The 2019 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class doesn’t look like a mobile laboratory, but maybe that’s what it is. The first-ever CLS introduced the experimental idea of a "4-door coupe" to the world. An approach that has since become influential, not just in sedan design, but also with crossovers. This new generation of CLS luxury midsize sedan, the third, energizes its particular styling with a revolutionary drivetrain.
After decades of employing V6 engines, Mercedes-Benz has brought the inline-6 configuration back into service. A pretty good idea, since this layout is inherently smoother than a V, so it saves the added weight and complexity of balancer shafts. Turbocharging can also coax V8 like power out of six cylinders without the fuel consumption penalty. An inline-6 also provides space in the engine bay for an innovation.
Including an electric motor to create a 48-volt system adds another dimension. It’s a mild hybrid arrangement of a sort that optimizes fuel efficiency, but it’s not like any Toyota Prius. It doesn’t drive any wheels, but does away with ancillary belts that drive things like water pumps, thereby reducing parasitic power losses. It also provides energy for the engine’s fuel-saving stop/start function while smoothing out that action considerably, and enables a "coasting" feature. In the AMG CLS 53 variant, this system also powers the standard hydro-pneumatic adaptive suspension. This drivetrain made its debut in the 2019 CLS-Class, but is now appearing in AMG versions of the E-Class and the new generation of GLE-Class SUV.
Another aspect that’s different about the new CLS, but makes it more conventional, is that the rear section now seats three instead of two. Naturally, the middle position is best for diminutive types, since shoulder room is tight and there’s also the transmission tunnel cutting down on legroom, but it could be useful on occasion.
The CLS cuts a striking figure with its smooth nose, muscular haunches and flowing fastback roofline. Sure, that means limited passenger space in the back when compared with an E-Class sedan, but think of this car as a spacious coupe with a little extra accommodation and it takes on a special appeal of its own.
What’s New for 2019?
Although the essential design might imply otherwise, the CLS is completely revamped for this model year. See the 2019 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class models for sale near you
What We Like
- Sleek exterior
- Composed yet supple handling
- Intriguing drivetrain
- Resplendent luxury
What We Don’t
- Options are expensive
The CLS 450 has a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six developing 362 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. Augmenting this engine is an electric motor (Mercedes-Benz calls it EQ Boost) powered by a lithium-ion battery. The "boost" part of the description doesn’t provide an ultimately higher power figure, but allows the engine to reach its peak output faster than if this was a regular setup.
The next step in the chain is a 9-speed automatic transmission with steering wheel-mounted shift paddles. In rear-wheel-drive form, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates fuel consumption at 24 miles per gallon in the city, 31 mpg on the highway and 26 mpg in combined driving. Adding all-wheel drive (referred to as 4Matic) alters those figures to 23 mpg city/30 mpg hwy/26 mpg combined.
The AWD 2019 Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 uses the same drivetrain, but the AMG division has tuned it up for more output and added an auxiliary electric compressor (functioning like an extra turbocharger). Output here is 429 hp and 384 lb-ft of torque. The 9-speed automatic transmission has also been "improved upon" by AMG, likewise the 4Matic AWD system that’s standard equipment. The EPA’s fuel consumption estimates are 21/27/23 mpg.
Standard Features & Options
The 2019 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class is available in CLS 450 and AMG CLS 53 versions. Both models have 5-passenger seating.
The CLS 450 ($70,195) includes 19-in alloy wheels, LED headlights/taillights, a powered sunroof, self-dimming mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, keyless entry/ignition, remote start, selectable driving modes, adaptive dampers, heated/ventilated 10-way power-adjustable front seats with driver’s-side memory, a power-adjustable tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a power-closing trunk lid, leather upholstery (simulated leather-covered dashboard), multi-color ambient cabin lighting, dual-zone automatic climate control, a 12.3-in infotainment touchscreen, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration, forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, driver attention alert, blind spot monitoring, two USB ports, Bluetooth, navigation and satellite/HD radio.
This model is eligible for AWD ($2,500), air suspension, automatic high beams, a 12.3-in driver information display (which connects physically with the infotainment display), multi-contour/massaging front seats, tri-zone automatic climate control, wireless charging, a head-up display, a 360-degree camera system, heated armrests and a choice of two Burmester audio system upgrades. It’s possible to add another $20,000 to the bottom line.
The 2019 Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 ($80,895) adds an AMG body kit, 19-in AMG wheels, AMG Ride Control Plus hydro-pneumatic adaptive suspension, variable AWD system (4Matic Plus), performance brakes, a 12.3-in digital driver information display, sport exhaust, an AMG Performance steering wheel and AMG front sport seats.
Optional driver-assistance features include adaptive cruise control, partially autonomous parking, evasive steering assistance and active lane-change assist.
Trunk space is 11.9 cu ft., bigger than the previous CLS, but still only as good as a Honda Civic compact sedan. Nevertheless, it will take a couple of sets of golf clubs.
The CLS comes standard with anti-lock brakes, stability control and seven airbags.
Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has crash tested the 2019 CLS-Class, but the E-Class (on which the CLS-Class is based) was named a Top Safety Pick+ by the IIHS.
Behind the Wheel
Whatever the driver wants the CLS to be, the car will comply through its selectable driving modes. Choose the Comfort setting and transporting delicate antique porcelain could be accomplished without incident. Switch over to Sport Plus for more firmness and control, while tweaking the engine’s responses, and that’s where the fun lives.
The CLS 450 4Matic is sufficiently fast, zipping from 0-to-60 mph in just 4.8 seconds. The CLS 53 is quicker by 0.4 of a second, if that’s important. Even the entry-level RWD CLS can still manage 5.1 seconds.
The 4Matic Plus system in the CLS 53 is described as fully variable. Which means that power goes mostly to the rear wheels under normal circumstances, imparting the traditional sporty feel, but can send up to half the available torque to the front wheels within milliseconds when necessary. Grip and traction are simply superb.
There’s really no point in criticizing the CLS for limited rear headroom. That’s the nature of the car and if someone was transporting three adults every day, then they’d simply choose an E-Class instead. Accommodations up front, meanwhile, are sumptuous. The elegant frameless side windows don’t create any wind noise.
Other Cars to Consider
2020 BMW 8 Series Gran Coupe — At the time of writing this review, not much is known about this all-new model, but it’s sure to be impressive.
2019 Mercedes-AMG GT 4-Door Coupe — If anyone wanted to spend even more money on a sportier 4-door coupe from Mercedes-Benz, this model offers 577-hp and 630-hp versions from $137,495. Or the entry-level model has the same drivetrain as the CLS 53 for $99,995.
The second 12.3-in display for driver information pairs well with the infotainment system, so we’d be inclined to select that option. At this level with this car, it’s all about what the buyer wants rather than needs. Make your choice safe in the knowledge that every version is great. As always, we recommend as many driver aids as possible. You might be a super-aware driver, but others often aren’t. Find a Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class for sale