Mercedes CLS Review & Prices
The Mercedes CLS is a good compromise between a coupe and a saloon, although it's pricier and less practical than the E-Class saloon
Find out more about the Mercedes CLS
The Mercedes CLS is the kind of car that will appeal to people who want to have their cake and eat it. After all, it’s described as a four-door coupe, and sets out to do something that sounds almost impossible: to combine the best bits of both types of car.
On the one hand, in the interior, you get something approaching the high-class cabin and practicality you’d expect of a Mercedes executive saloon such as the E- or S-Class; and, on the other hand, it’s all dressed up in a body that’s very deliberately designed to look like a Mercedes coupe.
This is a relatively new concept, but Mercedes can claim to have created it with the first Mercedes CLS, back in 2003. This is the third generation of the car and it follows very much the same recipe as the previous ones, offering an alternative to the likes of the Audi A7, Volkswagen Arteon and BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe, as well sportier posh saloons, such as the Jaguar XF.
Where this latest one differs from the old Mercedes CLS models is that its body is much smoother, with fewer lines and creases in the metal.
When it comes to choosing the colour of your leather upholstery, Mercedes clearly follows the Henry Ford principle: you can have any colour as long as it’s black. As are the steering wheel, dashboard, door trims, parcel shelf, roof lining and carpet...
Engine choices are a couple of six-cylinder diesels (350d and 400d), a 2.0-litre petrol (350), a 3.0-litre 299hp petrol (450) and the CLS 53, which is powered by a 3.0-litre, 435bhp petrol engine. All petrol engines are supported by a small electric hybrid system.
You don’t have to spend a lot of time driving the CLS to realise that it excels as a very safe high-speed cruiser that will cover huge distances in complete comfort, with very little apparent effort from the engines. Stick to motorways and main roads, and you’ll really be playing it to its strengths. Only if you expect it to behave like a genuine sports car along a tight B-road will you be disappointed with the way it drives. Ultimately, there’s no getting away from the fact that this is a big car.
Likewise, you’ll be disappointed if you’re expecting the same degree of space and practicality you’ll find in, say, an E-Class, but the CLS is still a decent four-seater, and you can fit a reasonable amount in the boot, too.
The Mercedes CLS has a RRP range of £75,535 to £86,685. Prices start at £75,535 if paying cash. The price of a used Mercedes CLS on carwow starts at £26,597.
Our most popular versions of the Mercedes CLS are:
|Model version||carwow price from|
|CLS 400d 4Matic AMG Line Ngt Ed Pr + 4dr 9G-Tronic||£75,535||Compare offers|
|CLS 53 4Matic+ Night Ed Premium + 4dr TCT||£86,685||Compare offers|
There’s only one trim level available, and it's called AMG Line. It comes with a big list of standard equipment, including 18-inch wheels, LED headlights and parking sensors. Inside the cabin there’s a leather interior trim, three-zone climate control, wireless charging and a 360° camera.
The CLS doesn’t come cheap and you’ll have to pay a premium over the similarly sized – and more practical – E-Class from the same company. Other options include the Audi A7 and BMW 6 Series Gran Turismo, prices of which start a lot lower than the Mercedes.
Cruising through town is surprisingly easy in the CLS, given it’s size, but things get a bit noisier on the motorway and it’s not the sportiest model in the Mercedes range
The driving experience is enjoyable, partly due to a relatively quiet cabin while on the move and it’s also comfortable over bumps. Admittedly, the latter might be improved by choosing the optional air suspension – the standard setup isn’t as smooth and is especially noticeable at lower speeds.
The CLS has a nine-speed automatic gearbox that is smooth and responsive and allows gear changes to be made if desired using the conventional lever or the steering-wheel-mounted paddles.
Rear visibility, considering the roofline and overall shape, isn’t impacted too much, which means that driving in town can be done with confidence and awareness of other cars and road users.
Another consideration is the CLS’s park assist feature, which will identify a specific space to put the car in and then automatically reverse into it. A useful feature for those drivers who might not feel confident attempting manoeuvres or are faced with limited parking options.
On the motorway
The CLS is a fairly quiet car, but not as quiet as an Audi A7. There is a bit more noise from the tyres and wind that enters the cabin, but not enough to really distract from the driving experience.
All engine options offer plenty of power, which means decent acceleration through the gears, making overtaking easier. While the CLS is a fairly big car, the low stance means it is quite aerodynamic, which helps keep things smooth and quiet at speed.
The motorway is the CLS’s natural habitat and miles can be covered with ease, with drivers getting out after a long journey still feeling refreshed.
On a twisty road
While the motorway might be ideal for the CLS, it is less likely to feel so at home away from the main routes. The Mercedes does have four-wheel-drive, which means plenty of grip and confidence when tackling damp B roads. However, despite its sporty appearance, the big Mercedes isn’t a particularly sporty driving experience and is more at home cruising along highways than going cross-country.
Having said that, the steering is nicely weighted and precise and there is the option of activating sport mode, which stiffens the suspension, but therefore makes the bumps in the road more noticeable.
There’s less room in the CLS than other similarly-sized cars, but Mercedes has been clever when maximising storage solutions. In theory the car is advertised as a five-seater, but those sitting in the middle rear seat might argue with that description
Given the styling change over a conventional Mercedes saloon, the company had to be clever when it came to packaging. It’s a target that is achieved without making the front passengers feel cramped and there is plenty of headroom and space around the pedals. However, the driver sits slightly offset to the steering wheel, which might be more noticeable to some drivers than others.
