In this edition of Driven, we look at the latest AMG model to bear the fabled 53-suffix, meaning it comes powered by a 3.0-litre straight-six, allied to a starter generator to quell turbo lag. The model in question is the graceful CLS 53 four-door coupe, representing a product portfolio to appease discerning buyers looking for a stylish, comfortable yet decidedly brisk steed. The CLS 53 is essentially the marque’s third stab at the niche genre and its best yet.
Having pioneered the four-door coupe genre back in 2004, the Mercedes-Benz CLS has pandered to a niche buying market that finds the E-Class sedan, well, rather bland and the Coupe version less practical. So, then, the CLS manages to straddle a median of the two and, in this third-generation guise, it truly has turned up its visual venom to even higher echelons. From that low-slung front-end, to the curved roof silhouette and elongated boot – there is an air of elegance and sportiness. The car crouches over its 20” wheels with corner embracing intent which, as I came to find out, musters it quite eloquently. There are AMG emblazoned brake callipers fore and aft that offer consistent stopping power and, of course, there are the obligatory four circular exhaust tips that are signature to all 53 models.
Mercedes-Benz and particularly its AMG derivatives now have, unequivocally so, the best interior appointments of the German triumvirate, the other duo being Audi and BMW. The expansive digital interface of our CLS 53 AMG test added a welcome inter-galactic theme to complement the rest of the premium finishes, while those aviation air vents, and mood lighting, add yet another layer of ambience to the cocktail mix.
WHAT’S UNDER THE HOOD?
As briefly mentioned, the CLS 53 is endowed with a 3.0-litre, in-line six-cylinder engine, pushing out 320 kW and 520 Nm that is augmented by a 16 kW electric motor (to quell initial turbo lag from the engine) bringing the maximum power quota up to 336 kW. It is located between the combustion engine and gearbox. The latter is a 9-speed variant and pairs well with the engine through varying driving conditions.
Pottering about town, it mashes almost imperceptibly through the gears and, on the open road, the engine spins at a relaxed 2,000 r/min – an instrumental feature in the relatively low 10-litres per 100 km we achieved over the test tenure.
It is also deceptively quick in its distillation of speed, thanks to a linear power delivery that is further aided by the four-wheel-drive traction. Thanks to a sports exhaust system fitted to our test car, it sounds the part too, delivering a deliciously mellifluous six-cylinder howl, interspersed by belches between gear upshifts, it is a satisfyingly vocal note that aims to please.
COMPLIANCY AND PRACTICALITY
Despite riding on low profile tyre slivers (275/30 sections on the rear axle), the overall ride quality and compliancy, as well as the body control, are exemplary to say the least. It soaks up corrugations, undulations and scarred tarmac with the utmost aplomb, making this a consummate long-distance cruiser.
There is a 490-litre luggage space, which is relatively generous, and the rear quarters are comfortable enough to accommodate average-height adults with relative ease. There are several nooks and crannies to place anything from your mobile phone to various bits and bobs, while the dual USB ports in the centre front armrest console are a welcome addition. The pairing of one’s mobile phone to the infotainment system is a cinch and operation of said infotainment via the rotary dial was intuitive a few days into the test period, so owners will be accustomed to the system quickly.
IS IT DYNAMICALLY SOUND?
Driving the CLS 53 with spirit will appease more people as it has power and performance that is easily exploitable, under any conditions. Thanks to, as mentioned before, the standard four-wheel-drive system, traction is abundant and grip levels are prodigious, finding yourself going around corners briskly and with very little fuss. This thing simply grips and goes! And you don’t have to be driving it all that quickly to enjoy it, with the sports exhaust activated, it cheekily blips and burbles even at pedestrian speeds, much to the driver’s delight.
While there is no word or plans to introduce a 63 variant of the model, replete with a V8 engine, the 53 version is quick in anyone’s books and boasts everyday accessible performance. There is also a CLS 400d for those who would prefer an oil-burner version, which should return excellent fuel consumption figures. Personally, however, I reckon that the CLS 53 is easily one of the finest Mercedes products I’ve driven in quite a while. It looks and sounds the part and goes even better, all the while remaining comfortable and practical for the most part. It is, unreservedly, a well-polished product in my small book and worth a second look if you’re fishing in this niche pond.
Report by LERATO MATEBESE | Images © DAIMLER SA