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2021 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class Review

The 2021 Mercedes-Benz CLS finishes in the middle of our luxury large car rankings. It's powerful and opulent, but it isn't as spacious as some of its rivals.

Pros & Cons

  • Posh cabin
  • Powerful engines
  • Comfortable ride
  • User-friendly tech features
  • Limited rear-seat space for taller passengers
  • Small trunk

New for 2021

  • MBUX infotainment system replaces COMAND
  • 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster now standard

Rankings & Research

The 2021 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 7.7 out of 10, which is based on our evaluation of 17 pieces of research and data elements using various sources.

7.7

Overall

Scorecard

Critics' Rating: 8.3
Performance: 8.2
Interior: 7.1
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?

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Is the Mercedes-Benz CLS a Good Car?

Yes, the Mercedes-Benz CLS is a good car. It offers two powerful turbocharged engines, gets good gas mileage, and rides smoothly. The CLS has a richly appointed interior with plush front seats and plenty of technology. However, its rear seats and trunk are undersized for the class.

Why You Can Trust Us: 17 Reviews Analyzed

Our car reviews include everything you need to know before heading to the dealership. We combine the opinions of the automotive press with quantifiable data like crash test results and reliability ratings to form a complete picture of every vehicle we rank.

This 2021 CLS review incorporates applicable research for all models in this generation, which launched for 2019.

U.S. News Best Cars has been ranking vehicles since 2007, and our team has more than 75 years of combined experience in the automotive industry. Our car reviews are objective. To keep them that way, our editorial staff doesn’t accept expensive gifts or trips from automakers, and a third party handles all the advertising on our site.

Should I Buy the Mercedes-Benz CLS?

The CLS is a great car, but it may not be the right buying choice for every luxury large car shopper. It isn't quite as well-rounded as some competitors, and it has one of the highest starting prices in the class. Still, there are those who would argue that this Mercedes is worth the money, even if it isn't necessarily the best value.

Find a 2021 Mercedes-Benz CLS for sale near you »

2020 vs. 2021 Mercedes-Benz CLS: What's the Difference?

The 2021 Mercedes-Benz CLS doesn't see a lot of changes from the 2020 model, but a couple of differences are noteworthy. A 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster now comes standard, and the Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) infotainment system replaces the COMAND interface.

Compare the 2020 and 2021 CLS »

Here are the key changes for the Mercedes-Benz CLS over the last few years:

  • 2017: nine-speed automatic transmission became standard in CLS 400 and CLS 550
  • 2018: rearview camera added to standard features list; CLS 400 trim discontinued
  • 2019: fully redesigned with updated trim lineup, new engines, one extra seat (now five, up from four), and more standard features
  • 2020: no notable changes
  • 2021: MBUX infotainment system replaces COMAND and 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster now standard

If you're considering an older model, be sure to read our 2018 CLS, 2019 CLS, and 2020 CLS reviews to help make your decision. Also, check out our Best New Car Deals and Best New Car Lease Deals pages to learn about savings and discounts you can find on new vehicles.

How Much Does the Mercedes-Benz CLS Cost?

The CLS 450 starts at $70,300. That's one of the highest starting prices in the class. The AMG CLS 53 is the performance-oriented CLS trim, and it starts at $81,550. That's higher than a lot of rivals' top-trim price tags, though it's still well below the most expensive models in the class, which can exceed $100,000.

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

Mercedes-Benz CLS vs. Mercedes-Benz E-Class

The Mercedes-Benz E-Class is a luxury midsize car that has a lot in common with its CLS sibling. Both are refined and luxurious high-speed cruisers, and they have similar interior quality and features lists. For most shoppers though, the E-Class is a better starting point. It's offered in a wider array of body styles – including sedan, wagon, coupe, and convertible models – it has more engine options to choose from, and it costs much less.

Compare the CLS and E-Class »

Mercedes-Benz CLS vs. Mercedes-Benz S-Class

The Mercedes-Benz S-Class, a super luxury car, is the crown jewel of the Mercedes lineup. The S-Class bests the CLS with its higher-end materials, grandiose cabin styling, and muscular engine lineup. The S-Class also comes with more standard safety and convenience features than the CLS. That said, the S-Class is considerably more expensive than the CLS.

Compare the CLS and S-Class »

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

CLS Interior: Well-Crafted, but Not the Roomiest

CLS Cargo Space

Most class rivals have a larger trunk than this Mercedes, which gives you just 11.9 cubic feet of cargo space. That's enough room for about eight or nine shopping bags.

How Many People Does the CLS Seat?

This Mercedes seats five people. The front seats are plush, supportive, and easy to adjust. Outward visibility is good, and there’s ample head- and legroom, even for taller occupants. The rear seats are similarly comfortable and nicely padded, though headroom is slim for adults. The rear middle seat has minimal space, so it’s best reserved for children or left empty.

CLS and Child Car Seats

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

CLS Interior Quality

Inside, the CLS looks much the way you probably expect. It's modern and stylish, with premium materials covering almost every square inch of the cabin.

CLS Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

The MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) infotainment system features an intuitive interface that doesn't take a lot of practice to master. The controls are generally user-friendly, and the display is easy to see and reach from the driver's seat.

  • Standard infotainment features: a 12.3-inch touch screen, a touchpad controller, navigation, HD Radio, Bluetooth, USB ports, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto
  • Available infotainment features: wireless device charging, satellite radio, the MBUX Interior Assistant, a Wi-Fi hot spot, and 13- and 23-speaker Burmester audio systems
  • Additional standard features: a moonroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, remote start, and a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster

For more information, read What Is Apple CarPlay? and What Is Android Auto?

