Review: Mercedes-Benz CLS (2018)

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Incredibly comfortable with superb ride quality. An ideal long distance car. Diesel engines are quiet yet powerful.

Tight for rear headroom. 450 petrol engine not as responsive or as quick as the figures would suggest.

Mercedes-Benz CLS (2018): At A Glance

The swoopy Mercedes-Benz CLS was quite the trailblazer when the model was first launched in 2004. But now in its third generation, it faces a lot more competition for its affections.

There's the likes of the Audi A7 Sportback and BMW 6 Series Gran Turismo, if you want something a bit more stylish and sleek than the bog standard big saloon. So does the 2018 CLS still have what it takes?

Well looks wise, it's perhaps not as distinctive as the original, but we think it's still a good-looking design. The interior echoes the E-Class and S-Class with the same huge single screen which dominates the dash.

The finish is excellent as you'd expect and there's more room than before. The back now has three seats rather than two and there's lots of legroom while the seats themselves are very comfortable. That said, six-footers will find headroom tight in the back.

The standout feature of the CLS, however, is the ride. It's incredibly forgiving and controlled, making the CLS more comfortable to travel in than the A7 or 6 Series GT. There's little trade off in handling either and the Mercedes is very capable on the twisty stuff, feeling far more agile than the aforementioned BMW. The only letdown is more road noise on motorways than you'd expect.

Most models are the 350 d and 450 d - both powered by the same six-cylinder 3.0-litre diesel. The former should provide more than enough power for most with 600Nm of torque. If you don't do the miles to need a diesel, there's an entry-level CLS 350 which is actually a turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol and also the cheapest model.

As an alternative to your usual saloon, the CLS has lots of appeal. It's not as cumbersome as an S-Class and feels more special than an E-Class - and is a much rarer sight too. We really like its blend of comfortable ride and handling abilty, while the standard fit 9G-Tronic gearbox works really well, especially compared to the S tronic in the Audi A7. If you're in a the market for a premium coupe-style four door, this is the one to go for.

Mercedes-Benz CLS 2018 Range Road Test

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What does a Mercedes-Benz CLS (2018) cost?

Contract hire from £405.97 per month

Mercedes-Benz CLS (2018): What's It Like Inside?

Length 4988–5001 mm
Width 2069–2072 mm
Height 1422–1436 mm
Wheelbase 2939 mm

Full specifications

This generation CLS is a big step forward from its predecessor in terms of the interior design and quality. Gone is the dated and button-heavy design, replaced by something that feels far more befitting of a car at this level - and price.

It follows the same style as the E-Class and S-Class with a huge screen across the dash that houses the digital instrument cluster at one end and the infotainment display at the other. The finish is top quality with lots of textured wood trims and stitched leather adding to the premium feel.

The interior may not be as cutting edge as the A7 Sportback, but the driving position in the CLS is better. You sit lower down with the high central console giving it the 'coupe' feel Mercedes-Benz talks about. There's still of space though and plenty of adjustment in both the seat and steering column.

Unlike the old CLS, this generation is now a five-seater, although the wide transmission tunnel in the back means it's not the most comfortable of places to spend any time. The sloping roofline means those of the taller persuasion will find their heads rubbing against the roof lining, but there is plenty of legroom.  

It doesn't feature the latest MBUX system that debuted in the A-Class, instead the CLS has a newer version of Comand. It's better, but while the menus look nicer, it's still not that great to use and feels clunky compared to what you get in an A7. This is perhaps one of the weak points of the CLS. 

The boot could be better too. It's not a bad overall size with 520 litres of carrying space (490 litres in the petrols) and the opening is wide enough, but it narrows and there's an odd step up in the floor. It's not an issue every day, but is annoying when you've got a lot to pack for a holiday.

