Just about every sedan introduced these days has some sort of aggressively sloped roofline, with cars as commonplace as the Honda Civic and Chevy Malibu possessing a body style that could be described as "coupe-like." Boxy is out; sleek is in. You'd almost expect these automakers to have to pay some sort of royalty fee to Mercedes-Benz, though. After all, Mercedes-Benz popularized the trend more than a decade ago with the introduction of its "four-door coupe," the CLS-Class.
Now several years into its second generation, the 2017 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class is admittedly no longer as fashion-forward as it once was due to new competitors and the sleekly redesigned 2017 E-Class. Like a proverbial little black dress, though, the CLS still stands out in a crowd, even if it's not exactly novel. Besides the CLS' styling, the car's superb quality, abundant feature content, thrilling performance and engaging driving experience make it one of the finest automobiles you can buy.
Unfortunately, opting for fashion over function has its drawbacks. The CLS only has room for two people in back, and headroom is limited due to that sleek roofline, which also restricts rear visibility. (Mercedes-Benz doesn't offer a rearview camera as standard equipment, either.) Then there's the CLS' age. It's one of the older models in the Mercedes lineup, and it lacks some of the brand's latest technology and features.
If you like the idea of a sleekly styled four-door, you should also consider some impressive competitors, including the Audi A7 (plus the high-performance S7 and RS 7), the BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe (plus its M6 variant) and the redesigned Porsche Panamera. There's also the Tesla Model S, which is certainly sleek and performance-oriented in its own unique way. Even if the CLS isn't quite the trendsetter it used to be, though, there's still so much to love about it that will always be in fashion.
Every CLS-Class comes standard with antilock brakes, stability and traction control, front side airbags, front side pelvic airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and front knee airbags. Also included are a drowsy driver warning system and a forward collision warning system with automatic braking. The Mbrace emergency communications system provides automatic alarm and collision notification, emergency assistance, stolen vehicle location, and remote locking and unlocking.
The Lane Tracking package adds blind-spot monitoring and lane departure warning. The Driver Assistance package upgrades those systems with automatic steering override, an enhanced forward collision warning system (operates at higher speeds and can detect pedestrians), a cross-traffic alert system, a rear collision detection and vehicle preparation system, and the Mercedes Distronic Plus adaptive cruise control and steering assist system. Parking sensors, a rearview camera and an enhanced surround-view camera system are also optional.
In Edmunds brake testing, a CLS550 with summer tires came to a stop from 60 mph in 102 feet, which would be excellent for a high-performance sports car, let alone a midsize luxury sedan.
trim levels & features
The 2017 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class is a four-door, four-passenger sedan. Mercedes refers to it as a coupe due to its sleekly raked roofline. Three models are available, each corresponding to a different engine: the CLS400, CLS550 and AMG CLS 63 S. The term 4Matic indicates the presence of all-wheel drive.
Standard equipment on the CLS400 includes 18-inch wheels, LED headlights, a sunroof, automatic wipers, auto-dimming rearview and driver-side mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, 10-way power-adjustable and heated front seats (with four-way lumbar adjustment), front-seat memory functions, leather upholstery, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, the COMAND infotainment interface (8-inch screen, knob controller), Bluetooth connectivity, a Garmin Map Pilot navigation system, a CD player, HD radio, an auxiliary audio jack, a USB port and a media player interface.
The popular Premium 1 package includes keyless ignition and entry, power-folding mirrors, a power trunklid, a rearview camera, ventilated front seats, satellite radio and a 14-speaker Harman Kardon sound system. The Premium 2 package essentially includes all of the above plus adaptive LED headlights, automatic high beams, a power rear sunshade and an upgraded Mercedes navigation system.
The CLS550 has a more powerful engine plus an adaptive air suspension (optional on the CLS400), the Mercedes navigation system and the Harman Kardon sound system. Its Premium package features all the elements of the two CLS400 versions that aren't already standard. The rearview camera must be added separately to the Premium package. The Night package adds gloss-black exterior elements, red interior stitching, a sport steering wheel and a manual shift mode for the transmission.
The top-line AMG CLS 63 S gets an even more powerful V8, plus special performance tuning for the transmission, adaptive suspension, braking system, exhaust system and limited-slip differential. Beyond the CLS550's equipment, it has 19-inch wheels, unique styling elements, front and rear parking sensors, an automated parallel parking system, the upgraded LED headlights, special gauges and interior trim, a sport steering wheel, an IWC Ingenieur analog clock, more aggressively bolstered sport seats, the power rear sunshade and upgraded leather upholstery. Its Premium package has the rearview camera, keyless ignition and entry, a power trunklid, power-folding mirrors, and ventilated front seats with additional multicontour adjustments. Carbon-ceramic brakes are a stand-alone option.