The door bins can hold two large bottles with some space to spare, while the centre console also houses a large, deep space, with integrated charging points for mobile devices.
Towards the dash there is another storage space, with two cupholders integrated into it, a wireless charging pad and more USB charging ports. The glovebox is a reasonable size – maximised if you don’t have the optional diffuser that comes as part of one of the car’s add-on packs.
Look up towards the SOS button – a standard feature that links the driver to Mercedes’ team of experts should there be an issue while out on the road – and there’s a space for sunglasses, too.
In the rear of the car, there is an armrest that folds down from the middle seat and this space can also be opened up to allow longer items to be transported. In addition, in the rear, there are charging points and a 12V socket, which ticks a practicality box, even if it doesn’t help the space issue!
Space in the back seats
Despite the coupe-like appearance, it’s very easy to get into the Mercedes CLS. There is plenty of knee- and legroom, but lean back and most passengers will find that their heads hit the roof – physically, not metaphorically! It’s also a case of style over substance when gazing out of the windows, because the glass is relatively small and the pillar is firmly in the passenger’s eyeline.
Sitting three across the back will be a squeeze for the person in the middle. It’s quite a narrow space, which won’t comfortably accommodate anyone apart from children or small adults. It’s no surprise, really, as the original CLS was built for four, so the extra seat – while useful – was always going to be a bit of a compromise.
The capacity is less than that on offer from the Audi A7, but only slightly and not enough to make a huge difference. The boot space is still fairly large at 475 litres – enough to fit a large suitcase and other bags but, while the Audi has a lifting tailgate you might expect on a hatchback, the CLS has a saloon boot, which limits functionality and access.
On the plus side, boot-mounted levers allow the rear seats to be unlocked and pushed forward, creating more loading space. There are some cargo nets and tie-down points for added secured storage and loading – and a hook that can carry shopping bags or similar. Finally, under the boot floor there is extra space – and a foldaway plastic basket – due to there being no spare wheel onboard.
The CLS has a more straightforward infotainment than some newer Mercedes models, which means it’s easier to operate but doesn’t have the same level of tech
The interior of the Mercedes CLS isn’t the most spacious in its class, but the company has done a great job at maximising the space in the cabin for the driver and front passenger. Rear headroom or visibility isn’t the best, but any improvements in that area would impact on the striking exterior design.
The Mercedes CLS uses a rotary dial to control the infotainment options that are displayed via two large digital screens that almost form one widescreen element.
The dial scrolls through the different options – such as audio, navigation, climate, etc – but drivers also have the choice of using a touch-sensitive pad above the dial. The menu is sensibly laid out and easy to navigate, which enables tasks – such as changing radio station or zooming in and out of the map – to be undertaken with minimal driver distraction from the road ahead.
Steering wheel-mounted buttons also control the two screens – those on the left hand side of the wheel operate the central screen, while the ones on the right control what is directly in front of the driver. Voice control gives another option for drivers who can then keep their hands on the wheel. As well as practical uses, there is also the option of changing the colour of the dials or the appearance of the screens to the driver’s specific preferences.
Overall, the layout looks stylish and high quality, with circular air vents throughout the front and rear of the car one example of how Mercedes has tried to make the CLS stand out. The materials reflect the pursuit of quality, with the use of wood in place of some plastics a welcome addition.
The Mercedes CLS has an optional Premium Plus package, which includes upgraded sat-nav system and online services and Burmester sound system to take aural pleasure up a notch.
The seats and the steering wheel are electrically operated – the former features a seat-shaped 3D model on the door, enabling particular parts of the seat to be specifically adjusted with incredible precision.
The CLS can be specified with a sunroof, however, it’s not the largest, but will still be welcomed by some customers.
There are no shortage of options when it comes to powertrains for the CLS, with three petrol and three diesel engines available. The petrols range from the CLS 350, which uses a 2.0-litre engine with 299hp, to a 3.0-litre, 435hp unit used in the CLS 53 AMG 4MATIC+. In the middle of the two is the CLS 450 4MATIC, powered by a 3.0-litre engine with 367hp. Official fuel economy figures for the three models are a maximum of 33.6, 29.0 and 27.0mpg respectively
Those looking for a diesel also have a choice of three CLS models: the 220d, powered by a 2.0-litre, 194hp engine; the 300d 4MATIC (2.0-litre, 265hp) and the 400d 4MATIC (3.0-litre, 330hp). Fuel economy figures for the trio are up to 49.0, 42.8 and 37.9mpg respectively.
The CO2 figures for the range go from 128g/km for the CLS 220d to 206g/km for the CLS 53 AMG 4MATIC+.
The latest CLS model hasn’t been tested by Euro NCAP, so a definitive star rating for the car can’t be given. However, the previous model achieved a five-star score and the replacement offers a whole host of safety features and technologies.
For example, the four-door coupé boasts active brake assist and active speed limit assist, while different optional safety and assistance packs have been tailored to meet the needs and requirements of different drivers.
The CLS features keyless entry and start technologies as well as park assist tech. Extra protection comes in the form of the Mercedes’ active bonnet, which pops up slightly in the event of an impact to protect pedestrians from the solid bits under the bonnet, while every CLS comes with an alarm and immobiliser and boasts remote central locking.
Mercedes has recorded some mixed results in industry reliability surveys over the past few years, but its reputation is fast-improving from those days. An evolving product line-up and streamlined range of models will help the company concentrate on quality on the cars that it has.
There are no major problems or recalls to report with the current generation CLS. This model – like the rest of the German manufacturer’s range – is subject to a three-year/unlimited mileage warranty, with options available to extend that for further years.