Mercedes-Benz CLS Review

According to its marketing literature, the Mercedes CLS 2018 is a “pioneer of a new design idiom”.

In real-world speak, that’s a flat side window line, a sloping middle and, perhaps most importantly, a better impact on the environment.

The CLS coupé/saloon blend has been kicking around since 2004, including such releases as the Mercedes CLS 500 in 2010 and the Mercedes CLS Shooting Brake in 2014, so we would certainly hope there has been some progression in terms of the carbon footprint.

What to expect from the new CLS

True to its brand, the Mercedes CLS price is enough to warrant a second mortgage – it starts at £57,000 right through to a nail-biting £70,000 for the Mercedes-Benz CLS AMG line.

We’ve seen the third-generation CLS for sale for some time now, having been released in April 2018, so that’s given us some time to digest exactly what it is that warrants the asking price.

Within its arsenal of CLS Mercedes 2018 trims, we have the 350 and the 400 D, as well as their petrol counterparts, and the 450.

Finally, there’s the new AMG 53, the sexy, roaring 5.5 litre twin-turbocharged motor that blows its 6.2 litre V8 predecessor out of the water when it comes to efficiency.

Mercedes Benz CLS configurations

Starting with the 350 d, we have a 282 bhp model with 50.4 mpg, and a 400 d with 336 bhp and the same fuel economy.

Less fuel-efficient are the petrol models, with the 450 offering 362 bhp, bolstered by 21 points thanks to an integrated starter motor, a sort of mild hybrid which improves the engine response while the turbocharger warms up.

So what of the new Mercedes CLS key specs? As standard, you’ll find a nine-speed automatic gearbox across the range, as well as four-wheel drive in all configurations.

Every engine is packing three litres and six cylinders, but only the 350 and the 400 come in diesel, while the 450 comes in petrol only.

With autumn now here, we have the release of the AMG 53 to enjoy, as well as a smaller four-cylinder petrol engine in the running. This time around, we had the pleasure of testing the 400 d.

What is the Mercedes Benz CLS like to drive?

Amongst a whole prize pot of goodies, we have as standard across all models 19-inch wheels, an HD reversing camera, Agility Control suspension and “intelligent lighting”.

If money is no object, then you can also upgrade to the Premium Pack for a tidy sum of £3,895, which will buy you a keyless go-function, electric seats, an electric sunroof and a Burmester stereo.

But vanity aside, there’s a lot to be said for the CLS. The model we tested features a torque of 700Nm, a 0 to 62mpg speed of 5 seconds, and a top speed of 155mph. It’s certainly not the most powerful Mercedes car we’ve ever driven, but the torque kicks in at a very comfortable 1,200RPM, and the automatic gearbox shifts through gears without hesitation.

There’s all the comfort and confidence of an SUV when it comes to driving in poor weather conditions, and the engine is responsive with little noise.

There are various modes to switch through including Sport and Sport X, though there’s little discernible difference between the two.

Steering is very sharp and is not compromised by the weight, a relatively hefty 2,260kg (160kg heavier than the abovementioned Mercedes CLS estate) so it’s reassuring to feel total control, even when winding around corners at high speeds.

Design and practicality

In keeping with its aims of combining the elegance of a coupe with the practicality of a saloon, the CLS hits all the right design notes.

It’s every bit the executive five-door with its frameless windows. Having been placed in the same glamour bracket as the A7 and the 6 Series, these elegant touches are not only aesthetically pleasing but also necessary if it’s to keep up with the rest of Mercedes Benz’s lines.

Whatever you want to call it – a Mercedes CLS-Class saloon, a coupé, or even a family executive car, it ticks boxes in pretty much all of those categories.

One of the most notable upgrades is that it is the first coupé to offer five seats instead of four, so rather than just suiting a travelling salesman, it doubles up as a pretty handy family vehicle as well.

In terms of visibility, the CLS has a low, sporty feel to it, which could be a problem, particularly as the pedals feel a little bit out of sync with the driving position. Furthermore, the sloping design makes for poor visibility in the rear windows, but we have front and rear-view parking sensors to counteract this. Other fun gadgets are the adaptive LED headlights.

Space-wise, it’s equipped with 490 litres of luggage space or 520 with the seats folded down. That’s 20 litres bigger than the Mercedes Benz CLA, and 65 more than the E-Class, so again, it’s a lot of fun for longer outings.

Mercedes CLS interior

On the inside, the design is just as plush as we would expect from an executive model Mercedes.

A general Mercedes-Benz overview leads us to expect certain things from the interior, which we are reassuringly offered, including stained wood veneers and chrome highlights, plus full leather seats, all of which are complemented by the above-mentioned “intelligent lighting”.

So how about the on-board computer? What we have are two 12.3-inch screens, one behind the wheel and one directly adjacent. The left-hand screen contains everything you would expect, including a DAB radio and Bluetooth connection, with satellite navigation.

Though we didn’t test it, if you’re going for the environmentally friendly mild hybrid model, then you’ll also have the ‘EQ boost’ battery display alongside other analogue instruments behind the wheel.

When it comes to controlling the infotainment system, we are almost spoilt for choice – there is the rotary dial on the centre console, a touchpad or even touch-sensitive buttons on the steering wheel to choose from.

Fancy another upgrade? Go for the Comand system in the Premium Plus, and you’ll be treated to wi-fi, driver assist controls such as traffic sign assist and even a concierge service.

As is becoming more prevalent with modern vehicles, besides a few 2018 SUVs we’ve tested, there’s also the option to upgrade to Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, two smartphone mirroring systems that allow you to use your phone on the infotainment screen itself. No fear of penalty points, then.

Mercedes CLS insurance

The negative press around diesel cars nowadays might make us want to opt for the mild hybrid version, but either way, the general region of 48-50 MPG still makes for a very economical coupé saloon crossbreed. Of course, cynically speaking, these figures are based on laboratory tests, and it still sits in the very uneconomical insurance bracket of 49 out of 50.

If you are feeling environmentally conscious, then you can go for the mild hybrid model, but then again, an executive level BMW isn’t the tree-hugger’s first vehicle of choice.

Certainly, it makes for a far more exciting, torquey drive than it does pootling around city centres, so bear this in mind when you consider your reasons for buying one.

Buying outright, of course, will set you back a fair few pennies, starting from £50k and up, so a more affordable, perhaps less permanent solution might be a lease, with prices starting from £602 per month.


Leasing may be a preferable option if the rumoured Mercedes CLS 350 problems are anything to go by – while we can’t speak for it from a driver’s point of view, having tested the 400, there are reports of diesel flow plug and air conditioning issues.

Historically however, users have also reported Mercedes replacing these without issue, so here’s hoping that they have now ironed out any problems from historical models and are back with a bang on the third generation CLS.

Our verdict

With so many to choose from, (despite the lack of trim lines – only the AMG, but then that’s what everybody wants) ultimately it comes down to what you want to get out of your CLS.

If you’re looking for a growling, sporty, supercharged juggernaut, then the AMG 53 is your best bet, but if you want practical and economical, then go for something a little smaller with the added hybrid bonus.

It’s a case of third time lucky for Mercedes when it comes to design: the blend of a coupe and a saloon was bound to run into problems, but with five seats for the first time instead of four, practicality leads the way.

With a confident grip on the road and executive styling, we’d say this is every bit the practical driver’s car.



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