By Grace Houghton / Hagerty.com
A year after Mercedes-Benz gave the third-gen CLS-Class a generous mid-cycle refresh, it’s sprinkling on a few extra goodies.
As of last summer, the suave, swoopy Benz sedan received an updated MBUX infotainment system and a raft of driver-assist tech that we recently sampled on the model’s more sedate-looking brother, the E-Class. As of early 2022, CLS-Classes will also boast an edgier, AMG-influenced grille and the fancy capacitive steering wheel from the ’21 E 450. More on that in a bit.
The AMG-specific front grille showcases a new texture: a nifty matrix of three-pointed stars finished in a dark chrome and offset by two simple spears on either side of a properly large-and-in-charge Benz logo. The design cue is one of several elements of “AMG Line” finery that trickles down from the full-bore AMG cars and, beginning in 2022, comes standard on all CLS-Class models. Regardless of terminology, the CLS wears its new mouthpiece well.
Apart from a new paint color (including Starling Blue Metallic, shown on the right), there are no other aesthetic changes for the 2021 model year-and, frankly, this handsome bruiser doesn’t need many tweaks to its sheetmetal. The first generation, which debuted in 2004 as one of the first “four-door coupes,” looked like an E-Class over which someone had dozed off holding a heat gun; the second and third generations (2010-17 and 2018-present) straightened their spines and took on a more distinguished, look-me-in-the-eyes posture. The ’21 CLS-Class somehow manages to be slinky-despite its 115.7-inch wheelbase, which is only 2.4 inches shorter than a 2021 Honda Odyssey’s.
The other significant change can be found inside the vehicle, front and center for the driver. Though the three-spoke steering wheel design is very similar to before, but the buttons on each spoke and the tech baked into it is refreshed. The thumb-operated cruise-control, media, and menu-access buttons are touch-sensitive, requiring only a tap or swipe. The rim, thanks to a web of sensors embedded just under its surface, can detect whether you’re touching the steering wheel; the adaptive cruise-control/lane-keeping programs rely on the presence of your fingers, rather than steering inputs, to determine your alertness.
The powertrain remains the same: a buttery-smooth, turbocharged straight-six assisted by a 48V mild-hybrid system and mated to a nine-speed automatic. Total power sits at 362 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque.
Equipped with a bevy of interior color choices, a handsome exterior, and a polished powertrain, the lightly tweaked 2021 CLS-Class will continue to attract deep-pocketed customers who like the E-Class but want to roll in a heavier-weight class. Mercedes-Benz hasn’t released pricing for the 2021 model, but the 2020 CLS 450 starts at $71,350 with destination and zero options. Don’t expect much to change when the new models hit dealer lots sometime in early 2022.
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