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2020 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class Review

The 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLS ranks in the middle of the competitive luxury large car class. It has a stunning interior, intuitive tech features, balanced driving dynamics, and muscular engine performance, but a snug back seat and small trunk hold it back.

Pros & Cons

  • Handsome and quiet interior
  • Intuitive tech features
  • Powerful yet efficient engines
  • Smooth ride
  • Snug rear-seat headroom
  • Small trunk space

Rankings & Research

The 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class's #4 ranking is based on its score within the Luxury Large Cars category. Currently the Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class has a score of 7.8 out of 10, which is based on our evaluation of 14 pieces of research and data elements using various sources.

7.8

Overall

Scorecard

Critics' Rating: 8.6
Performance: 8.1
Interior: 7.2
Safety:
This model has never been fully tested for safety. Its overall score is being calculated without safety.
N/A
Reliability:
J.D. Power Ratings Logo

Thinking of leasing a Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class?

The U.S. News Best Price Program saves users an average of $3,206 off the MSRP, and a lower price equals lower monthly lease payments. That means you could see a savings of $90 a month on a 36-month lease.

 Is the Mercedes-Benz CLS a Good Car?

Yes, the 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLS is a good luxury large car. The coupelike CLS has an elegant interior with top-notch materials, comfy seats, and lots of user-friendly features. It’s smooth and relaxing to drive, even on rough pavement, and it’s available with powerful yet fuel-efficient turbocharged engines. Better still, the CLS packs an array of advanced safety features. If you want a luxe and energetic sedan with styling that stands out from the crowd, the Mercedes CLS can certainly scratch that itch.

It isn’t without its drawbacks, though. The back seat is slim on headroom, and despite the car’s large proportions, the trunk is quite small.

Should I Buy the Mercedes-Benz CLS?

You should definitely consider the CLS, but you may want to check out more spacious rivals. The Audi A7 is similarly styled and priced, and its hatchback cargo area offers a lot more space. The Genesis G90 also hits this price point with roomier rear seats and a longer list of standard features.

Compare the CLS, A7, and G90 »

Should I Buy a New or Used Mercedes-Benz CLS?

Mercedes-Benz redesigned the CLS-Class for the 2019 model year, and the sedan carries over into 2020 with no major changes. You can save thousands of dollars by shopping for a 2019 CLS while still finding the same features, performance, and styling.

You could save even more by shopping for a previous-generation CLS, which covers the 2012 to 2018 model years, though you’ll have to make a few concessions. These models only seat four, whereas the newer CLS has five seats. The interior styling and infotainment systems are more dated, and the engines aren’t as fuel-efficient. These models have twin-turbo V8s, while the newer CLS offers a pair of punchy six-cylinder engines.

If you're considering an older model, be sure to read our 2016 CLS, 2017 CLS, and 2018 CLS reviews to help make your decision. Also, check out our Used Car Deals page to learn about savings and discounts you can find on used vehicles.

Compare the 2018, 2019, and 2020 CLS »

We Did the Research for You: 12 Reviews Analyzed

We’ve analyzed 12 Mercedes-Benz CLS reviews, as well as hard data points like reliability ratings and fuel economy estimates, to help you make the best car-buying decision possible.

This 2020 CLS-Class review incorporates applicable research for all models in this generation, which launched for 2019.

Why You Can Trust Us

U.S. News Best Cars has been ranking and reviewing vehicles since 2007, and our team has decades of experience in the auto industry. Though we’re passionate about cars, we’re even more committed to providing helpful consumer advice. To maintain objectivity, we don’t accept expensive gifts or trips from car companies.

How Much Does the Mercedes-Benz CLS Cost?

The 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLS 450 starts at $69,950. That’s one of the highest starting prices in the luxury large car class. The price climbs to $81,200 for the high-performance AMG CLS 53 model, though options can push it past $100,000.

If you want a more affordable Mercedes-Benz sedan, consider the $32,500 Mercedes A-Class or the $41,400 Mercedes C-Class. There’s also the $36,650 Mercedes CLA, which mirrors the CLS’ four-door coupe styling.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Mercedes-Benz dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Mercedes-Benz deals page.

Mercedes-Benz CLS Versus the Competition

Which Is Better: Mercedes-Benz CLS or Mercedes-Benz E-Class?

The Mercedes E-Class has a lot in common with its CLS sibling, from its chassis and active safety features to its infotainment system. Overall, these are both refined and luxurious high-speed cruisers. For most shoppers though, the E-Class is a better starting point. The E-Class is offered in a wider array of body styles, including sedan, wagon, coupe, and convertible models. There are also more engine options to choose from. E-Class pricing starts at $54,050, which is about $16,000 less than the entry-level CLS.

Which Is Better: Mercedes-Benz CLS or Mercedes-Benz S-Class?

