Car of the Year Car Reviews

Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class: 2019 Motor Trend Car of the Year Contender

A rare miss

A rare miss

WE LIKE Punchy new high-tech straight-six

WE DON’T LIKE Poor chassis tune, body resonances on poor surfaces

First, the good news about the Mercedes CLS: Daimler’s new straight-six engine—with its mild-hybrid integrated starter-generator, 48-volt electrics, and electric anti-lag compressor —is smooth and punchy. And the interior drips with the latest Mercedes-Benz tech, wrapped in expensive eye candy shared with the S-Class and E-Class.

Now the bad news: The smooth-shouldered exterior doesn’t have the striking presence or elegant beauty of the Audi A7. And the body structure feels underdone, with booming resonances from the rear of the cabin evident on some surfaces. “It seems like development wasn’t finished before it was put into production,” a surprised and disappointed Chris Theodore said.

Worse, the CLS chassis is a mess. The CLS 450 4Matic is blighted by massive power understeer and less-than-precise body control. And the AMG 53 may be the most disappointing AMG car ever. Although it’s more buttoned-down than the CLS 450, the extra grunt AMG dialed into the new I-6 merely amplifies the chassis’ flaws. Understeer is dogged, relentless, and unending on corner exit unless you’re super careful with the throttle. Low-performance tires don’t help; hard braking results in instant ABS intervention and the corner arriving quicker than you expected.

Chris Walton was stunned: “With all the technology and style one would expect but without the sophisticated ride or expected polish, the CLS 450 doesn’t meet the self-set standards of Mercedes-Benz.”

Jonny Lieberman further summarized: “The CLS should be Mercedes’ design leader. It should drip whatever the German equivalent of sex appeal is, and it should drive 20 percent better than an E-Class. This car fails on all accounts. It looks like a blob and frankly doesn’t drive much better than a blob.”


2019 Mercedes CLS-Class Benz 450 4Matic AMG 53 Turbo 4Matic+
Base Price/As tested $75,000 (est)/$98,500 (est) $85,000 (est)/$115,000 (est)
Power (SAE net) 362 hp @ 5,500 rpm (gas)/21 hp (elec)/362 hp (comb) 429 hp @ 6,100 rpm (gas)/21 hp (elec)/429 hp (comb)
Torque (SAE net) 369 lb-ft @ 1,600 rpm/184 lb-ft (elec)/369 lb-ft (comb) 384 lb-ft @ 1,800 rpm (gas)/184 lb-ft (elec)/384 lb-ft (comb)
Accel, 0-60 mph 4.9 sec 4.1 sec
Quarter-mile 13.4 sec @ 103.5 mph 12.7 sec @ 109.0 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph 117 ft 115 ft
Lateral Acceleration 0.90 g (avg) 0.90 g (avg)
MT Figure Eight 25.8 sec @ 0.72 g (avg) 25.4 sec @ 0.74 g (avg)
EPA City/Hwy/Comb Not yet rated Not yet rated
Vehicle Layout Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan
Engine/Transmission 3.0L turbo DOHC 24-valve I-6 plus elec motor/9-speed automatic 3.0L turbo DOHC 24-valve I-6 plus elec motor/9-speed twin-clutch auto
Curb Weight (F/R Dist) 4,406 lb (54/46%) 4,474 lb (54/46%)
Wheelbase 115.7 in 115.7 in
Length x Width x Height 196.4 x 74.4 x 55.3 in 196.9 x 74.4 x 56.0 in
Energy Cons, City/Hwy Not yet rated Not yet rated
CO2 Emissions, Comb Not yet rated Not yet rated