2021 Mercedes-Benz CLS Class

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2021
The Car Connection
2021
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Kirk Bell Kirk Bell Senior Editor
December 15, 2020

Buying tip

Go for the optional air suspension to improve the ride and handling of the CLS450.

features & specs

AMG CLS 53 4MATIC+ Coupe
CLS 450 4MATIC Coupe
CLS 450 Coupe
MPG
21 city / 26 hwy
MPG
22 city / 29 hwy
MPG
23 city / 30 hwy
MSRP
$81,550
MSRP
$72,800
MSRP
$70,300

The 2021 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class delivers power and performance to go with its elegance.

What kind of car is the 2021 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class? What does it compare to?

The Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class is the original four-door “coupe.” While it’s actually a sedan, the coupe-like roofline makes it one of the better looking cars on the road. With its combination of power, luxury, and performance, the CLS-Class competes with stylish luxury cars like the Audi A7, BMW 8-Series, Jaguar XF, Porsche Panamera, and even Mercedes’ own GT 4-Door Coupe.

Is the 2021 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class a good car?

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Yes, it is. Style is its hook, but the 2021 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class also performs well, with strong engines, a smooth ride, and capable handling. It’s luxurious inside, too, and it has decent space despite the roofline. We rate it a 7.2 out of 10 overall. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

What's new for the 2021 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class?

Mercedes gives the CLS-Class its latest infotainment system for 2021, doing away with the rotary controller in favor of a center touchscreen. The system responds to “Hey Mercedes” voice prompts and offers augmented reality overlays to help with navigation directions. The CLS also adds a variety of active safety features, most of which are offered in the Driver Assistance package.

The CLS-Class is essentially a mid-size E-Class wrapped in sexier clothing. The fast roofline gives it a sleek, sporty look amplified by the wide track, large wheels, and wide front grille. Inside, the ambience is more luxurious than sporty, but it fits with the car’s overall elegance. 

Mercedes offers the CLS-Class in rear-drive CLS450, all-wheel-drive CLS450 4Matic, and performance-oriented AMG CLS53. All use a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6, with 362 horsepower in 450 models and 429 hp in the AMG 53 model. Both versions are aided by an electric motor that spins an electric turbocharger and aids acceleration and the stop/start function. Both also deliver smooth, ready power with 0-60 mph times ranging from 5.0 to 4.4 seconds. 

Ride and handling match the power delivery. All CLS models ride smoothly, and the optional air suspension improves the ride while increasing the agility. It’s refined yet sporty with direct steering response that could use a little more feel.

The fast roofline doesn’t rob the CLS of as much space as it may appear. Four adults will fit comfortably, though tall riders will want more head and leg room in back. The trunk, however, is compromised at only 11.9 cubic feet. Front seat occupants get lovely trim, supportive seats, and a wall of large screens that display gauges and an excellent infotainment system.

How much does the 2021 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class cost?

The CLS’s power and looks don’t come cheap. The base CLS450 costs $71,295 with rear-wheel drive and comes loaded with leather upholstery, heated seats, navigation, and 19-inch wheels. If we’re going to spend that much we’d be tempted by the $82,545 AMG CLS53, with its 429-hp engine, standard air suspension, and sport seats. 

Where is the Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class made?

In Sindelfingen, Germany.

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2021 Mercedes-Benz CLS Class

Styling

An E-Class in a slim-fit tuxedo, the Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class makes style its stock and trade.

Is the Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class a good-looking car?

The CLS-Class is all about style and it delivers inside and out.

The coupe-like sedan shape saps some utility but makes up for it with a sleek body that’s even sexier than standard Mercedes design, which is quite attractive. We rate the CLS-Class an 8 for styling based on its great exterior and good interior. 

Mercedes designers drew the CLS to be elegant, from the slope of the roofline into the tail to the way the frameless doors lighten the sides. It’s breathtaking and is the best reason to choose the CLS-Class over the E-Class. 

The rest of the car is standard Mercedes fare, and we have no complaints about that. The front end features an A-frame grille pushing toward lower air intakes that create a grounded, low-slung look. That is only enhanced by the wide, at-the-corners stance of the 19- or 20-inch wheels.

The rear end is clean with an integrated trunklid spoiler and taillights split between the trunklid and fenders. However, the area around the license plate juts out like a swollen bottom lip. 

Inside, the CLS-Class balances elegance with technology. Leather upholstery, wood trim, and metal flourishes provide the luxury, while a pair of 12.3-inch screens under one piece of glass deliver the tech. The design flows beautifully from side to side and is highlighted by gimballed, turbine-style air vents that are jewelry in their own right.

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7

2021 Mercedes-Benz CLS Class

Performance

The 2021 CLS-Class performs with smooth and powerful refinement.

Composed and powerful, the CLS-Class performs like a Mercedes should. We award it points for its smooth ride and strong engine, and rate it a 7 for performance. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Is the Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class AWD?

Yes, the CLS-Class is offered with rear- or all-wheel drive. 

How fast is the Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class?

Every CLS-Class is powered by a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 aided by an integrated starter-generator that spins an electric turbocharger, adds up to 21 hp and 184 pound-feet of torque, and gathers energy to enable the stop/start system and smooth it out. 

