The 2019 Mercedes-Benz CLS 450 and AMG 53 you see here are of the all-new, third-generation model. To our eyes, it is the sleekest and most genuinely coupe-like yet. Although it's less special now given similar styles spread throughout the Mercedes lineup, the new CLS is still an exquisite car to behold inside and out. When it was parked outside our office, we couldn't help but stare out the window. Beyond its looks, however, it's an impeccably crafted luxury car with impressive engineering throughout that stacks up favorably to any of its luxury sedan/coupe competitors such as the Audi A7 and Porsche Panamera.
As always, though, some will see questionable value in the CLS. It's less practical and spacious than an E-Class, yet it costs considerably more. However, there's usually a price to be paid for fashion, and with the latest CLS at least, you certainly get what you pay for in that regard.
What's new for 2019?The CLS is all-new for 2019, which we highlight in our first drive review. It retains the familiar sedan/coupe silhouette that the original CLS introduced to the world, but has been updated with Mercedes latest design aesthetic. The interior effectively adopts the latest E-Class interior, but not the newest MBUX tech interface.
Mechanically, there's a new platform shared with the latest E-Class, but the big news is what's under the hood. Gone are V8 engines, and in their place two versions of a new turbocharged inline-six engine paired to a 48-volt mild-hybrid system. The result is excellent performance and fuel economy.
Though its design is effectively shared with the E-Class, that doesn't take away from the fact that the cabin is gorgeous. If anything, it matches the sleek CLS better. Organic curves meet high-tech screens, while its sumptuous wood, soft leather and richly detailed metal are a feast for your eyes and fingers. It's quite special. It's also functional, with plenty of storage up front.
What's the CLS interior and in-car technology like?
We're less enamored with the in-car technology, which can overwhelm. It's the previous-generation Mercedes tech interface, which feels like a missing link between the simpler yet more intuitive system it replaced and the newer, more sophisticated MBUX interface that benefits from improved and additional interfaces. Although the CLS system's UI is pretty similar to MBUX, it retains the weird glossy touchpad that hovers above a control knob. Both are awkwardly placed, and unlike MBUX, the 12.3-inch main display isn't a touchscreen. We would expect MBUX to show up in the CLS next year or for 2021.
In terms of feature content, every CLS comes with the 12.3-inch main display, but the second one is an option that replaces a traditional gauge pack. The CLS also comes standard with two USB data ports, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and integrated navigation. Options include a head-up display, wireless charging (adds a third charge-only USB port), in-car WiFi, satellite radio, a 13-speaker Burmester sound system, and a 25-speaker Burmester High-End 3D Surround Sound system.
How big is the CLS?The CLS is about two inches longer than the car it replaces, yet it actually feels smaller while driving it — that's a good thing. Interior room is basically the same, apart from slightly tighter rear headroom, which is definitely not a good thing. Even those of average height will feel a bit pinched back there, and if there's a tall driver up front, your legs will be pretty pinched, too. Headroom up front isn't that much better, either, and the seat can feel a bit too low — despite the multitude of seating adjustments for the driver, the seat doesn't tilt up enough in front or down enough in the rear. Making the headroom-sapping sunroof an option would be a good idea.
That said, a 6-foot-3 driver was still able to comfortably fit inside. So yes, the CLS is pretty cramped compared to a traditional sedan, but this is also the inherent price paid for a "four-door coupe" like the CLS. It's form over function.
Similarly, the trunk provides 11.9 cubic feet of space. That's actually a bit more than before, but also pretty coupe-like. Most sedans of this size are in the 13- to 15-cubic-foot range.
What's the CLS' performance and fuel economy?There are two CLS models, both of which correspond to a different engine.
The CLS 450 is powered by a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six paired with a nine-speed automatic and a 48-volt mild-hybrid system (EQ Boost) that provides a very brief shot of electricity while accelerating (22 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque) as well as improving fuel economy. The system also smoothes out shifts and allows for a sailing mode that momentarily turns off the engine under certain conditions to save fuel. Total system output is a potent 362 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. Mercedes estimates a 0-60 time of 5.1 seconds with standard rear-wheel drive and 4.8 seconds with optional 4Matic all-wheel drive.
Given its performance, fuel economy is exceptional at 24 mpg city, 31 mpg highway and 26 mpg combined with RWD. 4Matic only lowers those estimates to 23/30/26. We actually bested those estimates in a CLS 450 4Matic, averaging 31.3 mpg in various stints of mostly highway driving.
The AMG CLS 53 gets an enhanced, AMG-tuned version of the inline-six with EQ Boost that produces 429 hp and 384 lb-ft of torque. It's paired exclusively with a nine-speed automatic and 4Matic. Mercedes estimates a 0-60 time of 4.4 seconds. Fuel economy estimates are still quite good at 21/27/23.
