2018 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class

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MSRP: $75,150 - 108,900

2018 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class Review

The 2018 Mercedes-Benz CLS finishes in the middle of our luxury large car rankings. It offers excellent performance for a large car and has a nice, but not class-leading, interior.




Critics' Rating: 8.4
Performance: 8.8
Interior: 7.9
Safety: N/A
J.D. Power Ratings Logo

Pros & Cons

  • Powerful engines
  • Adept handling
  • Supportive front seats
  • Cramped rear seats
  • Frustrating infotainment system
  • Undersized trunk

Is the Mercedes-Benz CLS a Good Car?

Yes, the Mercedes-Benz CLS is a good car. Its engines deliver outstanding power, it accelerates quickly, and it handles well despite its size. It's less fuel-efficient than most cars in the class, but it doesn't lag too far behind many rivals, either. Inside, the CLS looks good though slightly outdated, and it's well-built. It also has terrific front seats and lots of tech features. However, its trunk is undersized, the infotainment system can be frustrating, and the rear seats are smaller than those in some competitors.

Should I Buy the Mercedes-Benz CLS?

The CLS is a great car, and there are several reasons to like it. However, it also has a high price tag and doesn't really stand out when compared to the class at large. So for most people, the CLS probably isn't the best choice. If you like the CLS, you should also consider cars like the Audi A7 and Porsche Panamera.

Compare the CLS, A7, and Panamera »

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

The 2018 CLS is part of a generation that began with the 2012 model year. There have been updates over the years but nothing drastic. For example, the big change for 2018 is the elimination of the six-cylinder CLS 400, which was the base trim in prior model years. For 2017, Mercedes made a nine-speed automatic transmission standard in the CLS, replacing the seven-speed transmission found in older models.

Small changes like these mean you can likely save significant cash by getting an older CLS without missing out on important features or significant updates. If you're interested in a used model, be sure to visit our overviews of the 2016 Mercedes-Benz CLS and 2017 Mercedes-Benz CLS. Also, check out our Used Car Deals page to learn about savings and discounts on used vehicles.

Compare the 2016, 2017, and 2018 CLS »

We Did the Research for You: 36 Pieces of Data 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 review uses applicable research and data from all models in the current CLS generation, which includes the 2012 through 2018 model years.

Why You Can Trust Us

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.

How Much Does the Mercedes-Benz CLS Cost?

The CLS 550 – the base trim – has a starting price of around $75,000. That's not the highest base price in the class, but it's considerably higher than many competitors' starting prices – by more than $30,000 in some cases. The high-performance AMG CLS 63 S starts at just under $109,000. This, too, is much higher than the price of many rivals' top trims.

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 Audi A7?

The Audi A7 is an annual threat to top our luxury large car rankings because it's a well-rounded vehicle with few flaws. The A7 has one of the nicest interiors in the class, and it provides more cargo space and roomier rear seats than the CLS. The A7 also has a more user-friendly infotainment system than the CLS. Both cars feature powerful engines, and offer smooth rides and agile handling. A high-performance model is available for both as well. However, since Mercedes dropped the CLS' base six-cylinder trim for 2018, the base six-cylinder A7 is much more fuel-efficient than any CLS offering, and the Audi includes standard all-wheel drive. Both are good cars, but the Audi offers more to like than the Mercedes, and it costs less, making this an easy choice.

Which Is Better: Mercedes-Benz CLS or Porsche Panamera?

The Porsche Panamera is a solid alternative to the CLS. The Porsche's starting price is about $10,000 higher, though, and for its top trims, the Panamera can approach $200,000. For that money, you'll get arguably the best car on the road. The Panamera has a beautiful interior with two rows of spacious seats, a glut of features, and more than 47 cubic feet of cargo space. Like the CLS, the Panamera offers multiple powerful engines, but the Porsche also offers a plug-in hybrid powertrain. The Porsche gets better fuel economy, and it delivers sports-car-worthy handling. The Panamera is a better car than the CLS, but only you can decide whether it's worth the added cost.

Compare the CLS, A7, and Panamera »

CLS Interior

How Many People Does the CLS Seat?

The Mercedes CLS seats four people – one fewer than many class rivals seat. The spacious, supportive front seats are a great place to spend time. Forward visibility is good for drivers, though seeing out the back is more of a challenge. The rear seats are a different story. They don't provide much legroom, and the sloping roofline creates cramped headroom.

CLS and Car Seats

The CLS has two complete LATCH child-seat connections in its back seat. The lower anchors are behind plastic covers at the base of the seat. The top tether anchors are located behind the rear headrests, so to use them you'll have to lift the headrest and put the strap between the two bars.

CLS Interior Quality

Inside, the CLS looks a hair behind the competition in terms of design, but it lacks nothing in terms of quality. There are premium soft-touch materials throughout, and the cabin is quiet and comfortable.

CLS Cargo Space

Many competitors have larger trunks than this Mercedes' 11-cubic-foot offering. Still, that's enough room to stow your haul after a shopping trip or for a weekend's worth of luggage. You can also get split-folding rear seats, which let you haul some larger items.