Available on all trims is the Lane Tracking package that adds blind-spot monitoring and lane departure warning. The Driver Assistance package includes adaptive cruise control and steering assist, enhanced blind-spot monitoring and intervention, lane departure intervention, rear cross-traffic alert, and an enhanced emergency braking system that includes pedestrian detection. A heated steering wheel can be added to either of these packages. Heated rear seats are a stand-alone option.
The CLS400 and CLS550 are available with the Parking Assist package that includes the front and rear parking sensors, an automated parallel parking system and a surround-view parking camera (available separately on the CLS 63). Stand-alone options include an active multicontour driver seat (features adjustable side bolsters and shoulder supports, and a massage function), a split-folding rear seat and a 15-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system.
The 2017 Mercedes-Benz CLS400 is powered by a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 that produces 329 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque. A nine-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive are standard. All-wheel drive (4Matic) is optional. EPA fuel economy estimates were not available for the CLS400 at the time of publication. Last year's car posted 24 mpg in combined driving.
The 2017 CLS550 has a turbocharged 4.7-liter V8 good for 402 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque. It too has the nine-speed automatic and rear-wheel drive standard with all-wheel drive as an option. During Edmunds performance testing, a CLS550 with rear-wheel drive went from zero to 60 mph in just 4.6 seconds, which is very quick even for this lofty segment. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 21 mpg combined (18 city/26 highway) for the CLS550 and 20 mpg (17 city/25 highway) for the CLS550 4Matic.
The AMG CLS 63 S has a turbocharged 5.5-liter V8 that cranks out 577 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque. A special AMG-tuned all-wheel-drive system and seven-speed automatic transmission are standard. Mercedes estimates the CLS 63 S will go from zero to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds, which is exotic sports car territory. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 18 mpg (16 city/22 highway).
The 2017 Mercedes-Benz CLS550 embodies everything we've come to expect from top-level German luxury sedans. The confidence-inspiring handling, combined with a composed ride quality, is a testament to the adaptive suspension's range and tuning. The steering feel is also worthy of praise; it provides feedback to the driver during enthusiastic handling and feels properly weighted for every driving condition.
We have yet to drive the V6 CLS400, but given the mechanically related 2016 E400 we did drive, we're sure the power output will be more than adequate for most drivers. Actually, it'll likely be more than abundant. But that's just the beginning. The CLS550 delivers a plentiful rush of power that can pin passengers to their seatbacks when you hit the gas, providing the sort of acceleration we used to expect from AMG models (but without the firm ride and heftier repair bill that comes with its many AMG components). Then again, that just means that today's AMG model, the CLS 63 S, is even more awe-inspiring with its colossal thrust and the resolute grip provided by its standard all-wheel-drive system. It's one of the most thrilling cars with four doors.
The CLS-Class' evocative roofline is one of its most distinguishing characteristics, but it's not without its drawbacks. Headroom for the rear seats suffers as a result, making the backseats ill-suited for adult passengers. The CLS also has just two seats in back with a center console situated in the middle. For frequent passenger shuttling, the less expensive five-seat E-Class is a better choice.
Materials quality and construction are up to the utmost expectations for Mercedes-Benz, but the interior's look and controls are from the previous generation of the brand's design. It lacks the organic curves, oversized display screen and general sense of opulence you'll find in the 2017 E-Class — then again, you may prefer the CLS' blockier, more classically German aesthetic.
Either way, another key difference is the standard COMAND electronics interface. It features the same software as you'll find in the updated C-Class (though not the E- and S-Class, which are even more advanced), but it's stuck with an 8-inch screen and it lacks the new touchpad included with the newer systems. The remaining buttons and knob get the job done, but this latest system does seem to be a bit more confusing than its predecessor.
Stepping up to the AMG CLS 63 S adds a distinctive sporty flair to the cabin, with racy sport seats and unique stitching and trim selections. The AMG also relocates the gear selector from the steering column to the center console, eliminating the large cupholders and reducing some interior storage for your personal effects.
Cargo space is generous regardless of CLS model, with a trunk that can hold up to 15.3 cubic feet. It is worth noting that the optional Bang & Olufsen audio system significantly compromises trunk space.
edmunds expert review process
This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.