- Doors and Seats
- Engine Power
- Ancap Safety
The updated Mercedes-AMG CLS53 is the last man standing in a once-proud Mercedes-Benz CLS range, and at $183,600 it’s not cheap. Does the 2022 update deliver the goods to justify its price and its place in the Mercedes range?
- Potent hybrid powertrain has plenty of punch
- Interior has quality and class in spades
- Adjustable suspension does sporty well
- Not as roomy as an E-class in the back
- Two-tonne kerb weight impacts ride
- Tyre noise is prominent
Mercedes-Benz has rather dramatically updated the CLS Coupe/Sedan range for 2022 by axing the CLS350 and CLS450 back in September and leaving the updated CLS53 AMG launching this month as the sole surviving four-door coupe.
Overseas, the 2022 CLS range gets styling and technology tweaks, and mechanical modifications. But demand in Australia for those lesser variants is obviously not sufficient for Mercedes-Benz Australia to go to the trouble of importing them.
The 2022 Mercedes-AMG CLS53 4Matic+ is priced from $183,600, and occupies a very particular niche in the extensive Mercedes-Benz lineup.
In AMG-speak, 53 denotes a second-tier performance model, sitting below the full-noise ‘63’ variants’. However, unlike the E53 AMG which shares the CLS53’s 320kW turbocharged and electric supercharged six-cylinder and 48V mild-hybrid powertrain, there is no twin-turbo V8 ‘63’ variant waving the performance flag above it.
If you’re prepared to shop outside the three-pointed star then have a look at the Audi S7 ($162,500), Porsche Panamera ($203,500) and BMW 8 Series Gran Coupe ($179,471).
The CLS53 AMG comes with the aforementioned 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbo petrol engine driving all four wheels through a nine-speed automatic transmission.
It sits rather smartly on 20inch thin-spoke alloys with adjustable air suspension and an AMG bodykit that hugs the ground without robbing the styling’s sleek appeal. Quad exhausts at the rear speak to the 320kW/520Nm performance within, capable of pushing the car from 0-100km/h in a very tidy 4.5sec.
|Key details||Mercedes-AMG CLS53 4MATIC+|
|Price (MSRP)||$183,600 plus on-road costs|
|Colour of test car||Designo Diamond White Bright Metallic|
|Options||Premium paint – $1800
Carbon fibre interior trim – $5500
|Price as tested||$190,900 plus on-road costs|
|Rivals||Audi S7 | BMW 840i Gran Coupe | Porsche Panamera|
At 5012mm long, 1896mm wide and 1422mm tall the CLS53 is longer and wider than its E53 brother and the CLS53 it supercedes, but its roofline is a touch lower, giving it a long and slippery silhouette.
That doesn’t exactly translate to extra room inside, but then again the CLS53 is far from cramped. The front half of the cabin is inviting and generously accommodating, and the back seats have space enough to house two adults in comfort, three with a bit of a squeeze. Headroom and legroom is adequate for average size humans.
The steering wheel is electrically adjustable, as are the AMG sports seats which also have built-in heating.
The CLS’s 490L boot is 30L smaller than the previous model.
As for the cabin’s ambience, it’s luxury all around, dominated by the huge double screen that stretches across two-thirds of the dash and lashings of leather throughout.
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|Mercedes-AMG CLS53 4MATIC+|
Infotainment and Connectivity
The CLS53 has Mercedes-Benz’s latest generation MBUX user interface which incorporates voice recognition – although we struggled at times to get it to distinguish between ‘16’ and ‘60’ when speaking addresses and entering radio frequencies.
What looks like one long, sweeping screen is actually two 12.3inch screens, one housing all the infotainment systems and the other performing as an instrument cluster in front of the driver. Both are outstanding in terms of clarity, graphics quality and responsiveness.
The CLS53 has Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity along with a wireless charging mat. Digital radio is standard as is satellite navigation and multi-zone climate control.
The AMG steering wheel has capacitive touch buttons for setting and adjusting the cruise control and interacting with the sound system. They work well, although the piano black finish can catch fingerprints.
