2018 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class

2018 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class AMG CLS 63 S Review

Knowing that an all-new CLS is on the way, you may want to skip the 2018 model.
by Mark Takahashi
Edmunds Editor

Edmunds expert review

When the Mercedes-Benz CLS debuted for the 2006 model year, it pioneered the "four-door coupe" market. Mercedes got away with calling it a coupe because of the sloping roofline that gave it a distinctive two-door look. Since then, this styling cue has endured as well as inspired other manufacturers to follow suit.

The 2018 Mercedes-Benz CLS maintains its favorable standing with its potent engine choices, admirable handling, cosseting comfort, impeccable interior and available advanced safety features. Alongside rivals such as the Audi A7 and BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe, it's a great pick if you like the idea of a sedan that has a coupelike look to it. Just note that a redesigned CLS will be coming out for the 2019 model year. It boasts new styling and Mercedes' latest technology.

What's new for 2018

For 2018, Mercedes has discontinued the entry-level CLS 400 from the lineup. A rearview camera is now standard for the remaining CLS trims.

We recommend

The CLS 550 is our pick. It's considerably less expensive than the AMG CLS 63 S and still provides an abundance of power from its turbocharged V8. Except for some performance features, the CLS 550 can be outfitted similarly to the top-dog AMG version.

Trim levels & features

The 2018 Mercedes-Benz CLS is a four-door, four-passenger sedan, though Mercedes refers to it as a coupe due to its sleekly raked roofline. Three trims are available: the CLS 550, the CLS 550 4Matic and the AMG CLS 63 S.

The CLS 550 models are powered by a turbocharged 4.7-liter V8 (402 horsepower, 443 pound-feet of torque). A nine-speed automatic transmission sends power to the rear wheels or, in the case of the CLS 550 4Matic, all four wheels.

Standard feature highlights for the CLS 550 include 18-inch wheels, LED headlights, a sunroof, automatic wipers, auto-dimming mirrors, an adaptive air suspension, dual-zone automatic climate control, power-adjustable and heated front seats, front-seat memory functions, leather upholstery, a power-adjustable steering wheel, the COMAND infotainment interface (8-inch screen, knob controller), a navigation system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a 14-speaker Harman Kardon sound system. Also standard is forward collision warning with automatic braking,

The Premium package adds keyless entry and ignition, adaptive headlights, automatic high beams, power-folding mirrors, a power trunklid, ventilated front seats and a power rear sunshade.

Other bundled options include the Lane Tracking package (blind-spot monitoring and lane departure warning), the Driver Assistance package (adaptive cruise control, steering assist, additional forward collision mitigation technology, rear-end collision cabin preparation, active blind-spot assist and active lane-keeping assist), and the Parking Assist package (a surround-view monitor, front and rear parking sensors, and an automated parallel parking system).

Notable stand-alone options include an illuminated Mercedes logo in the grille, a heated steering wheel, split-folding rear seats, rear-seat side airbags, a multicontour front seat, and a premium Bang & Olufsen audio system.

The AMG CLS 63 S receives a turbocharged 5.5-liter V8 (577 hp, 590 lb-ft) that is paired with a performance-focused seven-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive is standard.

In addition to the CLS 550's standard features, the AMG CLS 63 S also gains 19-inch wheels with summer tires, upgraded brakes, a limited-slip differential, a sport exhaust system, unique styling elements, front and rear parking sensors, an automated parallel parking system, 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.

Most option packages are available and similar in content to those for the CLS 550. Carbon-ceramic brakes are a stand-alone option.

Trim tested

Each vehicle typically comes in multiple versions that are fundamentally similar. The ratings in this review are based on our evaluation of the 2015 CLS 550 4Matic sedan (twin-turbo 4.7L V8 | 7-speed automatic | AWD).

NOTE: Since this test was conducted, the current CLS has received some revisions, including a nine-speed automatic transmission, and additional standard features. Our findings remain applicable to the 2018 CLS.


It's very quick. Although not an out-and-out sporting handler, the CLS 550 is capable enough to make impressive progress on back roads. This car is more of a cruiser, though, and not an AMG model.


The turbocharged 4.7-liter V8 delivers a ton of thrust and is very torquey. It doesn't feel turbocharged. Throttle response is slow on tip-in, though Sport mode helps sharpen it up.


Very good modulation and intuitive in routine driving. The pedal is firm even when used aggressively. Powerful, too — 60-0 mph in 102 feet in our testing is a strong showing. This result is aided by the CLS 550's summer tires.


At speed, the helm is pretty sharp, with appropriate quickness and heft. There's not a whole lot of feel. During a three-point turn, the assistance can't keep up, resulting in heavy spots in the steering.


Body control is quite good on winding roads. It doesn't roll as much as expected for a car this hefty (4,367 pounds). Its limits are relatively modest, but the car doesn't exhibit any bad manners.


It's exceptionally civilized in routine driving. But pick up the pace even a little and there are issues. Throttle response could be sharper coming out of corners. The transmission's manual mode doesn't respond quickly, and then it has labored gear changes.


The CLS excels on long trips. From its seats and comprehensive noise isolation to its compliant ride quality, this car is the place to be when the open road beckons.

Seat comfort

The front seats are big and plush and offer great comfort for long stints in the saddle. Very soft leather. The seat coolers are oddly ineffective.

Ride comfort

The ride quality is very good. In the default Comfort mode, the CLS absorbs imperfections gracefully and without introducing unnecessary mush — an example of how to do it right.

Noise & vibration

The CLS is a quiet, comfortable car with very little road noise. The engine note is subdued, releasing only a pleasant rumble when you really dip into the throttle. Wind noise has been well-tamped, too. Ideal for long trips.


Beautifully finished and solid-feeling, the cabin feels the pinch of the car's styling. The dramatically sloping roofline compromises entry, hampers visibility, and eats up headroom. Otherwise, there is space aplenty for passengers in front and back.

Ease of use

The controls fall readily to hand. The cruise control interface — a simple stalk that is always active — remains outstanding.

Getting in/getting out

The sloping roofline hampers the way into and out of the front seat. It's worse for backseat users. The roof drops sharply in the rear, and there are long doors to deal with.


The front seat offers lots of room to spread out. Front headroom is snug for 6-footers, but there's plenty of legroom and shoulder room. The front seat goes back so far that it may be hard to touch the pedals with your tiptoes. The headroom is tight in the back seat.


Visibility is good out the front and out the front side glass. The rearward view is heavily blocked by thick rear roof pillars, the sloping roofline and the tall rear deck. Use of the backup camera is a must.


The interior is very nicely built. The controls move with appropriate heft. The leather on doors and elsewhere is padded and very soft and comfortable. A random beeping was encountered twice during a single drive, with no known cause.


Up front are a large console bin, two average cupholders, modest door pockets and storage under driver's seat. Backseat console has two rolltop compartments, a flip-down armrest, small door pockets, plus pockets on seatbacks. The 15.3-cubic-foot trunk is narrower than expected but reasonably sized.


The knob-based multimedia interface can have awkward moments. The display screen is bright and sharp and never washes out.

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.