CLS Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

Standard features in the CLS include a sunroof, a 14-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, satellite radio, Bluetooth, a USB port, and the COMAND infotainment system with an 8-inch display, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. Available features include a 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen stereo and a Wi-Fi hot spot.

COMAND isn't the most user-friendly infotainment system in the class. It has a controller knob that makes it tough to adjust some settings, especially because you sometimes have to navigate multiple menus to change things. There's no touch screen, either, so you're stuck with the knob. On the plus side, the display screen is easy to see, and COMAND includes connectivity options like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

For more information, read What Is Apple CarPlay? and What Is Android Auto? Then, see the Best Cars With Apple CarPlay and Best Cars With Android Auto.

Read more about interior »

CLS Performance

CLS Engine: Horsepower Aplenty

With both CLS models, you get loads of horsepower. The CLS 550 has a 402-horsepower V8 engine, while the high-performance AMG CLS 63 S has a 577-horsepower V8. Both engines provide dynamic acceleration and plenty of high-end power, with the AMG model going from zero to 60 mph in just 3.5 seconds.

CLS Gas Mileage: Competitive, but Not Great

The CLS 550 gets 18 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway. Those numbers are a little low for the class. Rivals like the Audi A7 and Porsche Panamera offer more-efficient base trims that could save you $200 to $300 per year in fuel costs.

CLS Ride and Handling: Plenty to Like

This is no sports car, but you might think of it as a sports sedan. The CLS handles turns confidently and with little body lean, making it engaging to drive. Its ride is on the firm side, but most people won't have reason to complain, as road imperfections cause little disturbance.

Read more about performance »

CLS Reliability

Is the Mercedes-Benz CLS Reliable?

The 2018 CLS receives a predicted reliability rating of 3.5 out of five from J.D. Power. That's a slightly above-average rating compared with all new cars but about average for the luxury large car class.

Mercedes-Benz CLS Warranty

Mercedes backs the CLS with a four-year/50,000-mile warranty, which is common for the class. You'll get similar coverage with many luxury rivals.

Read more about reliability »

CLS Safety

CLS Crash Test Results

Neither the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety nor the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has crash tested the 2018 Mercedes-Benz CLS.

CLS Safety Features

Standard active safety features include a rearview camera, collision prevention with automatic braking, driver drowsiness monitoring, and Mercedes' Pre-Safe, which automatically closes the windows and sunroof and tightens seat belts when it detects an impending collision.

Available features include adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, lane keep assist, cross traffic alert, pedestrian recognition, front and rear parking sensors, parallel park assist, Pre-Safe Plus, and a surround-view camera system.

Read more about safety »

Which Mercedes-Benz CLS Model Is Right for Me?

Mercedes dropped the CLS 400 trim from the lineup for the 2018 model year, so there are now only two trim options: the CLS 550 and the high-performance AMG CLS 63 S. The main difference between the two trims is that the AMG model has an engine with 175 more horsepower. The base 550 still puts out 402 horses, however, and the two trims have nearly identical features lists. With that in mind, the CLS 550 makes more sense if you can live without the added power, especially since it's roughly $30,000 less expensive.

Mercedes-Benz CLS 550

The Mercedes-Benz CLS 550 has a base price of $75,150. It features a 402-horsepower V8 engine, a nine-speed automatic transmission, and rear-wheel drive. Standard features include a sunroof, a 14-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, satellite radio, Bluetooth, a USB port, a rearview camera, collision prevention with automatic braking, driver drowsiness monitoring, and the COMAND infotainment system with an 8-inch display, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto.

You can add all-wheel drive for $2,500. Many other features are available individually or as part of option packages. These include a heated steering wheel, ventilated front seats, a massaging driver's seat, a Bang & Olufsen audio system, blind spot monitoring, lane keep assist, a surround-view camera, and more. Prices for these items range from just a few hundred dollars to more than a few thousand.

Mercedes-Benz AMG CLS 63 S

The AMG CLS 63 S starts at $108,900. It features a 577-horsepower V8, a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, and all-wheel drive. Its standard and available features lists closely resemble the CLS 550's offerings.

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 2018 Mercedes-Benz CLS specs and trims »

The Final Call

The 2018 Mercedes-Benz CLS is a great car that's worthy of the Mercedes badge. It's not perfect, however, and a few class rivals finish higher in our luxury large car rankings. The CLS is also one of the priciest cars in the class, and some competitors cost tens of thousands of dollars less, so it's certainly possible to find a luxury car that's a better value.

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

  • Looking for a luxury sedan that can stand out in a crowd? The 2017 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class, with its distinctive styling and thrilling assortment of powerful engines, is bound to satisfy. But some other rival sedans boast fresher designs and fewer compromises." -- Edmunds (2017)
  • The 2017 Mercedes-Benz CLS 4-door coupe is the perfect performance car for people who only occasionally need the use of the back seat. The CLS's stunning exterior makes a statement wherever it goes, and its series of potent engine choices all but ensure it will get there quickly." -- Kelley Blue Book (2017)
  • "Living up to its striking exterior styling, the CLS is as much a driver's car as it is a luxury tourer." -- Autotrader (2014)
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