Mercedes CLS gains starry grille and tech-loaded steering wheel for 2021


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.

2021 Mercedes-Benz CLS 450 4Matic Coupé

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.

2021 Mercedes-Benz CLS 450 4Matic Coupé engine bay

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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