2019 Mercedes CLS450 Coupe

PHOENIX — For 2019, Mercedes has launched its third-generation CLS 450, which originally debuted in 2004. Often confused as a stable mate in the C-Class category, slotting below the S- and E-class, the CLS actually occupies a class of its own between the S- and E-class sedans. The new CLS actually rides on the E-Class platform but uses the S-Class’ engines and electronics.

The CLS is a low, sleek, Jell-O mold-like styled sports sedan with four frameless window glass doors, and seats five people. Mercedes irrationally calls it a coupe. Both BMW and Audi have jumped into the four-door coupe fray with 640i xDrive Gran Coupe and A7, respectively. For the record, I didn’t absent-mindedly omit the “d” at the end of Gran, it’s just a display of irrationality on the part of BMW.

To further confuse the reader, BMW introduced the Gran Coupe back in 2012, but has decided to phase it out in favor of the larger and oddly proportioned humpbacked 6 Series Gran Turismo.

But, back to the CLS. It’s powered by a turbocharged 362-horsepower 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine and nine-speed automatic transmission; it also features an integrated starter generator Mercedes calls EQ Boost. The EQ incorporates a 48-volt battery that assists the internal combustion engine during acceleration, coasting, and energy recovery while braking. EQ Boost adds 21 horsepower and a “significant amount” of torque for short spurts, and helps the CLS go from zero to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds. So, the new CLS has basically been hybridized.

Inside, the CLS’s interior is astonishingly good, luxurious, and rife with pleasing surprises like abundant silvery wood trim about the instrument panel, center console and door trim. It looks fantastic. Large circular turbine-like vents look spectacular and briefly glow red when adjusting the cabin temperature warmer, blue when lowering the temperature.

A choice of 64 ambient lighting colors is available, and if you can’t decide on one in particular, you can choose to continually cycle through the color palette. A bit cheesy, perhaps, but cool to show your friends. Ditto for the optional Energizing Comfort package that includes an air purification and fragrance system that pumps a “soothing” scent into the cabin via an atomizer and jar located in the glove compartment.

If the fragrance doesn’t completely work its magic, the Energizing Comfort is a program that, when selected, makes adjustments to the climate control system, cabin lighting, and infotainment display along with temperature settings for the seats, steering wheel, center console and door panel armrests.

These program settings included a choice of Refresh, Warmth, Vitality, Joy, Comfort, and Training. We were entertained by the colored flames that appeared on the large 12.3-center-mounted touchscreen when the Warmth setting was chosen.

Two 12.3-inch digital display screens occupy the center of the instrument panel – one for multimedia and operating controls and an excellent backup camera projection. The other display screen is the instrument cluster with speedometer and tachometer, with a menu in between them.

On the road, the CLS450’s powertrain is more than competent with excellent turbo-lag free acceleration, but we would have appreciated a bit of performance engine growl, if nothing more when Sport mode is selected. Other drive mode options include Eco, Comfort, Sport+, and Individual. The cabin, as expected, is library quiet.

I preferred the Sport mode setting, which delivered the most fun when negotiating the twisty, curvy canyon roads in Arizona where I drove the CLS. Steering is precise, braking immediate, predictable and assuring. The CLS remained unfazed with everything we threw at it from twists, sharp inclines and declines, hard braking, strong acceleration.

A suite of included advanced safety features for the CLS has essentially been lifted from the refreshed S-Class and includes active brake assist, driver fatigue alerts, automatic emergency braking, and the new Pre-Safe Sound, which initiates a specifically tuned noise that triggers a reflex within the inner ear. This reaction acts like a noise-cancelling headset and can help protect the ear from the after effects of loud crashes.

The optional Driver Assist package includes blind-spot monitoring and lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control (ACC) and Pre-Safe Impulse Side, which adjusts the seat to position occupants away from the door if a possible side-impact collision is detected.

Overall, while we were less enthused about the new exterior styling there was no shortage of those who went out of their way to tell us how much they liked it. And, there is much to like about the new CLS. While it is a four-door, the sloping roofline results in a small rear seat area with limited headroom, splayed legs, and tight shoulder room. Still, the CLS is a superb luxury liner with a lavish interior, loads of usable technology and beautiful driving character.

Vital Stats
Base Price: $70,195
Price as Tested: $92,600
Engine: 3.0-Liter 362-HP V-6 with a 9-speed automatic transmission
Fuel Economy: 24-mpg-City – 41-mpg-Highway 26-mpg-Combined
Seating: 5

Crash Test Ratings: The CLS450 Coupe has not been crash tested by either the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Where Built: Sindelfingen, Germany

Competes With:
Audi A7
BMW 6-Series
Cadillac CT-6
Genesis G90
Kia K900
Tesla Model S

Fab Features:
Elegant interior with exceptionally high-quality materials
Excellent ride and handling
Loaded with standard and optional high-tech features

— Jim Prueter