Mercedes-Benz CLS review 2020

The CLS is a swoopy four-door coupe that’s brimmed with technology, and is based on the Mercedes E-Class

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Out of 5


  • Sporty, yet sophisticated looks
  • Premium interior
  • Powerful engines


  • Limited rear headroom
  • Quite expensive
  • Rivals have more practical boots
Model review

For years, Mercedes’ speciality was its saloons and coupes. Bringing glamour, quality and spaciousness, they were - and still are - a force to be reckoned with.

And given the brand’s success with both, you can hardly blame the German firm for looking to combine the two – bringing the sleek look of a coupe with the greater practicality of a four-door saloon. This was shown in 2004 with the unveiling of the CLS – a model that, despite its name, is based on the E-Class, rather than the S-Class. Its style appealed to many and made the model quite the success by executive car standards. 

Mercedes followed it up in 2011 with a second-generation model, which would also be available as a Shooting Brake estate model – something that would sadly never reappear again – before the even more glamorous third-generation CLS would arrive in 2017

Current model

Mercedes pulled the wraps off the latest CLS at the 2017 Los Angeles Auto Show as a brand-new model sharing plenty in common with the firm’s latest E-Class and S-Class saloons.

While retaining the same sleek shape, it’s a far more modern design – utilising the brand’s latest styling, incorporating fancy LED lighting with an imposing front grille. A new line-up of engines would also join the range, while the interior was another radical difference – bringing a new digital display that sees the main infotainment system merge into a new set of configurable dials. 

Since its introduction Mercedes has expanded the range with a new ‘AMG 53’ model, bringing a powerful in-line six-cylinder engine with mild-hybrid technology. This is the hottest CLS in the range, as unlike the previous generation, Mercedes has not introduced a V8 ‘63’-badged model. 

Value for money

Mercedes has seriously slimmed down the range on offer with a new CLS, with only one high-spec trim and two powerful engines on offer. And that means a new CLS is really quite pricey – starting from a steep £68,495, or another £10,000 if you want the AMG model. With such little choice on offer, and only one very upmarket grade available, it means it costs £20,000 more than one of its key rivals – the Audi A7

Standard kit is very generous, though, and includes a Burmester sound system, 20-inch alloy wheels and heated and electric leather seats to name but a few features. 

If you’re looking at a used CLS, the still-stylish first-generation model is available from just £3,000 and even under £10,000 for a second-generation model. The latest shape models are still commanding higher prices, but at the time of writing, a 2018 car with around 25,000 miles on the clock would cost you £30,000 – roughly the same as a new entry-level C-Class. But big discounts can be had on nearly-new models, with examples just a few months old available for £55,000, which is a huge saving off the list price. 

Looks and image

The CLS has always excelled at bringing glamorous sleek design to the executive car segment, and that hasn’t changed across the generations. The roof begins to slope off from the B-pillar onwards, and runs all the way through to the boot lid in one fluid line. It certainly succeeds in bringing ‘coupe’ styling to a four-door car. As all versions come in a sporty-looking AMG Line grade, that adds to the appeal, too. 

That feeling of classiness and luxury also carries through to the cabin, which is one of the best around. From the ash wood dashboard trim to the chunky and comfortable leather seats, this is a brilliant interior that manages to justify the CLS’s steep price. A large 12.3-inch digital dial system and touchscreen of the same size also bring a modern look to the cabin. 

This Mercedes also impresses behind the wheel, not least thanks to its silky smooth engines on offer, which also come paired to a fantastic nine-speed automatic gearbox. It’s also a brilliant long-distance cruiser, being effortlessly comfortable on longer trips. The ride can prove a touch too firm at lower speeds, though. And if you fancy something a little sportier, the ‘AMG 53’ model will suit your needs. 

Space and practicality

The downside to those sleek looks? Well, unfortunately, it’s practicality. While anyone sitting in the front won’t have any grumbles, the sloping roofline does noticeably dip into headroom, and taller adults might feel a bit uncomfortable sitting in the back seats. 