ANCAP doesn’t list a safety rating for the Mercedes-Benz CLS, although Euro NCAP classifies it as part of the E-class range on which it bestows five stars. This test was conducted to 2016 standards on a 2016 E-class, which has the same basic underpinnings as the current E-class and CLS-class, but testing standards have evolved – as have the CLS’s safety kit.
The CLS53 has nine airbags, electronic stability control with crosswind assist, blind-spot assist, active lane keeping, active brake assist with rear cross-traffic function, multi-view 360-degree camera, evasive steering assist, active blind-spot assist, tyre pressure monitoring, adaptive high-beam assist plus, and driver-attention monitoring.
|Mercedes-AMG CLS53 4MATIC+|
|ANCAP rating||Not tested|
Mercedes-Benz moved to a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty back in 2020 for all privately owned passenger car SUV and ute models. Servicing intervals for the CLS53 are every 12 months or 25,000km, whichever comes first.
Buyers can choose from a $2350 three-year service plan, $3200 for four years or $4650 for five years.
During our shortish 100km road loop on the launch, the CLS53 averaged 10.2L/100km, which is a touch more than Mercedes-Benz’s claim of 9.2L/100km on the combined cycle.
|At a glance||Mercedes-AMG CLS53|
|Warranty||Five-year / unlimited km|
|Service intervals||12 months / 25,000km|
|Servicing costs||$2350 (3 years) | $4650 (5 years)|
|Fuel cons. (claimed)||9.2L/100km|
|Fuel cons. (on test)||10.2L/100km|
|Fuel type||98 octane petrol|
|Fuel tank size||80L|
Looks can be deceiving. On approach, the CLS53 looks almost compact, its sloping styling disguising the true size of the body. At just over 5m long, the CLS is one of the bigger passenger cars on our roads, and a kerb weight north of two tonnes makes it one of the heavier ones too. But it drives more adroitly and agilely than either of those measurements would suggest.
Much of that is down to the responsiveness and muscularity of the 53’s twin-charged engine which is assisted by an electric compressor. This means you’ve got 520Nm of torque on call from 1800rpm to 5800rpm – pretty much most of the usable rev range. Combine that with nine smooth shifting gears and all-wheel drive and the CLS53 accelerates with aggression but always with refinement.
Speaking of refinement, wind noise is barely a whisper at legal speeds, and rough roads slide underneath without ruffling occupants feathers too much – although the suspension tune is on the sportier side, and can thump over road joins. Tyre noise is evident, however, which is the tradeoff you make for having grippy tyres.
Choosing sportier suspension settings via the CLS53’s Dynamic Select system does impact ride quality but not as much as you’d expect, which suggests that Mercedes has prioritised ride refinement over ultimate performance.
The steering wheel also has dials for controlling the overall dynamic drive settings and adjusting the various functions that make up AMG’s Dynamic Select system (suspension, steering, throttle, transmission, etc).
|Key details||Mercedes-AMG CLS53|
|Engine||3.0-litre six-cylinder turbo petrol w/electric supercharger, 48V mild hybrid|
|Power||320kW @ 6100rpm|
|Torque||520Nm @ 1800-5800rpm|
|Drive type||All-wheel drive|
|Transmission||Nine-speed torque convertor automatic|
|Power to weight ratio||159.3kW/t|
|Tow rating||1900kg braked, 750kg unbraked|
Mercedes-Benz’s decision to rationalise the CLS-class range down to one single CLS53 variant is a reflection of dwindling demand. The CLS’s best sales performance in the last four years was 2019 when 220 examples moved off showroom floors.
You could argue the niche the CLS occupies is also dwindling as the C-class and E-class sedan become more visually appealing with every generation, but I think it’s a victim of the nation’s ever-increasing love affair with SUVs.
None of that means the CLS53 is a bad car. In fact, it’s a compelling luxury sports sedan that combines unique and desirable design with sporting flair and panache.
At $183,600 it’s not exactly a steal, but that price is competitive against rivals from Audi, BMW and Porsche. Still, at these prices, buyers are not swayed by which brand represents the best value for their dollar. Instead it’s brand first, everything else second.
The CLS family has been around since 2004, and 17 years on is slowly becoming a victim of an evolving world. Mercedes-Benz has done enough with the new CLS53 to keep it at the top of its game, but that game is on the verge of extinction.