Mercedes CLS (2011-2017) Review

The Mercedes CLS is a four-door coupe that rivals other stylish big cars such as the BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe and the Audi A7 Sportback.

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This score is awarded by our team of
expert reviewers
With nearly 60 years of experience between them, carwow’s expert reviewers thoroughly test every car on sale on carwow, and so are perfectly placed to present you the facts and help you make that exciting decision
after extensive testing of the car

What's good

  • Fantastic engines
  • Very comfortable ride
  • Top notch build quality

What's not so good

  • Not the most engaging drive
  • Only has 4 seats
  • Not as pretty as the previous CLS

Mercedes CLS (2011-2017): what would you like to read next?

Overall verdict

This is the second generation of the CLS and it trades the elegant lines of the first one for an overall sportier and more muscular look. The desirability is arguably stronger than ever thanks to the AMG Line trim which brings AMG looks for nearly half of the price of the CLS 63.

Designed as a sporty alternative to the E-Class, the CLS is good fun to drive despite the intimidating size of the car. Adaptive dampers which can change the ride firmness at the push of a button are standard and limit body roll quite well. The direct steering and smooth-shifting nine-speed auto add to the pleasant driving experience.

Ignoring the bonkers 5.5-litre twin-turbo V8 petrol in the CLS 63 model, you get a choice between two diesels and one petrol. Both the CLS 220 d and CLS 350 d are impressively frugal for the performance on offer, while the CLS 400 petrol is silky smooth if not as exciting as the AMG model.

Where the CLS starts falling behind rivals slightly is the interior which is based on the previous generation of the E-Class and as a result comes with a multitude of buttons including a phone number pad. The rest of the cabin is true to Mercedes tradition, furnished in posh materials and seemingly chiselled from one solid piece of interior.

The highly desirable AMG Line trim is the entry-level one and as a result comes with a load of equipment including LED lights, 19-inch alloy wheels, leather upholstery, parking sensors, heated front seats and the list goes on and on. The most desirable options are grouped in packs which is very helpful when configuring the car.

The CLS is a lifestyle take on the serious E-Class

Mat Watson
carwow expert

Overall, the CLS is a very well-sorted car that has plenty of appeal. Though not quite as graceful as its pioneering predecessor, but the styling is still just as head turning, and the new car is suitably spacious and practical, whilst also offering up good performance and impressive efficiency.

It’s by no means a cheap car to buy, and there are other four-door coupes on sale as well, such as the Audi A7 Sportback and Porsche Panamera. However, the CLS is one of the best all-round executive cars you can buy, and if you’re in the market for such a machine, we definitely reckon it’s worth having a look at.

What's it like to drive?

This is a big motorway bruiser so don’t expect much nimbleness in corners

The diesel V6 best fits the character of the CLS, while the smaller diesel is quieter than it ever has been

Mat Watson
carwow expert

There’s a fairly broad range of engines on offer, varying from economical diesels to an outright performance-oriented AMG V8. The diesels are praised for their frugality while the two petrols are more powerful. Refinement is not an issue with most Mercedes cars, and the CLS is no different.

The most affordable engine in the range is found in the 220 CDI. The four-cylinder diesel the cheapest to buy and run and has the lowest emissions too. However, most testers recommend opting for the V6 diesel, as they reckon its enticing blend of efficiency and performance makes it the one to go for. If you want more performance, though, then there’s the V6 petrol CLS400 and snarling CLS63 AMG S.

Mercedes themselves state that the CLS defines ‘refined sportiness’, and the critics seem to agree with that – the CLS is a great cruiser, with impressive overall refinement and a supple ride, especially on the optional air suspension. However, it’s also a fairly good car to drive – it won’t set the world on fire, but the Merc still handles well for such a large and heavy car, and can put a smile on your face on twisty roads.

There are, however, some niggles here and there – some testers didn’t like how the steering, though linear, didn’t have much feel to it, there’s a fair bit of wind noise from the wing mirrors at higher speeds and rear visibility is restricted. Thankfully, the CLS does come with rear parking sensors as standard.

What's it like inside?

Small updates have kept the CLS’s interior looking fresh and premium

Next Read full interior review