On paper, the 520-litre boot might sound pretty impressive, but it’s a rather awkward shape and has a high load lip and narrow opening, which makes it quite difficult to make full use of. On the plus side, it is equipped with 40:20:40 split-folding rear seats. 



If you’re looking at buying a new CLS today, there are just two engines available today – one diesel and the AMG petrol. All come with 4Matic all-wheel drive and a nine-speed automatic gearbox. 

The diesel is the CLS400d 4Matic – a 325bhp 3.0-litre unit that also serves up a meaty 700Nm of torque. It’s a superb all-rounder and can accelerate the car to 60mph in just 4.8 seconds. 

As for the CLS 53 model, it uses a mild-hybrid 3.0-litre petrol unit that produces 429bhp and 520Nm of torque. It’s only actually half a second quicker to 60mph than the 400d diesel – taking 4.3 seconds, while its 155mph top speed is the same. 

If you’re looking at used CLS models, though, other engines will be available. These include the CLS350 and CLS450 petrols, which come with a 295bhp 2.0-litre and a 362bhp 3.0-litre engine respectively. There is also an entry-level diesel option, the CLS350d, which features a 282bhp 3.0-litre unit. 

Running costs

With large engines and only light mild-hybrid electrification on certain models, the CLS will be quite an expensive car to run. 

Mercedes claims the CLS400d will return 38.7mpg, with CO2 emissions of 191g/km, meanwhile the AMG model will manage a fuel economy figure of around 30mpg, along with CO2 emissions of 216g/km. Both cars also sit in insurance group 50 – meaning that premiums will likely be quite pricey. Road tax bills will also steep – particularly in the first year – costing £1,300 although this is absorbed into the list price. After this, it will cost £475 per year to tax, up until when the car turns six years old. 

Things to look out for

Because the CLS is quite a niche choice, not a huge amount is known about its reliability. However, given it shares plenty in common, there shouldn’t be any cause for concern. We would just recommend getting any car mechanically inspected before buying as it could prove expensive if anything goes wrong. 



The CLS sits in a strange middle ground between a standard executive car and a luxury car. That said, there are a few others that occupy this space as well – including the Audi A7 and BMW 6 Series GT. Meanwhile, if you fancy something that looks a bit sportier, a BMW 8 Series Gran Coupe or Porsche Panamera are both worth considering. 



As with the majority of premium saloon cars, the CLS takes a steep depreciation hit when new – making a nearly-new option a great choice. That said, it’s greater exclusivity and sleek styling means it doesn’t depreciate quite so heavily as a standard executive model like the E-Class

Trims explained

Mercedes only offers one high-spec trim level on the CLS, along with a sporty AMG 53 model. Equipment highlights and prices are as follows.

AMG Line Night Edition Premium Plus (previously just known as AMG Line/ AMG Line Premium

Standard equipment on the CLS is very generous and includes adaptive air suspension, 20-inch alloy wheels, a sporty AMG styling kit, electric sunroof and Multibeam LED headlights. It also comes with electric and heated front seats, leather upholstery, keyless start and go, 64-colour ambient interior lighting and a Burmester sound system. It also comes with a 12.3-inch digital dials, an infotainment system of the same size and a 360-degree camera system.

From £68,495


In addition to the standard car, this ‘53’ model comes with a more powerful engine, revised 20-inch alloy wheels, a gloss black styling kit, a performance exhaust and various AMG driving modes.

From £78,690


  1. Sleek design
  2. High-tech interior
  3. Superb build quality
  4. Limited engine and trim choice
  5. Very expensive to buy new
  6. Powerful engines on offer
  7. AMG 53 model is the sportiest version on offer
  8. Compromised rear headroom
  9. Brilliant cruiser
  10. A convincing alternative to a standard executive car, but at a price

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