For those looking for a more serious AMG model akin to the old CLS 63, Mercedes has effectively replaced it with the new AMG GT 4-Door.
What's the CLS like to drive?Whereas the old CLS 550 drove like a classic Mercedes high-powered cruiser and the discontinued CLS 63 a classic AMG heavyweight hammer, the new version feels smaller and lighter on its feet. It happily flicked itself between tight corners on our mountain-road evaluation route, not washing out in understeer, and maintaining the utmost composure over nasty mid-corner bumps. It's legitimately quite fun, and the "coupe" descriptor applies as much to its driving experience as to its styling.
Turn-in from the steering is refreshingly sharp in the CLS 450, and remains direct and precise through its travel. You do feel what the wheels are doing through your hands, even in Comfort mode, while Sport mode dials in an appropriate extra bit of effort to enhance your control while hustling the CLS 450 along. We tested a car with the Air Body Control adaptive air suspension, which has a magical ability to keep the car level through corners. It also provides three firmness settings (Comfort, Sport and Sport+), but none are exactly plush. Even Comfort is more reactive to high-frequency impacts than we were expecting, but that just means you feel the road. It's still very comfortable, but expect the 20-inch wheels to be less forgiving.
In the AMG CLS 53, everything is more amplified. The sound of its engine is more dominated by the exhaust, while shifts from the AMG-tuned nine-speed transmission are met with blats from the four exhaust tips in the rear. The steering feels tighter, more responsive and even a bit more communicative about the road surface. We were able, on just a couple of occasions, to elicit just a wee bit of squirreliness from the rear end when accelerating out of a tight, wet corner.
In terms of the engines, the CLS 450's inline-six doesn't have the silky-smooth, effortless power delivery of the old V8-powered CLS 550. Similarly, the CLS 53 definitely lacks the same audible histrionics and sledgehammer acceleration of the old CLS 63. Yet, both provide compelling performance and considerably better fuel economy. They're also quite characterful in their own right, offering the smooth, mechanical feel inherent to an inline-six. Throttle response in the CLS 450 is particularly sharp, while changes from the nine-speed automatic occur just when they should (and that immediacy differs based on the Eco, Comfort, Sport or Sport+ mode selected). As for the EQ Boost system, you really don't notice it, which is a good thing. It also makes the automatic stop/start system difficult to detect, which is an extremely good thing.
What more can I read about the Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class?2019 Mercedes-Benz CLS First Drive Review
Our first taste of the CLS 450 and AMG 53, which details its new styling, technology and engine tech.
Test-driving the new Mercedes-Benz inline-six engine
An in-depth look at the inline-six engines and the 48-volt EQ Boost mild-hybrid system.
Pricing starts at $70,195 for the CLS 450, including a $995 destination charge. Adding 4Matic all-wheel drive costs $2,500. The AMG CLS 53 starts at $80,895.
What features are available and what's the CLS' price?
A basic CLS 450 comes pretty well-equipped with standard 19-inch wheels, adaptive dampers, a sunroof, an adjustable sport exhaust, an abundance of accident avoidance tech (see Safety section below), full LED exterior lighting, handsfree power trunk lid, heated power front seats, a power-adjustable steering wheel, leather upholstery, MBTex premium vinyl interior trim, 64-color ambient lighting, a 12.3-inch center display, two USB data ports, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and integrated navigation with real-time traffic reporting and three years of over-air map updates.
From there, you can add tens of thousands worth of optional extras. Our CLS 450 test car cost an insane $95,950 thanks to frivolities like heated armrests, in-car air freshener (it stank, by the way, we turned it off), auto parking, extra sound deadening and the $5,400 Burmester high-end sound system. By contrast, we built a hypothetical CLS that barely cracked $80,000 with a still-hefty number of options such as Air Body Control, ventilated front seats, the second 12.3-inch instrument display, the lesser Burmester sound system and the worthwhile Driver Assistance package. A similarly equipped AMG CLS 53 would still be less than $95,000. This is basically to say that the CLS can get extremely expensive if you go wild with options, but you certainly do not need to.
We provide a complete breakdown of specs, features and local pricing here on Autoblog of the Mercedes CLS 450 and the AMG CLS 53.
What are CLS' safety equipment and crash ratings?Every 2019 CLS comes standard with forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, blind-spot warning, cross-wind assist built into the stability control system, a driver inattention warning system and an emergency communications system. The Driver Assistance package for $2,250 adds an enhanced forward collision system that can detect forward cross traffic and steering assistance that can help you avoid collisions with pedestrians and objects. Both of these are unique features. Also included are lane-keeping assist, an enhanced blind-spot warning system, advanced adaptive cruise control (includes steering assist, automatic speed limit adjustment and it uses the navigation system to detect reasons to slow down ahead).
The CLS has not been crash tested by a third party.