The 2019 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class may carry over its predecessors’ trademark style, but it’s what’s underhood that makes it really stand out. For the first time ever, the CLS-Class is a hybrid (though a mild one) tuned both for performance and efficiency.
Available initially as the CLS450 with either standard rear- or optional all-wheel drive (which Mercedes brands as 4Matic), the sedan features a low, coupe-like roofline that helps it stand apart from the comparatively workaday E-Class. Like the E, the CLS now offers seating for five for the first time, but backseat passengers will still want to duck their heads before entering.
LED headlights and taillights set the scene, but it’ll take even the most hardened three-pointed star fan to really tell the difference between the 2018 and 2019 CLS models. The new car’s tail slopes backward in a less organic fashion and its fenders appear to bulge more aggressively around the standard 19-inch and optional 20-inch alloy wheels.
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At the rear, the CLS’ angular taillights stand in contrast to last year’s swept-back units.
An AMG Line appearance package adds a sportier look with unique front and rear fascias and more heavily bolstered seats inside, but its suspension is unchanged.
Overall, the CLS grows little over last year’s model. It’s about 1.5 inches longer and less than half an inch wider. It stands about 1.5 inches lower than the 2018 model, too.
Inside, the CLS features a dashboard not unlike that in the automaker’s S-Class flagship lineup. A 12.3-inch display for infotainment and standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto takes up residence at the center of the four-door’s dashboard. On the options list is a secondary 12.3-inch unit that replaces conventional analog gauges and is covered by a continuous glass panel shared with the center screen. When both screens are ordered, the CLS’ digital cockpit can be configured in one of three “moods:” Classic, Sport, or Progressive.
A choice of glossy or matte-finish open-pore wood trims on the options list is complemented by numerous leather shades available in several grades.
The CLS inaugurates Mercedes’ new turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 engine paired to an electric motor that adds power and allows for emissions-free driving in certain situations. In addition to the conventional turbocharger, engine makes use of an electric supercharger. A lithium-ion battery powers an electric air-conditioning compressor and an electric water pump, creating a beltless engine. An integrated starter-alternator between the engine and transmission enables the automatic stop/start function as well, and Mercedes says the 48-volt system makes it the smoothest stop/start available.
Mercedes isn’t quoting the CLS450’s total power output, but it says that the inline-6 is rated at 362 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque, while the electric motor adds an additional 21 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. The same engine in the German version of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class is offered in two states of tune, one with 367 hp and 368 lb-ft of torque, the other with 435 hp and 384 lb-ft of torque.
Mercedes brands the electric motor as EQ Boost and it takes over in light load situations to allow the gas engine to turn off completely. The EQ Boost powertrain can’t accelerate solely on electric power, however, so the CLS-Class is more like a high-performance mild-hybrid than a true eco-friendly sedan.
What looks to be a mountain of torque comes on from 1,600 to 4,000 rpm. Power goes either rearward or to all four corners via a 9-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. Mercedes hasn’t announced acceleration or fuel economy figures.
The CLS-Class comes standard with four-link front and five-link rear steel suspensions, and it offers the automaker’s adjustable air suspension as an extra-cost option. Electric power steering is standard and has been tuned for a sportier feel here than in the E-Class sedan.
In the details
A host of safety gear comes standard on every CLS450, including automatic emergency braking and active lane control. The optional Driver Assistance Package will add adaptive cruise control and a host of functions that help push the CLS down the road to autonomous driving. When so-equipped, the CLS can come to a halt and start up again on its own in traffic.
Although LED headlights are standard, the CLS450 offers ultra-wide automatic high-beam units as an extra-cost option to truly light up the road ahead at night.
The CLS-Class will launch first with a limited-run model called the Edition 1. It’ll feature black pearl nappa leather upholstery and copper-hue accents on the dash, seats, armrests, and door panels.
Mercedes-Benz says to expect the 2019 CLS-Class in dealers by fall 2018