$69,200 - $79,900

2019 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2019 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class was new.


Performance: 7.9

The redesigned 2019 Mercedes-Benz CLS rides smoothly and makes a great cruising vehicle. It lacks the athleticism of some other luxury large cars, but it handles well and gets ample power from either of its turbocharged six-cylinder engines.

  • "The engine is easy to like. … Mercedes' under-square 3.0 makes revs in a fashion only straight-sixes can manage. Its torque flows deep and steady, thanks to a big, high-boost turbo and the electrically operated compressor filling the numb spots, and there's plenty of bottom end." -- Autoweek
  • "The 362-horsepower turbocharged inline-six engine was responsive with no lags or delay, allowing us to hold our own in the eat-or-be-eaten world of NYC commuters. Some of that responsiveness is due to the integrated starter/generator, which is an electric motor tucked between the engine and its nine-speed automatic transmission. While not a full hybrid, the electric motor adds up to 21 hp and up to 181 lb-ft of torque to the 3.0-liter's 369 lb-ft. The electric assist comes just off the throttle to give the turbo time to build boost, improving acceleration. And when engine stop-start is enabled, the CLS can coast short distances without restarting the gas engine." -- Edmunds
  • "Driving the CLS 450 4MATIC in its Sport+ drive setting is what I imagine a cool early morning jog is like for a hardened marathon runner-a comfortable glide with more than enough power, that occasionally taps into a surge just for the hell of it. On the freshly dampened roads of New Jersey, any potential for playful or unplanned loss of traction is ironed out by the all-wheel drive system, making for a confident, casual driving experience that should perfectly match any expectations someone would have for an E-Class seeking even more attention." -- Jalopnik

Acceleration and Power

The CLS 450 features a turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine that puts out 362 horsepower. It also has an EQ Boost mild hybrid function that activates automatically and can add 21 horsepower (and 184 pound-feet of torque) over short periods. This engine delivers power in a smooth, linear fashion and never feels weak. The EQ Boost is a pleasant addition, making the engine feel livelier.

The performance-tuned Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 features a turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder that produces 429 horsepower. It comes with the same EQ Boost function as the base engine. This is the quicker of the two CLS models, and Mercedes claims the AMG CLS 53 will go from zero to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds. Still, it doesn't deliver the mind-numbing acceleration of some performance-oriented large sedans.

Both engines are paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission. You can also select from five driving modes (Eco, Comfort, Sport, Sport Plus, and Manual) that change driving dynamics to provide better fuel efficiency or better performance.

According to EPA estimates, the CLS gets 24 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway with its base engine. Those are some of the best ratings in the class. The AMG model's ratings are a few mpg worse: 21 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway.

  • "Anyway, the CLS 450 4MATIC is a pleasant enough car, though its slower, less-communicative steering becomes immediately apparent. Its 3.0-liter inline-six is rated at a healthy 367 horsepower, plus the additional short bursts of 22 hp from the EQ Boost 48-volt system. The engine isn't that much less spirited than the AMG 53's, but it's not the sort of four-door coupe that begs you to give it a workout through the esses." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "Power is suggestive but not alarming, and there's not quite an engaging driving experience, but it does what you want, feels good and leaves you feeling embarrassingly smug. When putting it down, the power comes on directly and excitedly, and you're pushed satisfyingly deep into your pored-leather seatback. It's perfect for those conflicted between giving in to their impatience and treating themselves to a relaxing drive. To think Mercedes got 429 hp out of this engine for the AMG CLS 53 is a lovely thought." -- Jalopnik
  • "Powertrain? Nailed it. We loved both iterations of this inline-six and hope to see it in more vehicles soon. The EQ Boost system takes an already solid format and makes it feel advanced. Routing power through a smooth, no-fuss nine-speed automatic with paddle shifter seems like the ideal, well-rounded choice for the CLS." -- Autoblog

Handling and Braking

The rear-wheel-drive CLS handles with composure, but it lacks the agility of some rivals. It delivers an outstanding ride, particularly with the available air suspension. This Mercedes feels easy to drive and makes a supremely good cruising vehicle.

You can opt for an adaptive suspension that lets you choose between three suspension settings (Comfort, Sport, and Sport Plus) that tailor the ride for smoothness or sportiness. An air suspension and Mercedes' 4Matic all-wheel drive are also available.

  • "It's not a car you take to the track and beat to hell. It's a car for eating up miles quickly, comfortably, not to mention stylishly. As such, yeah, Mercedes nailed it." -- Autoblog
  • "On the road, the CLS450 feels composed, its standard non-air suspension soaking up road inconsistencies and returning a smooth ride that has the makings of a great road-trip machine. While its sub-5-second scoot is sporty enough, it doesn't feel as nimble as the AMG CLS53, thanks to number steering." -- CNET
  • "Smooth best describes the shifting, steering, and braking. The brakes never grab, and they respond as if they are reading the driver's mind – especially in a groove on a winding road with nonstop twists and switchbacks, all of which the brakes handle with a sublime effortlessness." -- Motor Trend

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