2019 Mercedes-Benz CLS

By October 10, 2019

The lush mid-size 2019 Mercedes-Benz CLS sedan takes E-Class fundamentals and wraps them in a stunning, sleek shape. 

First introduced as a 2004 model, the CLS has now entered its third generation, and is new for the 2019 model year. Among the 2019 improvements is a new engine: a twin-turbocharged, 3.0-liter inline-6, replacing the previous V-6, and a new 48-volt mild-hybrid system.

For the first time, the beautiful and high-tech CLS cabin can seat five occupants, not just four. Styling revisions are led by new LED headlights and taillights. Seats have been redesigned, and a new steering wheel features Touch Control buttons. A new optional Driver Assistance Package includes adaptive cruise control and active steering assist. 

Two versions are available: CLS 450, with standard rear-drive or optional all-wheel drive; and AMG CLS 53, with a more potent powertrain and standard all-wheel drive.

In the CLS 450, a 3.0-liter inline-6 develops 362 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. Equipped with an electric supercharger, the AMG CLS 53 engine boasts 429 horsepower and 384 pound-feet. An electric motor adds another 21 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque to both engines. Paddle shifters can control the 9-speed automatic transmission.

The electric motor takes over in light-load situations, allowing the gasoline engine to turn off completely. The hybrid powertrain cannot accelerate on electric power alone. In essence, the CLS is a high-performance mild-hybrid that uses its extra electric power to run accessories and to let the car “sail” when engine power isn’t needed.

Neither the IIHS nor the NHTSA has crash-tested the 2019 CLS.

Each CLS includes an admirable selection of safety equipment, and more active-safety technology can be added as options. Standard safety features include forward-collision warnings, automatic emergency braking, cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitors, and a driver-attention monitor.

An optional Driver Assistance Package combines active lane-change assist, adaptive cruise control, and active steering assist. GPS-derived technology can steer the car, reduce speed for corners – even help the driver make emergency evasive maneuvers.

Model Lineup

Prices do not include $995 destination charge.

CLS 450 ($69,200 with rear-wheel drive, $71,700 with all-wheel drive) includes the 362-horsepower engine, leather upholstery, a 12.3-inch infotainment touchscreen, navigation with real-time traffic, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, ambient lighting, LED headlights and taillights, keyless entry and start, an electric trunk closer, paddle shifters, and 19-inch alloy wheels.

AMG CLS 53 S 4Matic ($79,900) gets the 429-hp engine and adds a 12.3-inch instrument display, AMG performance steering wheel, an AMG-tuned air suspension with adaptive dampers, AMG Speedshift transmission, and a performance version of the all-wheel-drive system.

An AMG Line appearance package for CLS 450 adds a sportier look, with unique front/rear fascias.

Exterior

A low, coupe-like roofline separates the CLS from the more traditional-looking E-Class sedan. Little is fancy about the bodywork, yet the CLS conveys a sleek, stimulating aura.

Despite Mercedes-Benz’s practice of calling such a vehicle a four-door coupe, the CLS is actually a sedan with a sharply-raked roof. While the rear pillar is responsible for the attractive silhouette, it also reduces rear-seat head space. Rear legroom increased by a hair versus the prior model, as the wheelbase was lengthened by 2.4 inches. The roof is about 1.5 inches lower.

In profile, the CLS features a long hood and short rear deck, above short overhangs, front and rear. Doors contain frameless windows. Viewed from the rear, the CLS presents the most stylish coupe-like appearance. A spoiler shape is integrated into the trunk lid, flanked by two-part angular taillights.

AMG-influenced styling provides a forward tilt, making the front end appear eager to prowl with a sense of stealth. Diamond-pattern mesh fills out the A-shaped grille, reaching toward angled LED headlights.

Even though its tail slopes backward in a less organic manner than before, it’s not easy to discern differences between the 2019 model and its predecessor.

Interior

Gorgeous is the word for the CLS cabin. Classy, too. Not only is the interior modern and luxurious, it’s relaxing.

Passengers reside on handsome leather upholstery. Large swaths of wood – either glossy or open-pore – cover the dashboard. Turbine-shaped air vents are lovely to look at.

Compared to the traditionally-shaped E-Class, space is snug. Lavish front seats promise superior comfort, and they’re bolstered sufficiently to inspire confidence during spirited driving.

Two average-size adults can fit comfortably in the back seat, though taller passengers will be short on head clearance. Even though the CLS is now officially a five-seater, a center occupant will be far less pleased. Each rear-seat rider will have to stoop down to climb aboard.

Similar to the one in E-Class sedans, the CLS dashboard contains a 12.3-inch display for infotainment, with standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. An optional secondary 12.3-inch screen can replace conventional analog gauges. With dual screens installed, the digital cockpit can be configured in Classic, Sport, or Progressive “mood.”

Though bigger than before, the trunk holds only 11.9 cubic feet of luggage.

Driving Impressions

Evaluating the CLS demands looking beyond its evolutionary appearance, focusing instead on the new hybrid powertrain. Unlike other setups, the mild-hybrid system is tuned for both performance and efficiency. As a result, the CLS comes across as a responsive and comfortable cruiser that’s a pleasure to drive.

Each of the mild-hybrid inline-6 engines is smooth and powerful, producing plenty of thrust for invigorating acceleration. With 429 horsepower underhood, the AMG CLS 53, fitted with standard all-wheel drive, can catapult to 60 mph in just 4.4 seconds. In performance, it feels more like a potent V-8 than a 6-cylinder. The CLS 450 isn’t far behind, capable of reaching 60 mph in less than 5 seconds.

Mercedes-Benz’s 9-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly and responsively. It’s especially satisfying in Sport mode.

Handling is better than before, and the CLS’s traditional exemplary ride quality carries on. Fitted with coil springs and adjustable adaptive dampers, the new chassis helps provide excellent balance between ride comfort and control. Even in Sport mode, the ride is invariably forgiving. A button below the mode selector raises ride height by 0.6 inches, helping the suspension conquer lumpy urban pavement.

Air springs (if installed) firm up to provide agile, sporty behavior when a Sport mode is selected. Comfort and Economy modes provide a relaxed, more traditional road experience. Steering is direct but light normally. Sport mode makes it feel heavier.

When cruising, the mild-hybrid system lets the CLS run on electricity alone as often as possible. The stop/start function is virtually seamless. Though the engine may growl when pushed, noise is otherwise minimal. 

With its new mild-hybrid technology, the CLS 450 is EPA-rated at 24/31 mpg City/Highway, 26 Combined. All-wheel drive lowers the estimate slightly, to 23/30/26 mpg. The higher-performance AMG CLS 53 4Matic is EPA-rated at 21/27 mpg City/Highway, 23 Combined.

Final Word

Apart from limitations on rear-seat headroom, resulting from its coupe-like roofline, the 2019 Mercedes CLS sedan ranks as outstanding. Bountifully equipped, the CLS 450 provides a fine balance of comfort and confident control, as well as abundant power. For an extra helping of vigor and even more satisfying performance, the AMG CLS 53 is clearly worth a look. An E-Class promises greater value, but the sleekly-shaped CLS is more of a treat to the eyes, as well as a worthy luxury cruiser.

 

Driving impressions by The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.