In the CLS450, the inline-6 makes 362 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque, which launches the car from 0-60 mph in 4.8 seconds when teamed with all-wheel drive. The CLS53 AMG increases the output to 429 hp and 384 lb-ft of torque and cuts the 0-60-mph run to 4.3 seconds. Power comes on naturally, without an early wave or late peak. 

The inline-6 is a smooth performer in any form, and it snaps and crackles in Sport+ mode in the CLS53. The 9-speed automatic transmission also holds gears and delivers quick shifts in the Sport modes and upshifts early otherwise. It’s a smooth transmission, but it can get confused in city traffic.

Mercedes makes traditional springs and dampers the base suspension, but outfits the CLS53 with air springs. We’ve only driven cars with the air suspension and found it smothers bumps and ruts in Comfort mode and increases agility in the Sport modes. The steering ranges from light to decent heft with direct responses but little feel. No matter the mode, the CLS is buttoned down, refined, and responsive.

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2021 Mercedes-Benz CLS Class

Comfort & Quality

The Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class has fantastic front seats and a serviceable rear seat.

The style of the 2021 CLS-Class doesn’t compromise its room or comfort, at least not much. Front and rear seat passengers have good space, though the trunk is small given the coupe-like shape. The front seats are fantastically comfortable and supportive and they offer heating, cooling, and massage functions, plus lots of adjustability. We rate the CLS an 8 for comfort and quality. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The CLS-Class’s E-Class roots are laid bare in the cabin, and that just means it’s splendid. Soft-touch or high-quality surfaces adorn the touch points, with standard leather upholstery, available nappa leather and synthetic suede, and several choices of wood trim.

The front seats cossett all body types and have enough bolstering to support playtime on a canyon road. 

Rear seat space is better than the car’s shape would indicate. Only tall folks will complain about the rear seat, for both head and leg room. While Mercedes says three can fit across in the rear, it’s best for two.  

The CLS’s sleek shape robs it of trunk space, as it has only 11.9 cubic feet, which would be small for a compact car.

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2021 Mercedes-Benz CLS Class

Safety

The 2021 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class has no crash-test scores but plenty of standard and optional safety features.

How safe is the Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class?

That’s not likely to be officially determined as the CLS is too expensive and sells in too few numbers for safety agencies to crash test it. However, it does come with some needed safety features and the E-Class it’s based on performs well in crash tests. We can’t give it a safety rating until it’s tested, though. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The related E-Class earns top crash-test ratings with an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ and five-star rating from the NHTSA.

Mercedes equips every CLS-Class with automatic emergency braking and blind-spot monitors. Buyers can also opt for a driver-assistance package with active lane control, adaptive cruise control, speed-limit recognition, automatic lane changes, blind-spot monitors with crash prevention, evasive steering assist, a cross-traffic function that can intervene when turning against oncoming traffic, and a highway system that controls the steering, acceleration, and braking at speeds up to 37 mph. An automatic parking system and a surround-view camera system are also offered.

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2021 Mercedes-Benz CLS Class

Features

Mercedes decks out the CLS-Class and offers plenty of options.

The 2021 Mercedes-CLS-Class comes in a limited lineup of well-equipped models with a wide variety of features and a state-of-the-art infotainment system. We rate it an 8 for features based on those strengths. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Mercedes sells the CLS-Class in rear-drive CLS450, all-wheel-drive CLS450 4Matic, and performance-oriented CLS AMG 53. 

Which Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class should I buy?

Beautiful looks come standard and every CLS-Class is loaded with features, so there’s no need to go beyond the base 450 model, which costs $71,295 with rear-wheel drive and $73,795 with all-wheel drive. The 450 models come standard with leather upholstery, heated seats, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, a 12.3-inch infotainment touchscreen, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, navigation, ambient interior lighting, LED headlights and taillights, and 19-inch wheels.

The 2021 infotainment touchscreen replaces the display screen controlled by a rotary dial. The system offers augmented reality displays when a navigation destination is entered. We’ve found MBUX responsive to “Hey Mercedes” voice commands and it’s easy to use with the same command trees as the old COMAND system, so returning buyers won’t get lost easily. 

How much is a fully loaded 2021 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class?

Go for the CLS53 AMG and it’ll cost you $82,545. It adds snug AMG sport seats, an air suspension, and an AMG flat-bottom steering wheel.

The options list includes premium Burmester audio, a heated steering wheel and armrests, cooled and massaging front seats, heated rear seats, and a performance exhaust. Mercedes offers enough features to spec out a CLS at more than $100,000.

The CLS comes with a 4-year/50,000-mile warranty.

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5

2021 Mercedes-Benz CLS Class

Fuel Economy

The 2021 CLS-Class is surprisingly efficient given its power.

Is the Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class good on gas?

The 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class makes a minimum of 362 hp, but it gets up to 23 mpg city, 30 highway, 26 combined thanks in part to a standard 48-volt mild-hybrid system. That qualifies it as a 5 out of 10 for fuel economy. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The aforementioned rating is for a CLS 450 model. Add all-wheel drive and the rating falls slightly to 22/29/25 mpg. 

The more powerful CLS53 AMG comes only with all-wheel drive and it’s rated at 21/26/23 mpg.

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$70,300
MSRP based on CLS 450 Coupe
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7.2
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 8
Performance 7
Comfort & Quality 8
Safety N/A
Features 8
Fuel Economy 5
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