REVIEW | Exploring the split personalities of the 2019 Mercedes CLS

Brenwin Naidu gets a taste of two very different CLS models – the 400d 4MATIC and Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 4MATIC+

09 October 2019 - 13:06
The 2019 Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 4MATIC+
The 2019 Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 4MATIC+
Image: Supplied

Mercedes-Benz was on to something when it pioneered the four-door coupé niche with the CLS-Class in 2003. The concept might have been a paradox in terms, yet it went on to enjoy success, both commercially and critically, spawning two subsequent generations and inspiring fellow German counterparts to produce interpretations of their own. Audi joined the fray with the A7 Sportback and BMW came to the party with its 6-Series Gran Coupé.

The third generation CLS-Class was launched in SA this year. We recently spent time with both representatives from the range: the milder CLS 400d 4MATIC and mightier Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 4MATIC+ models. Both feature all-wheel drive, as you might have guessed. We will respect the order of the hierarchy and start with the former, less powerful model.

At the heart of the CLS 400d is a straight-six, turbocharged diesel unit with a 2.9-litre displacement. What stood out from the get-go, while gently nosing out of the basement of our Parktown offices, was the remarkable quietness of the engine. Scrutinising the specifications, the reason Mercedes-Benz opted to send power to each corner in this derivative becomes clear. It has a sizable torque figure of 700Nm, meanwhile the power output is quoted at 250kW.

The 2019 Mercedes-Benz CLS 400d 4MATIC
The 2019 Mercedes-Benz CLS 400d 4MATIC
Image: Supplied

Whether trundling around town or overtaking at freeway speeds on an early morning dash to the airport, there seemed to be instant groundswells of progress, from the moment the right pedal was pressed. The optional AMG Line styling package did well to complement the sleek silhouette of the car, although the accompanying 20-inch wheels yielded notable trade-offs on poorer surfaces. Fumbling with the manual fore and aft seat adjustment in a luxury car with a basic price of R1 268 607 was eyebrow-raising.

Moving along. The new crop of in-line mills with their sextet of cylinders are creations to behold, as further evidenced by the engine in the CLS 53, with its 4MATIC+ set-up. Best not be fooled into thinking that this premise of all-wheel traction throws a lasso around fun. Because in its most spirited setting, the car displays impressive levels of playfulness, with its 320kW and 520Nm transmitted via a nine-speed automatic gearbox.

An on-board generator whips up an additional 16kW and 250Nm temporarily, in addition to powering the 48-volt, on-board electrical system. Expect a sprint time of 4.5 seconds. Rapid without a doubt – but staggering to consider that there are even faster ways to get to 100km/h within the Mercedes-AMG stable.

The force fed V6 in the Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 4MATIC+ delivers 320kW and 520Nm.
The force fed V6 in the Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 4MATIC+ delivers 320kW and 520Nm.
Image: Supplied

Expectedly, the model looks the business in the metal, especially in black paint with the correspondingly black alloys. You would feel an utter sense of dread should one of these pull alongside, tinted rear side window opening slowly, menacingly.

And that is perhaps the strongest case the CLS-Class continues to make for itself: the kerbside appeal and swaggering image, versus the conservative character off the E-Class on which it is based. There will always be a market out there for statement purchases such as this.

Pricing for the Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 4MATIC+ kicks off from R1,502,500.


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