Mercedes CLS Review

The Mercedes CLS is a luxurious four-door coupe that’s reasonably economical but, as you’d expect, expensive

Strengths & weaknesses

  • Classy looks inside and out
  • Lots of equipment as standard
  • Powerful and efficient diesel engines
  • Quite dull to drive
  • Options can hurt fuel economy
  • Very expensive
Mercedes-Benz CLS prices from £28,490.
Finance from £520.67 / month.

Sleek, classy and expensive: the CLS is the kind of car most people will have in mind when they think of a Mercedes. Still, even premium car makers have to try much harder these days by offering a model in almost every area of the car market but even so, the CLS shouts Mercedes, much like its relative, the giant S-Class luxury saloon.

All that said, the CLS has its feet, or wheels, firmly on the ground by being a genuine four-seater (it’ll take a fifth person, at a pinch) with four doors, back seats that split and fold and a large boot. True, its sloping roofline eats into headroom a little in the rear but there’s still enough for a pair of six-footers to be comfortable. Interior fit and finish are exemplary.

It's powered by a choice of petrol and diesel engines. They’re all smooth and refined six-cylinder units - even the diesels are hushed and easy to live with. Our pick is the 350 d diesel engine because of its good economy and strong performance. At the top end of the scale is the barnstorming Mercedes-AMG CLS 53, which will eat most hot hatches for tea but costs a fortune to buy and to run.

The CLS is a large and heavy car with the emphasis on comfort and effortless cruising. In these respects it measures up perfectly. But if you’re expecting it to scythe through corners like a sports car as well, you’ll be disappointed. It's best to just set the suspension to its softest setting and let the CLS take the strain.

All versions bar the entry-level CLS 350 are four-wheel drive, so feel secure and sure-footed in all conditions. They all have adjustable suspension and driving modes so you can set the car up exactly as you wish, too. There’s only one trim level but it’s extremely well equipped. Even so, there’s a very long and expensive options list. Be careful when choosing from it because as a general rule, options lose money faster than the car they’re fitted to, while in the case of the CLS, some actually hurt fuel economy quite badly.

The CLS’s rivals include the Audi A7 and BMW 6 Series GT. The Audi lacks the Mercedes’ class but feels a little sharper to drive while the BMW isn't as pretty but is certainly practical.


Key facts

Warranty 3 years/unlimited mileage
Boot size 490 litres
Width 1896 mm
Length 4996 mm
Height 1436 mm
Tax £530 to £1280 in the first year and £465 from the second, for five years

Best Mercedes-Benz CLS for...

Best for Economy – Mercedes CLS 350 d

The two diesels are as economical as each other but the 350d is cheaper by £3000, which will buy a lot of fuel.

Best for Families – Mercedes CLS 400 d

With its extra performance but still reasonable economy the 400d will make light work of long family trips. All versions have a suite of high-tech parking and safety aids.

Best for Performance – Mercedes-AMG CLS 53

AMG is Mercedes’ performance division and the CLS 53 upholds its reputation by being the fastest and most exciting model in the range.

One to Avoid – Mercedes CLS 350

This cheapest version lacks the 350 d’s in-gear performance and is much less economical.


2018 Model launched. Range spans £57,510 350d 4MATIC to £74,050 Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 4MATIC.
2018 (August) Entry-level, rear wheel-drive CLS 350 launched.
2019 New WLTP economy figures released for CLS.

Understanding Mercedes-Benz CLS names

Engine 350 d

The figure indicates the power of the engine but bears no relation to the power output figure itself. So, a 400 engine is more powerful than a 350, and so on. The letter ‘d’ tells you it’s a diesel. Petrol engines have no identifying letter.

Drive 4MATIC

This is Mercedes’ name for its four-wheel drive system. With the exception of the 350 petrol model, which is rear-wheel drive, all CLS models are 4MATICs.

Trim AMG Line

This is the car’s level of luxury and refers to AMG, Mercedes’ performance division. If you don't count the Mercedes-AMG CLS 53, which is a version in its own right, AMG Line is the CLS’s only trim level.

Gearbox 9G-Tronic

This is Mercedes’ name for its nine-speed automatic gearbox that’s standard on the CLS.

Mercedes-Benz CLS Engines

350 d, 400 d, 350, 450, AMG 53

Cheaper four-cylinder diesel engines are expected to arrive in 2020 but for now, the CLS offers you just two, albeit powerful, six-cylinder units to choose from.

The 450d, the more powerful of the two, is as economical as the less powerful 350d but usefully quicker, especially at overtaking speeds. Both suit the laidback CLS very well.

The 350 and 450 petrol engines are significantly less economical than the diesels and while more powerful on paper, don't feel any quicker through the gears.

The most powerful engine, the AMG 53, is only just faster than the 450 petrol but its higher CO2 emissions place it in a much more expensive first-year road tax bracket.

All engines are limited to 155mph. The petrols use Mercedes’ new EQ petrol-electric mild-hybrid technology to provide a small boost in power and improve economy. They are not plug-in hybrids and offer no electric-only running.

Across all engines, fuel economy is sensitive to the optional equipment you choose.



Fuel economy



Top speed

350 d




0-62mph: 5.7s


400 d




0-62mph: 5.0s






0-62mph: 6.0s






0-62mph: 4.8s


AMG 53




0-62mph: 4.5s


Mercedes-Benz CLS Trims

AMG Line, AMG 53

There’s technically only one trim level (AMG Line) but it has most of the things you would expect for a car of the CLS’s price and positioning.

Leather abounds (it’s nappa in the CLS 53) although some areas of the trim are covered with Mercedes’ synthetic Artico leather. It’s complemented with subtle ambient lighting.

The display screen is a wide 12.3-inch affair with lots of connected services. The reversing camera it displays is high definition for extra clarity. Parking assist is standard.

The standard sound system is excellent but optional Premium Plus (£3895) brings an even better system plus other treats including a sliding sunroof.

All versions have Mercedes’ Agility Control selectable damping and Dynamic Select that allow you to choose from a range of ride, handling and performance modes.

The AMG 53 ups the ante with Premium Plus, a body kit and unique alloy wheels as standard. Edition 1 adds special paint and interior trims.

Mercedes-Benz CLS Reliability and warranty

Mercedes trails rivals BMW and Audi in the 2018 Auto Express Driver Power survey for owner satisfaction.

That said, its cars are much better built than they were in the 1990s and early 2000s when corrosion was a particular issue.

It's still too new to really draw any conclusions about the reliability, but it comes with a three-year, unlimited mileage warranty.

Used Mercedes-Benz CLS

This current CLS is predicted to depreciate more slowly than its predecessor, which was getting long in the tooth and less competitive. In percentage terms, it’ll be worth around 45% after three years and 36,000 miles, which is typical for the class but still an awful lot of money to lose.

Of course, it means used CLSs make good buys. The most popular new and used will be the 400 d while the bargain is likely to be the 350 petrol.