REVIEW | The 2019 Mercedes CLS 53 is enough of an AMG dragon

03 October 2019 - 07:49 By Phuti Mpyane
Looking more mafia than pin-up, the CLS 53 has enough AMG DNA to make it interesting. Pic:Phuti Mpyane
Looking more mafia than pin-up, the CLS 53 has enough AMG DNA to make it interesting. Pic:Phuti Mpyane

This CLS 53 AMG is every bit the luxury Mercedes-Benz for those who find its feline shape attractive above the strongbox that is the E-Class.

Evenly matched on specification but styled with sportier touches than the CLS 400d I recently road tested, it features surfaces like carbon-effect panels on its dashboard and the cabin’s quite as successful and roomy. It’s got a relatively slim set of standard features and you’ll have to raid the options list to create a truly sumptuous cabin.

As the outwardly performance orientated of the duo, what you get are exterior looks that are maybe a touch villainous and a little closer to the spirit of the 63 badged AMG dragsters it apes though an AMG specific front bumper design, a pronounced boot-lid spoiler and round, shiny-tipped quad tailpipes poking out of a more noticeable rear valance. These ingredients are consistent with a sportier texture being sold here.

And its 320kW and 520Nm power delivery also doesn’t feel that much of a junior to the expensive 63 Balrogs.  

It’s also available with a new nine-speed auto 'box and 48V mild-hybrid powertrain to mix cheaper running costs and lower emission taxes in the recipe. The EQ electric motor usually takes over at driveway speeds but not during cold morning starts where the new 3.0l turbocharged straight-six engine warms up with a hearty bellow.

Interior differs slightly to CLS 400d in that sporty carbon fibre inserts and grippy leather covered chairs with a suede middle-section come with the AMG. Pic:SUPLLIED
Interior differs slightly to CLS 400d in that sporty carbon fibre inserts and grippy leather covered chairs with a suede middle-section come with the AMG. Pic:SUPLLIED

The company abandoned the more compact V6 as used in 43 AMGs in favour of this classic in-line setup. But then they wasted what could have been a stunning end to the results with the fitment of 4Matic underpinnings that rob it of keener agility and an all-round betterment as a driver’s chariot. It has buttons to be pressed to tailor engine malevolence and transmission veracity to a driver’s preference.

The suspension damping is adjustable but it never gets to 63 AMG levels of stiffness.

The AWD drivetrain doesn’t allow any playful slides in the corners. Any waywardness is diligently monitored by a suite of alert electronic nannies that give zero leeway to such antics, leaving all the fun driving of the CLS 53 limited mostly to commendable off-the-line acceleration bursts and quickness in reeling in distances, which it does with confident stability and without being ponderous through corners. 

Given the overall softness of its set-up, it’s not surprising you will eventually settle into a more civil type driving style, keeping up with highway codes and allowing other road users more time to absorb its striking looks.

And you can forget that you will probably get anywhere near the official economy claims of 8.9l/100km. During its stay it averaged 12.5l/100km. Perhaps it’s possible to forgive its strict dynamism when it looks this good and with a nice engine to listen to. Much work has been done to make it charismatic and worthy of the AMG badge. It’s a good enough tickle to indulge out of reach, full-bore 63 AMG fantasies.

It’s quite chatty engine powering this performance CLS. Pic:Phuti Mpyane
It’s quite chatty engine powering this performance CLS. Pic:Phuti Mpyane

Tech Specs

ENGINE

Type: Six-cylinder turbo petrol

Capacity: 2,999 cc

Power: 320kW

Torque: 520Nm

TRANSMISSION

Type: 9-speed automatic

DRIVETRAIN

Type: 4Matic permanent all wheel drive

PERFORMANCE

Top speed: 250km/h

0-100km/h: 4.5 sec (claimed)

Fuel Consumption: 8.9l/100km (claimed) 12.5l/100km (as tested)

Emissions: 203 g/kg

Standard Features

ABS, stability control, seven airbags, Bluetooth, navigation, auto folding mirrors, multi function steering wheel controls, leather upholstery, rain sensor wipers, auto on/off Xenon LED headlights, daytime driving running lights, park distance control, cruise control, suede-cloth and artificial leather upholstery

Cost of ownership

Warranty: 2years/unlimited km

Maintenance plan: 5years/100,000km

Price: R1,502,100

Lease*:R32,009 per month

* at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit

CLS 53 AMG 4MATIC +

Looks, engine, acceleration

WE DISLIKE:

Few standard items, strict AWD

VERDICT:

A credible but milder Mercedes-AMG

MOTOR NEWS

star rating

*****Design

****Performance

****Economy

*****Safety

***Value For Money

****Overall

COMPETITION

Porsche Panamera 4S, 243kW/450Nm -  R1,829,000

BMW 840i Gran Coupe, 250kW/500Nm - R1,377,590  

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