Read more about interior »

CLS Performance: Powerful and Smooth

CLS Engine

The CLS 450 features a 362-horsepower turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine. The AMG CLS 53 has an upgraded version of this engine with 429 horsepower. Both models are paired with a responsive nine-speed automatic transmission and have a mild-hybrid system (EQ Boost) that provides extra torque at low speeds, helping the engine feel livelier while also conserving fuel.

Regardless of engine choice, the CLS accelerates quickly and smoothly, and it can confidently pass slower vehicles on the highway. The CLS 450 sprints from zero to 60 mph in around five seconds. The CLS 53 shaves a little more than a half-second off that time.

CLS Gas Mileage

With rear-wheel drive, the CLS 450 gets 23 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway, which are better ratings than most rivals get. Opt for all-wheel drive, and ratings drop by about 1 mpg. The AMG model gets 21 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway.

CLS Ride and Handling

The Mercedes CLS has well-rounded driving dynamics. It glides over rough road surfaces without jostling occupants, and it remains balanced through turns, making for a car that’s easy and relaxing for daily driving.

Read more about performance »

CLS Reliability

Is the Mercedes-Benz CLS Reliable?

The 2021 Mercedes-Benz CLS has a slightly above-average predicted reliability rating of 3.5 out of five.

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 2021 CLS. This is common for high-end luxury vehicles.

CLS Safety Features

Standard advanced safety features:

  • Rearview camera
  • Driver drowsiness monitoring
  • Forward collision warning
  • Automatic emergency braking
  • Mercedes' Pre-Safe (rolls up windows and tightens seat belts if sensors detect an impending collision)
  • Car-to-X communication (lets equipped vehicles “talk” to each other to exchange information about traffic or obstacles on the road)
  • Crosswind assist
  • Vehicle exit assist (alerts you so you don't open the door into approaching traffic)
  • Blind spot monitoring

Available advanced safety features:

  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Low-speed traffic jam assist
  • Pre-Safe Plus (like standard Pre-Safe but for rearward collisions)
  • Pre-Safe Impulse Side (like standard Pre-Safe but for side impacts)
  • Pedestrian detection
  • Lane keep assist
  • Lane change assist
  • Evasive steering assist
  • Head-up display
  • Traffic sign recognition
  • Parallel and perpendicular park assist
  • Front and rear cross traffic alert
  • Surround-view parking camera system

Read more about safety »

CLS Dimensions and Weight

The Mercedes-Benz CLS is 16.4 to 16.6 feet long, and its curb weight ranges from 4,134 to 4,456 pounds.

Where Is the 2021 Mercedes-Benz CLS Built?

Mercedes-Benz builds the 2021 CLS in Germany.

Which Mercedes-Benz CLS Model Is Right for Me?

The 2021 Mercedes-Benz CLS comes in two trims: CLS 450 and AMG CLS 53. Most buyers should stick with the CLS 450. It offers almost all of the same features as the more expensive AMG trim, with the main difference between the two models being the powertrain. Since the 450 is plenty capable, there's not much reason to shell out an extra 10 grand for the AMG 53.

Mercedes-Benz CLS 450

The CLS 450 carries a base price of $70,300. It comes with a 362-horsepower turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine, a nine-speed automatic transmission, and rear-wheel drive. Upgrading to Mercedes' 4Matic all-wheel-drive system costs $2,500.

Standard features include leather upholstery, heated front seats, a moonroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, remote start, a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster, a 12.3-inch touch screen, a touchpad controller, navigation, Bluetooth, USB ports, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto.

Standard driver assistance features include driver drowsiness monitoring, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, Mercedes' Pre-Safe, Car-to-X communication, crosswind assist, vehicle exit assist, and blind spot monitoring.

The Warmth & Comfort package ($1,050) adds heated front seats and a heated steering wheel. The Premium package ($2,300) adds rear cross traffic alert, a surround-view parking camera system, parallel and perpendicular assist, satellite radio, and a 13-speaker Burmester audio system.

You can also add a number of features individually, including ventilated front seats, massaging front seats, a head-up display, wireless device charging, and the MBUX Interior Assistant.

Mercedes-AMG CLS 53

The AMG CLS 53 is the performance-oriented CLS trim, and it sports a starting MSRP of $81,550. This model comes with a 429-horsepower turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine and 4Matic all-wheel drive. On top of the CLS 450's features, the CLS 53 comes with an air suspension, larger brakes, an AMG exhaust, satellite radio, a 13-speaker stereo, wireless device charging, a surround-view parking camera system, parallel and perpendicular assist, and rear cross traffic alert.

Anything that you can get in the CLS 450, you can also get in the AMG model. However, the AMG CLS 53 also offers a few additional features, such as heated rear seats, tri-zone automatic climate control, and a 23-speaker Burmester audio system.

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 2021 Mercedes-Benz CLS specs and trims »

The Final Call

The 2021 Mercedes-Benz CLS brings a lot to the table and takes almost nothing off of it. It delivers impressive performance for a luxury large car and has the first-rate interior you want in a high-end sedan. It isn't quite as spacious as some rivals, which is enough to knock it into the middle of the rankings in a very competitive class. Don't let that fool you, though. This car is worth a look.

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

  • "The 2021 Mercedes-Benz CLS is a niche car by design. It forgoes some of the practicality of a traditional midsize luxury sedan like the E-Class or BMW 5 Series and the usefulness of a sportback like the similarly prices (sic) Audi A7. Yet its distinctive and beautiful style is one of the CLS's most appealing traits." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "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 (2020)
  • "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)
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2021 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class

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