The Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class is a “four-door coupe.” Though the term might defy convention, it combines the sleek lines of a coupe with the functionality of four doors. Mercedes-Benz started this concept in 2004, and it quickly turned heads and inspired imitators. For the 2019 model year, the Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class enters its third generation. The new CLS is a handsome car with a front end inspired by the AMG-GT supercar.
From the side, the CLS features the defining coupe-like silhouette. It has a more cab-forward design, but with frameless doors, like a true coupe. The rear window and fenders finish elegantly at the trunk of the CLS.
Across the lineup, Mercedes-Benz offers some of the best interiors available today. They are elegant, upscale, plush, and attractive. The CLS-Class is no different. Our test model featured cream leather and carpeting, set off against the maroon dash and brown dash panel with integrated pin-striping. Drivers can customize the interior accent lighting with seemingly every color from the rainbow.
The center console is simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s lacking in features. In fact, it’s quite the contrary. The center stack has buttons for the basics like climate control and home buttons for the various vehicle systems. But the main attraction is the massive digital screen, which flows effortlessly into the digital instrument panel. The center screen is operated via the COMAND control dial in the center console. There’s a large dial, as well as a touch-sensitive pad atop it.
The COMAND system takes some getting used to, and getting your presets keyed in is a must. Until then, going from a Sirius channel to an FM channel takes several steps. The CLS-Class also has Apple CarPlay, but without a true touchscreen, it lacks the smooth operation that less expensive vehicles boast.
The CLS emphasizes the “coupe” in four-door coupe as the rear seats are nearly unusable. The roof slopes sharply. In order to sit comfortably in the front seats, it must be slid far enough back to render the rear seat useless. The rear seats are great for kids, but practically no one else.
Mercedes-Benz has moved from a V6, which was common in its vehicles since the late 1990s, to a straight six, which Mercedes had used prior to then. And while that might seem like a small change, the move results in smoother power delivery. The new 3.0-liter inline-six in the CLS 450 makes 362 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. Power is sent through a nine-speed automatic transmission to 4MATIC all-wheel drive.
The engine features EQ Boost, which is an integrated motor-generator. This mild-hybrid system can add 21 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of additional torque when needed.
The CLS 450 goes from from smooth pickup to aggressive with the flip of a button, utilizing the drive model selector. It features Eco, Comfort, Normal, Sport, and Sport+ drive modes. While the modes feature various throttle responses, the difference in steering feel is quite small. In normal driving, cornering is solid, turning is quick, and steering is never overly weighted.
Mercedes-Benz offerings are quick and provide confident handling, but they err on the side of a smooth ride above all else.
Despite that smoothness, these cars aren’t as boat-like as an old Mercedes, or even a Buick for that matter. They achieve the smooth ride through suspension and adjustable damping rates. The wheels have low-profile tires, so hitting a pothole hurts like a stiff-suspension car like a BMW.
The CLS provides a sharp turning radius, which will be helpful for navigating a mall parking lot or city block. Though the large C-pillar impacts visibility, the CLS provides surround-view cameras and parking sensors to provide heightened awareness in tight spaces.
Prices for the 2019 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class are as follows: the CLS 450 ($69,200); CLS 450 4MATIC ($71,700); and the range-topping AMG CLS 63 S ($108,900).