The Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class is the original four-door “coupe.” While it’s actually a sedan, the coupe-like roofline makes it one of the better looking cars on the road. With its combination of power, luxury, and performance, the CLS-Class competes with stylish luxury cars like the Audi A7, BMW 8-Series, Jaguar XF, Porsche Panamera, and even Mercedes’ own GT 4-Door Coupe.
Mercedes gives the CLS-Class its latest infotainment system for 2021, doing away with the rotary controller in favor of a center touchscreen. The system responds to “Hey Mercedes” voice prompts and offers augmented reality overlays to help with navigation directions. The CLS also adds a variety of active safety features, most of which are offered in the Driver Assistance package.The CLS-Class is essentially a mid-size E-Class wrapped in sexier clothing. The fast roofline gives it a sleek, sporty look amplified by the wide track, large wheels, and wide front grille. Inside, the ambience is more luxurious than sporty, but it fits with the car’s overall elegance.
Mercedes offers the CLS-Class in rear-drive CLS450, all-wheel-drive CLS450 4Matic, and performance-oriented AMG CLS53. All use a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6, with 362 horsepower in 450 models and 429 hp in the AMG 53 model. Both versions are aided by an electric motor that spins an electric turbocharger and aids acceleration and the stop/start function. Both also deliver smooth, ready power with 0-60 mph times ranging from 5.0 to 4.4 seconds.
Ride and handling match the power delivery. All CLS models ride smoothly, and the optional air suspension improves the ride while increasing the agility. It’s refined yet sporty with direct steering response that could use a little more feel.
The fast roofline doesn’t rob the CLS of as much space as it may appear. Four adults will fit comfortably, though tall riders will want more head and leg room in back. The trunk, however, is compromised at only 11.9 cubic feet. Front seat occupants get lovely trim, supportive seats, and a wall of large screens that display gauges and an excellent infotainment system.The CLS-Class is all about style and it delivers inside and out.The coupe-like sedan shape saps some utility but makes up for it with a sleek body that’s even sexier than standard Mercedes design, which is quite attractive. We rate the CLS-Class an 8 for styling based on its great exterior and good interior.
Mercedes designers drew the CLS to be elegant, from the slope of the roofline into the tail to the way the frameless doors lighten the sides. It’s breathtaking and is the best reason to choose the CLS-Class over the E-Class. The rest of the car is standard Mercedes fare, and we have no complaints about that. The front end features an A-frame grille pushing toward lower air intakes that create a grounded, low-slung look. That is only enhanced by the wide, at-the-corners stance of the 19- or 20-inch wheels.
The rear end is clean with an integrated trunklid spoiler and taillights split between the trunklid and fenders. However, the area around the license plate juts out like a swollen bottom lip. Inside, the CLS-Class balances elegance with technology. Leather upholstery, wood trim, and metal flourishes provide the luxury, while a pair of 12.3-inch screens under one piece of glass deliver the tech. The design flows beautifully from side to side and is highlighted by gimballed, turbine-style air vents that are jewelry in their own right.
Every CLS-Class is powered by a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 aided by an integrated starter-generator that spins an electric turbocharger, adds up to 21 hp and 184 pound-feet of torque, and gathers energy to enable the stop/start system and smooth it out. In the CLS450, the inline-6 makes 362 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque, which launches the car from 0-60 mph in 4.8 seconds when teamed with all-wheel drive. The CLS53 AMG increases the output to 429 hp and 384 lb-ft of torque and cuts the 0-60-mph run to 4.3 seconds. Power comes on naturally, without an early wave or late peak.
The inline-6 is a smooth performer in any form, and it snaps and crackles in Sport+ mode in the CLS53. The 9-speed automatic transmission also holds gears and delivers quick shifts in the Sport modes and upshifts early otherwise. It’s a smooth transmission, but it can get confused in city traffic.