Mercedes-Benz has imbued its 2019 CLS with a holistic air of wellness that seems part yoga pants and part therapeutic massage, aswirl in scented air.
It is as much lifestyle support as it is a car. But this third-generation model is such a thorough redesign that those returning to update a lease will step into a new experience.
Among the firsts for the redesign is the brand’s return to an inline six-cylinder engine, which it abandoned in 1997 for a new V-6 line. The new six will find its way to other models as redesigns allow.
The new 3.0-liter is not just any old stove-bolt six but a highly electrified and turbocharged engine that debuts a 48-volt electrical system with so-called EQ Boost, which integrates a hybridlike starter-generator, called ISG.
Like a gasoline-electric hybrid, the motor assists the engine when accelerating and allows “sailing” when cruising without heavy acceleration. Sailing also pipes energy back into the battery for continued boost and to power the cabin electrics.
Powering the motor on 48 volts requires a quarter of the electrical current it would with a 12-volt system, Mercedes-Benz says, so the wiring can be thinner and lighter. The 48-volt system also is less costly than plug-in hybrid technology with similar gains in fuel economy.
The result, the company says, is a six-cylinder engine with the performance of an eight-cylinder. The 3.0-liter inline six has 362 horsepower and 369 foot-pounds of torque from 1,600-4,000 rpm, with another 21 hp from the EQ Boost for brief bursts of power.
Acceleration is forceful but considerate of fuel economy, which has mileage ratings of 23 mpg city, 30 highway and 26 mpg combined, on the recommended premium fuel. (The rear-drive CLS has ratings of 24/31/26 and the CLS53 is rated 21/27/23 mpg.)
Curb weights range from 4,134 for the rear-drive model to 4,134 with 4Matic AWD to 4,447 for the higher-performance CLS53.
The CLS is built on the large-midsize E-Class sedan platform and shares the same features and architecture but not the engine, still a V-6.
For the third-gen 2019 CLS, the carmaker says it has built “more strongly than ever on the aura and unique character of this trendsetting model.” It is how a car becomes a lifestyle support. Reading through the press materials I learned of its “self-assured sportiness” and “acoustic comfort.”
For example, you might slide behind the wheel feeling less than productive, but just dial up a specific wellness setting and your well-being and performance levels are enhanced, says Mercedes-Benz. The Energizing Comfort feature provides an attitude adjustment through several cabin features. Six programs can be selected, ranging from Refresh or Freshness, Vitality, Joy and Training (muscle relaxation, muscle activation and balance — each with several exercises).
The climate control system releases the sweet smell of success from a microfiltered fragrance; Daybreak Mood in the test car had kind of a sweet bloom of rain and light cologne. Let the well-being soak in from heated, ventilated and massaging seats, the heated steering wheel and clear your head with the ambient lighting of 64 colors and musical “atmospheres.”
The CLS was a trendsetter when it debuted in 2003 with its fastback styling and arching roofline that made people stop, stare and head to the dealership. Marketers called the body style a coupe despite its four doors.
Other brands rushed to create their own versions, such as the Porsche Panamera and Audi A7. And now the format is seen in mainstream models, such as the Buick Regal Sportback, Kia Stinger and BMW 4-Series Gran Coupe with others on the way.
The CLS is sold in rear- or all-wheel-drive models and the higher-performance CLS53. Starting prices range from $70,195, $72,695 and $80,895, including the $995 freight charge from Sindelfingen, Germany.
With options, the CLS450 4Matic tester was $92,800.
Standard features include AMG body styling, redesigned LED headlights and taillights, 19-inch light-alloy wheels, a 12.3-inch high-resolution COMAND display, ambient lighting (individually adjustable in 64 colors) including illuminated air vents, Car-to-X Communication and Smartphone Integration.
The $970 AMG Line option includes a wheel choice of 19- or 20-inch multi-spoke wheels, the Mercedes-Benz star in the radiator grille, multifunction flat-bottom sport steering wheel, AMG floor mats that match the upholstery color and brushed aluminum sport pedals with rubber studs.
There is an elegance and grace to the CLS interior. It is immaculate with precise attention to detail in how the elements align, in how tidy the stitching appears and the solid feel to all of it.
Another change in the format is a newly added seatbelt to the center position, making the CLS a five-seater. But I don’t know why a center belt is such a big deal. The center position is narrow, footroom is displaced by the tall and wide transmission tunnel and the seatback is the pull-down armrest. It won’t fit an adult and even a kid will pout because the window seats seem as substantial and comfortable as the front seats. The bench is a little short for adult thigh support. Legroom is OK at a maximum of 35 inches, if driver “Long Legs” isn’t in the front seat.
It’s a lovely environment with the Burmester 3D surround audio with 25 speakers, including three across in the headliner, looking like tech jewelry. Crank the volume and it is a front-row concert.
The new CLS exterior styling is dramatic, for which people will pay more to own and, actually, get less interior space than the sedan body style from which most of these four-door coupes originate.
It’s clever marketing to put you on the road to well-being.
2019 Mercedes-Benz CLS 450 4Matic
Body style: large, 5-passenger, AWD 4-door coupe
Engine: 362-hp, turbocharged inline six-cylinder; 369 lb.-ft. torque from 1,600-4,000 rpm
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 23/30/26 mpg city/hwy/combined; premium fuel required
0-60 mph: 4.8 sec
Fuel tank: 21.1 gal.
Trunk space: 11.9 cu. ft.
Front head/leg room: 36.9/41.9 in.
Rear head/leg room: 35.9/35 in.
Length/wheelbase: 196.4/115.7 in.
Curb weight: 4,255 lbs.
Turning circle: 39 ft.
Standard equipment includes: smartkey locking and push-button ignition, multiview camera system, 12.3-inch multimedia display, COMAND navigation with voice control, Apple CarPlay or Android Auto infotainment, central controller touch pad, power front seats with lumbar, split-folding back seat, steering-wheel touch buttons, power tilt-sliding sunroof, LED headlights-taillights-running lights, sport exhaust
Safety features include: 7 air bags, blind-spot assist, adaptive braking, active brake assist, crosswind stabilization, attention assist
Base price: $72,695, including $995 freight charge; price as tested $92,800
Options on test vehicle: Selenite Grey metallic paint $720; Machiatto Beige and Magma Grey Nappa leather $1,370; exterior lighting package $900; AMG line $970 (19-inch high-performance tires and twin five-spoke wheels); heated and ventilated front seats $450; warmth and comfort package $1,050; head-up display $990; 12.3-inch digital instrument panel $850; Energizing comfort package $550; Air Body Control suspension $1,900; power rear-window sunshade $440; Burmester 3D surround audio system $5,400; rear seat entertainment system wiring $170; heated rear seats $580; soft-close doors $550; parking assistance package $1,290; Premium package $3,150; Acoustic comfort package $1,100; illuminated door sills $350; 115-volt AC power outlet $115
Where assembled: Sindelfingen, Germany
Warranty: 4 years/50,000 miles bumper to bumper