Sunday, August 9, 2020

2019 Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 4MATIC+ Review


The Mercedes-Benz CLS was the original "four-door coupe" that defines the segment. It offers the good look of a coupe with the practicality of a four-door sedan. While the rear cabin headroom suffers, the design has proven to be popular. The CLS is now in its third-generation, and Mercedes has decided to give it an AMG-tuned performance version, the CLS53.

Thanks to Mercedes-Benz Canada, I was given the chance to test drive this beauty on our short trip to the Salt Spring Island, BC. Below is my unbiased review.

While the third generation CLS looks smoother, and less distinctive than its predecessors, the CLS53 with its long proportion, elegant lines, and the low stance still turns head wherever it goes. It is a car that doesn't need to stand out to feel supreme. I was surprised by how many compliments we got in the span of half an hour waiting for the ferry to arrive.

The AMG version of the CLS gets its own distinctive twin-bar grille. The front fascia is aggressive with wide air intakes and sharp wraparound LED headlights. There is relatively little visual ques on the side. The simplicity sets the stage for the iconic tensed arch side profile of the CLS53, and the 19 inch split spoke wheels perfectly compliment the subtly lowered stance of the car.

In the rear, the slender LED taillights are accompanied by a linear lip spoiler on the trunk lid. Four round exhaust tips protrude slightly along with the lower bumper. I would personalty prefer a more subtle design for the exhaust tips, but the CLS 53 is nonetheless a stunning car.

Mercedes has always been good at producing breath taking interior designs, and the CLS53 really takes it to a new level. The attention to details is staggering. Soft-touched leather trims with red highlight stitching are complimented by flashy composite dash trims. Multi-color LED accent lights turn the car into a disco club at night.

The front seats of the CLS53 is something to behold. Pretty much every aspect of the seat can be adjusted via the prominent control buttons situation on the door panels. Of course they are both  heated and vented. There is integrated massaging functions that actually does a decent job of pushing into the muscles. And our tester is equipped with the optional active bolsters that gently squeeze in depending on the speed and direct of the turn. It caught me off guard at first, and I had to turn down the responsiveness slightly to get used to it. However, once you do get used to it, the system does a great job keeping you in the center of the seat even when tackling a tight corner with speed. I grew to love it by the end of our test drive.

There are now three seats in the back instead of two. It is a first for the CLS. While they are perfectly fine for carrying three people around town, the center seat is best reserved for someone petite. The headroom in the rear cabin suffers slightly due to the sloped-back roof line, but the legroom is decent.

Opposite to its rather subtle, elegant exterior look, the CLS53 wows you once you step inside. It is a great example of luxury at its finest.

A massive 12.3" center display extends to the equally massive information display in the instrument cluster for a seamless look. Both displays are sharp and the linear-style menus looks modern. Due to the many options the car provides, the menu can take some time to get used to. Nevertheless, the operation is relatively simple and intuitive. The infotainment system can be operated via the center control that features both a BMW-style rotary knob and a Audi style touch-pad. It can also be accessed via the touch control buttons on the steering wheel.

The 12.3" information display directly behind the steering wheel is customizable to display anything from vehicle information, setting, driver-assist functions, to animated performance criteria. It is a pleasure to view and operate.

The Burmeister sound system provides deep bass and sensational clarity. It is especially impressive due to the quietness of the cabin.

Safety and Driver Assistance
There is no shortage of standard active safety features, and more are included with the intelligent drive package.

The Active Brake Assist is among the best I have test driven. It keeps the distance to the car in the front to a full stop and starts again automatically after that car starts moving. It also detects pedestrians in city driving speed.

Besides that, the followings are standard:
  • Blind Spot Assist
  • Traffic Sign Assist
  • Active Parking Assist
  • Rearview camera
  • Rear Cross-Traffic Alert
  • Adaptive braking technology
  • Brake Assist (BAS)
  • Tire Pressure Monitoring System
  • Crosswind Assist
  • Rain-sensing windshield wipers
  • Heated windshield washer system
And the followings are optional:
  • Active Steering Assist
  • Active MULTIBEAM LED Lighting System
  • Adaptive Highbeam Assist
  • Evasive Steering Assist
  • Active Blind Spot Assist
  • Active Lane Keeping Assist
  • Active Lane Change Assist
  • Active Brake Assist with Cross-Traffic Function
  • Congestion Emergency Braking
  • Active Emergency Stop Assist
  • Extended Restart in Stop-and-Go Traffic
  • 360 camera

For those of you who are familiar with the typical AMG vehicles, you might be surprised to find a 3.0L twin turbocharged 6 cylinder engine under the hood of the CLS53. The engine is paired with a hybrid system which is called the EQ Boost by Mercedes. This is an interesting setup that deserves further explanations.

While most people would associate a hybrid system with fuel savings, that is not at all the main purpose of the one in the CLS53. The EQ Boost starter-alternator can briefly pump out 21hp of power and 184lb.ft. of instant torque at a standstill. Mercedes uses a 48V electrical system that is 4 times more powerful compare to the 12V system to power the starter-alternator, the electric supercharger, and the water pump. The 12V system handles the low voltage complements like the cockpit lights and drive computers.

The engine itself pumps out 429hp of horsepower and 384lb.ft. of torque. Before the exhaust gas driven turbochargers kick in (at higher rpm), the electric auxiliary supercharger spins up to 70,000rpm in a fraction of second to create the early boost. While the whole setup sounds complicated (and it is), the result is a smooth operating drivetrain that performs closer to a V8 than a typical turbocharged V6. There is no turbo lag whatsoever, and the low end acceleration is instant. The AMG CLS53 can accelerate from 0-100km/hr in only 4.5 seconds. Very impressive for a car that weights over 2000kg.

The CLS53 handles well with the AMG tuned suspension and steering. The ride is on the stiffer side even when set to "Comfort" mode, but the car handles potholes and bumps well. The steering is quick and nimble for a car that is almost 5 meter long, but it lacks feedback. The AMG's 4Matic+ all wheel drive system can send up to 100 percent of the power to the rear wheels. The front tires are only called upon when it is needed for the grip.

While the main purpose of the hybrid drivetrain is to provide more power, it also helps to save fuel. The CLS53 is rated for 10.7 l/100km combined (8.7 highway/12.4 city), which is very respectable for a performance vehicle this size. Our mainly city driven test ride returns a 12.0 L/100km rating.

Cargo Space & Storage
Trunk cargo space is decent for a luxury sport sedan at 490L. The rear seats can be split 40/20/40 and fold relatively flat. There is a slim storage compartment under the cargo floor, and Mercedes thoughtfully includes a folding storage bin in it.

In cabin storage options are plenty. There is a wireless charging pad in the front center console for your smart phone, deep storage bin under the front center armrest, and a folding armrest with integrated cup holders in the rear cabin.

The Mercedes AMG CLS53 is a beautiful car with plenty of power and all the latest and greatest gadgets you can find in a car. It is practical as a family sedan despite the compromised rear-seat headroom, and fun to drive as a sports vehicle despite trading some performance with passenger comfort. It strives to find a prefect balance that should be appreciated by most buyers in this segment. But what it is really good at, is to provide a luxurious driving experience only Mercedes can deliver.

Test Vehicle
2019 Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 4MATIC+
$111,500 as tested

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