Standard equipment: 

AMG Line comes with 19-inch alloy wheels, parking package including reversing camera, leather upholstery, split folding rear seats (40:20:40), 12.3-inch infotainment screen with Audio 20 multimedia screen, 12.3-inch cockpit display, ambient lighting with a choice of 64 colours, Agility Control suspension and DAB radio.

Premium Plus available for an additional £3895 and includes Keyless Go Comfort package, Memory package, including electrically adjustable front seats and steering wheel; Burmester surround system, 360° camera, Comand Online infotainment system;and electric sliding sunroof.

The Comfort package can be specified in conjunction with Premium Plus and adds Air Balance, Air Body Control air suspension, Energizing comfort control package and black nappa leather upholstery. It costs £2495.

Child seats that fit a Mercedes-Benz CLS (2018)

Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.

Which car seat will suit you?

What's the Mercedes-Benz CLS (2018) like to drive?

What stands out when you travel in the CLS is the ride. While it sits between the E-Class and S-Class in terms of size (and price) it's the latter with which it shares most of its ride characteristics.

It's immensely comfortable and glides along with the minimum of fuss. We can think of no better car for covering long distances in comfort. The standard suspension set-up is very good, although perhaps not quite up to the standard of the Audi A7 Sportback, but opt for the optional adaptive air suspension and it floats along effortlessly.

That's not at the expense of handling though. The CLS lives up to its 'coupe' design with impressive control in corners and a real feeling of reassurance at speed. All models, with the exception of the 350 petrol, are 4Matic four-wheel drive which means good traction, particularly in the wet.

The steering, although not that weighted, is responsive and accurate making this feel far more agile than the wallowy BMW 6 Series Gran Turismo. For a big car, it's surprisingly enjoyable to drive on a more demanding road. Our only criticism is more road noise than you'd expect at motorway speeds.

Most people buying a CLS will be covering long distances in it, hence why the diesels are so popular. Both the 350 d and 450 d are powered by the same 3.0-litre six-cylinder. The 350 d has plenty of power with 286PS and 600Nm which means potent overtaking power and a 0-62mph time of 5.7 seconds.

The 400 d boosts this to 340PS and has an extra 100Nm of torque, which means a 0-62mph time of just 5.0 seconds. In reality, you won't really be able to tell the difference between the two in everyday driving so we'd stick to the 350 d.

Both diesels are impressively quiet from inside the cabin and with all that low down pulling power - available from just 1200rpm - you've got no worries about joining fast flowing dual carriageways from short slip roads or the like.

All models come with a 9G-Tronic automatic gearbox which is responsive and delivers smooth, fast changes. It doesn't suffer from the delay you get with A7 Sportback either. 

If you don't need diesel, there's the choice of the 350 or 400 petrols. The 350 is the entry-level model and has a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, plus is the only model not to have 4 Matic. Despite its relatively small size, it manages to produce close to 400PS.

Above that is the 450, powered by a new 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder biturbo petrol engine with 367PS, featuring Mercedes-Benz’s EQ boost technology, consisting of a 48 volt starter generator and lithium-ion battery. This adds in extra power (250Nm and 22PS) when needed.

Despite all those impressive figures, the 450 is never that responsive, certainly not in the same way a BMW 640i Gran Turismo is. It's not slow, but doesn't feel as rapid as the numbers suggest.

If it's performance you want, there's the AMG CLS 53. This uses the same EQ Boost as the 450 but with power upped to 435PS with maximum torque of 520Nm. 

Engine MPG 0-62 CO2
AMG CLS 53 32 mpg 4.5 s 203 g/km
CLS 300 d - - 142 g/km
CLS 350 40 mpg 6.0 s 162 g/km
CLS 350 d 4Matic 50 mpg 5.7 s 156 g/km
CLS 400 d 4Matic 47 mpg 5.0 s 156 g/km
CLS 450 4Matic 35 mpg 4.8 s 184 g/km

Real MPG average for a Mercedes-Benz CLS (2018)

Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.

Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.

Average performance


Real MPG

30–60 mpg

MPGs submitted


Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.