The CLS is an impressive car, but the Mercedes S-Class is on another level. The S-Class tops the CLS with its higher-end materials, grandiose cabin styling, and muscular engine lineup. You’ll find twin-turbocharged V6, V8, and V12 options to choose from. The S-Class also comes standard with more safety and convenience features than the CLS, and it’s available in sedan, coupe, and convertible body styles. That said, the S-Class is considerably more expensive than the CLS. Prices start at $94,250, and they can exceed $200,000 for the top-of-the-line Mercedes-Maybach variants.

Both cars reward drivers with composed handling, a comfortable ride, and the latest infotainment features, so it really comes down to whether the S-Class upgrades are worth the steep price. Both are fine options.

Compare the CLS, E-Class, and S-Class »

CLS Interior

How Many People Does the CLS Seat?

The Mercedes-Benz CLS is a four-door sedan with five seats. The front seats are comfortable and nicely contoured, providing excellent hip-hugging support for long road trips. The driving position is highly adjustable, and the cabin offers good visibility in all directions.

In back, the outboard rear seats have decent legroom for adults, but rear headroom is slim because of the car’s cascading roofline. The rear middle seat is a nice addition - earlier CLS models didn’t have one - but this cramped seat is best reserved for kids.

The CLS comes standard with leather upholstery and heated front seats. Available upgrades include ventilated and massaging front seats, heated front armrests, a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, and a rear sunshade.

CLS and Child Car Seats

The CLS has two complete sets of LATCH connectors for the rear outboard seats.

CLS Interior Quality

The Mercedes-Benz CLS has a stunning interior that mixes modern aesthetics and minimalism with the brand’s more traditional styling. The materials are top-notch, from the rich leather and wood accents, to the crisp aluminum trim. The cabin is also very quiet. There’s a minimum of road or wind noise at speed, apart from a nice burble from the exhaust pipes.

CLS Cargo Space

The CLS has 11.9 cubic feet of trunk space. That’s enough for a weekend’s worth of luggage or a few shopping bags, but not much more. Most luxury large cars have bigger trunks. That said, the rear seats can fold to fit longer items.

CLS Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

The Mercedes-Benz CLS comes well-equipped with a 12.3-inch infotainment screen, navigation, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth, two USB ports, HD Radio, and dual-zone automatic climate control. The screen flows seamlessly into the gauge cluster, and it runs the latest version of Mercedes’ COMAND infotainment system. You can control the system using a touch pad and knob on the center console, buttons on the dashboard, or toggles on the steering wheel. The screen responds quickly to inputs, and its menus are mostly intuitive. Its crisp graphics are impressive as well.

Available features include a fully digital gauge cluster, wireless device charging, satellite radio, 13- and 23-speaker Burmester sound systems, an additional USB port, and air fragrance and purification systems.

Read more about interior »

CLS Performance

CLS Engine: Smooth Operator

The Mercedes CLS 450 is equipped with a 362-horsepower 3.0-liter turbocharged straight-six engine. A nine-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive are standard. All-wheel drive is optional. The sportier AMG CLS 53 model has an upgraded version of this engine with 429 horsepower, plus standard all-wheel drive.

Both engines hustle the CLS up to speed smoothly and confidently. Zero to 60 mph takes around five seconds for the CLS 450 and about 4.5 seconds for the CLS 53. The automatic transmission fires off quick and seamless gear changes, on its own and when operated by the steering wheel shift paddles. Throttle response is snappy and linear as well.

A big part of this winning recipe is Mercedes’ clever 48-volt mild-hybrid system, known as EQ Boost. This setup places an electric motor - or integrated starter generator - in between the engine and transmission. It operates the engine’s stop-start feature, it can recoup energy when the car is decelerating, and it can supply an extra boost of torque at low speeds before the turbocharger fully kicks in. This sounds complicated, and it is, but it all functions harmoniously behind the scenes.

CLS Gas Mileage: Overachieving

The Mercedes CLS gets excellent fuel economy for a luxury large car. The CLS 450 earns an EPA-rated 24 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway. These ratings drop by one point with all-wheel drive. The AMG CLS 53 gets 21 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway.

CLS Ride and Handling: Relaxed but Focused

The CLS excels at high-speed cruising. Its adaptive suspension soaks up bumps and dips in the road comfortably, making long road trips serene and relaxing. The CLS’ ride is even softer when paired with the optional air suspension. The CLS complements these refined driving dynamics with responsive steering and minimal body lean around tight turns. Its large brakes provide strong and smooth stopping power as well.

Read more about performance »

CLS Reliability

Is the Mercedes-Benz CLS Reliable?

The 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLS has a slightly above-average predicted reliability rating of 3.5 out of five from J.D. Power.

