds inductive wireless charging and satellite radio. The 319 Exterior Lighting package is $900 and adds LED intelligent light system and adaptive highbeam assist. The 321 AMG Line is $970 and adds brushed Aluminum sport pedals with rubber studs and sport wheels. The 445 Warmth and Comfort Package is $1,050 and adds heated armrests, heated steering wheel, and rapid heating functionality for front seats. The 488 Energizing Comfort Package is $550 and adds the Energizing Comfort system, air balance cabin air purification and fragrance system. The 996 Parking Assistance Package is $1,290 and adds Active Parking Assist, and the surround view camera system. The 997 Driver Assistance package is $2,250 and adds Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC, Active Steering Assist, Active Lane Change Assist, Active Emergency Stop Assist, Active Speed Limit Assist, Active Brake Assist with Cross-traffic function, Evasive Steering Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist, Active Blind Spot Assist, Pre-Safe Plus (rear-end collision protection), Pre-Safe Impulse side, and route-based speed adaptation. Delivery fee is $995 bringing the grand total to $95,590.
Smooth and composed driving dynamics with plenty of power, a beautiful, well-crafted interior and tons of tech, including semi-autonomous driving capabilities. That sums up the CLS 450. Buyers who want exhilarating performance will want to look elsewhere. But anyone wanting a handsome and luxurious “four-door coupe” should consider the CLS-class.