The 2019 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class may carry over its predecessors’ trademark style, but it’s what’s underhood that makes it really stand out. For the first time, the CLS-Class is a hybrid (though a mild one) tuned both for performance and efficiency.
The CLS is redesigned this year, with a new 48-volt hybrid system, revised styling, a beautiful and high-tech cabin that now seats five, and all the latest safety features. More controlled handling joins the traditional exemplary ride quality. We rate the CLS a 7.0 based on these strengths. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Available as the CLS 450, with either standard rear- or optional all-wheel drive, and AMG 53, the sedan features a low, coupe-like roofline that stands apart from the comparatively workaday E-Class. Like the E, the CLS offers seating for five, but back seat passengers will still want to duck their heads as they enter.
Review continues below
LED headlights and taillights set the scene, but it’ll take even the most hardened three-pointed star fan to tell the difference between the 2018 and 2019 CLS models. The new car’s tail slopes backward in a less organic fashion, its fenders appear to bulge more aggressively around the standard 19-inch and optional 20-inch alloy wheels, and the sides have fewer character lines.
At the rear, the angular taillights of the CLS stand in contrast to last year’s swept-back units.
An AMG Line appearance package adds a sportier look with unique front and rear fascias and more heavily bolstered seats inside, but its suspension is unchanged.
Overall, the CLS grows little over last year’s model. It’s 2 inches longer and 0.3 inches wider, but the wheelbase grows by 2.4 inches. It stands about 1.5 inches lower than the 2018 model, too.
Inside, the CLS features a dashboard similar to the automaker’s S-Class flagship. A 12.3-inch display for infotainment with standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility takes up residence at the center of the four-door’s dashboard. On the options list is a secondary 12.3-inch unit that replaces conventional analog gauges and is covered by a continuous glass panel shared with the center screen. When both screens are ordered, the CLS’ digital cockpit can be configured in one of three “moods:” Classic, Sport, or Progressive.
A choice of glossy or matte-finish open-pore wood trims on the options list is complemented by numerous leather shades available in several grades.
The CLS inaugurates Mercedes’ new turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 engine paired to an electric motor that adds power and allows for emissions-free driving during coasting. In addition to the conventional turbocharger, the engine makes use of an electric supercharger in the AMG 53. In all models, a lithium-ion battery powers an electric air-conditioning compressor and an electric water pump, creating a beltless engine. An integrated starter-alternator between the engine and transmission enables the automatic stop/start function as well and makes it smoother than most on the market.
Mercedes says the inline-6 in the CLS 450 is rated at 362 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. The AMG 53 model turns up the heat to 429 hp and 384 lb-ft of torque. The electric motor adds an additional 21 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque to both engines but mostly from a stop so power isn’t added to the final figure.
The electric motor takes over in light-load situations to allow the gas engine to turn off completely. The hybrid powertrain can’t accelerate solely on electric power, however, so the CLS-Class is more like a high-performance mild-hybrid than a true eco-friendly sedan. What looks to be a mountain of torque comes on from 1,600 to 4,000 rpm. Power goes either rearward or to all four corners via a 9-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters.
Fuel economy tops out at 24 mpg city, 31 highway, 26 combined. That’s not bad for how much power drivers have at their disposal.
The standard safety list includes seven airbags, forward collision warnings with a cross-traffic function and automatic emergency braking, and an attention monitor. Buyers can also get the Driver Assistance Package which allows for semi-autonomous driving in some situations. Thus far, only the IIHS has crash-tested the CLS and it earned the agency’s top honor.