Mercedes-Benz CLS Warranty

Mercedes-Benz covers the CLS with a four-year/50,000-mile warranty.

Read more about reliability »

CLS Safety

CLS Crash Test Results

Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has crash tested the 2020 CLS. This is common among luxury vehicles.

CLS Safety Features

The 2020 CLS comes standard with a rearview camera, blind spot monitoring, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, and driver drowsiness monitoring.

Available features include rear cross traffic alert, hands-free parallel park assist, a surround-view parking camera system, traffic sign recognition, and adaptive pivoting headlights with automatic high beams. A head-up display, pedestrian detection, automated lane changing, lane keep assist, and stop-and-go adaptive cruise control with jam assist are also available.

Read more about safety »

CLS Dimensions and Weight

The Mercedes-Benz CLS is 16.4 to 16.6 feet long, depending on trim level. At the time of writing, Mercedes has not disclosed the curb weight of any CLS models.

Where Is the 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLS Built?

Mercedes builds the 2020 CLS in Germany.

Which Mercedes-Benz CLS Model Is Right for Me?

The 2020 Mercedes CLS is offered in two trim levels: CLS 450 and CLS 53. The entry-level CLS 450 model is the better option. It offers all the performance and features that you could want in a luxury large car but at a price that’s about $10,000 less than the CLS 53.

Mercedes-Benz CLS 450

The base model CLS 450 has a starting price of $69,950. It’s equipped with a 362-horsepower six-cylinder engine, a nine-speed automatic transmission, and rear-wheel drive. Upgrading to the 4Matic all-wheel-drive system costs $2,500.

Standard tech and convenience features include a 12.3-inch infotainment screen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, navigation, Bluetooth, two USB ports, HD Radio, keyless entry, push-button start, remote start, a hands-free power trunk lid, and dual-zone automatic climate control. Other standard items include leather upholstery, heated front seats, a sunroof, LED headlights and taillights, rain-sensing windshield wipers, an adaptive suspension, and 19-inch alloy wheels.

Standard driver assistance features include a rearview camera, blind spot monitoring, forward collision warning with brake assist, and driver drowsiness monitoring.

A number of packages are available. The $1,290 Parking Assist package adds a surround-view parking camera system and hands-free park assist. The $2,250 Driving Assistance package has pedestrian detection, traffic sign recognition, lane keep assist, automated lane changing, and stop-and-go adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist. The $900 Exterior Lighting package includes adaptive headlights with automatic high beams. Lastly, the $2,300 Premium package adds a digital gauge cluster, wireless device charging, satellite radio, and a 13-speaker stereo.

Individual options include a head-up display, ventilated and massaging front seats, a heated steering wheel, tri-zone automatic climate control, an air fragrance and purification system, a rear sunshade, power soft-closing doors, a 23-speaker Burmester sound system, an adaptive air suspension, and 20-inch wheels. These items range in price from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.

Mercedes-AMG CLS 53

The high-performance CLS 53 has a starting MSRP of $81,200. It boasts an upgraded version of the CLS 450’s six-cylinder engine with 429 horsepower, plus standard all-wheel drive. This trim adds an air suspension, larger brakes, an AMG exhaust, a digital gauge cluster, satellite radio, a 13-speaker stereo, wireless device charging, a third USB port, and active parking assist.

Most options carry over, though a few features are exclusive to this trim level, like heated rear seats and AMG Track Pace, which is a data recorder for vehicle telemetry.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Mercedes-Benz dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Mercedes-Benz deals page.

See 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLS specs and trims »

The Final Call

The 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLS checks almost every box on the luxury large car shopping list. It’s sleek and stylish, inside and out. The interior is well-built and loaded with tech and safety features. The CLS rewards drivers with comfortable and composed handling, as well as zesty engine performance. As long as you aren’t looking for expansive rear-seating space, there’s a lot to like about the CLS.

Don’t just take our word for it. Check out comments from some of the reviews that drive our rankings and analysis.

  • "The CLS450 is technically a base model, but the term seems inadequate for a car that's so sumptuously equipped. We imagine that most shoppers will be happy with what the CLS450 has onboard." -- Car and Driver
  • "Thumbs-up. The CLS, gen III, is a testament to the strength of the original concept. It's a good, solid, contemporary Mercedes-Benz with an extra dose of flash, and there's nothing wrong with that." -- Autoweek (2019)
  • "Although not a clear knockout, the CLS does remain an easy pour for those who enjoy a glass of Mercedes-Benz sensibilities with robust hints of sportiness and heavy notes of technology. While I can do without the fanciful 'wellness' functions, a modernized throwback of the engine makes for an enjoyable drive. Like some things, the CLS just gets better with age." -- New York Daily News (2019) 
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2020 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class

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