Mercedes-AMG blends luxury and performance in spades with the updated CLS 53.
When the Mercedes CLS first landed on the scene it proved that if you wanted a good looking coupe, you didn’t have to compromise. Three generations along and that hasn’t changed, although this update for 2022 evolves the formula to keep things looking sharp because as with all great ideas, the design has been scrupulously studied and brazenly plagiarised by all and sundry.
Outside, the most obvious changes are a new grille, new bumper, new LED headlights with matrix technology, 20-inch alloy wheels. There’s also a new ‘Cashmere white mango’ paint that not many would know.
While Mercedes produces diesel versions of the CLS they won’t be coming to Australia and driving the AMG-fettled twin-turbo V6 CLS 53 here that should not be of any concern. It uses a 3.0-litre straight-six engine with some clever hybrid tech to boost efficiency, but we’re more interested in the 320kW of power and 520Nm of torque this engine delivers and the 0-100km/h time of 4.5sec with a silky-smooth soundtrack. Needless to say, it’s not an engine short of overtaking urgency, even in the treacherous rain we were ploughing through on the way to Phillip Island, although ultimately some may find it rather muted for a sportier offering. It’s louder in its sportiest mode, but the sounds are digitally enhanced and somewhat contrived.
The nine-speed automatic transmission is decidedly slick and responsive and for the most part, the CLS is whisper-quiet and hushed on the freeway, where mild-hybrid efficiency blends seamlessly with the performance on tap. An integrated starter motor (ISG) augments engine power and helps regenerate electricity to the small battery, providing 16kW/250Nm for both helping for acceleration when you’re on full throttle and also cruising economy when you’re off it. Although the 9.2L/100km combined cycle rating is hard to achieve when having fun, it is certainly a realistic target when enjoying the air suspension in comfort and listening to the epic 13-speaker Burmester sound system.
That suppleness disappears if you press the Sport button with a little more fidget over rippled roads, but the positive is better control over crests and dips and the way the CLS handles. It’s not totally pin-sharp on the front end when pushing hard but it is sure-footed along a twisting back road and the 4MATIC+ all-wheel-drive system gave plenty of support on the wet surface with a steering feel that’s precise and predictable, along with brakes that are smooth and dependable.
The driving position in the Mercedes CLS feels cocooning, low and sporty. In terms of adjustment for the steering wheel and figure-hugging seats, there’s enough to accommodate most shapes and sizes. The driver’s seat comes with full-electric adjustment as standard and includes three-position memory and adjustable lumbar support, and heating function.
Seeing out of the front is fine, but visibility is tricky out of the back due to the tapering rear end that makes the windows shallower. However, Mercedes has thought about the stress of parking and added front and rear parking sensors, as well as a full 360-degree birdseye view and blind-spot monitoring, as standard. At night, the standard adaptive LED headlights are superb, too.
There’s little doubt that the CLS has one of the snazziest interiors in the class, with a rich mix of materials including stained open-pore Ash wood veneers and chrome highlights. It looks even plusher when bathed in the ambient lighting. Black Nappa leather seats with microfibre are standard and you can upgrade to full Nappa upholstery in beige or red for $900.
In terms of infotainment, as you’d expect, sat-nav, a DAB radio and Bluetooth are all included, as well as two 12.3-inch screens – one for infotainment and one directly in front of the driver in place of analogue instruments. The infotainment system is controlled either from the touchpad on the centre console, via touch-sensitive buttons on the steering wheel, or through certain voice commands. If you don’t fancy using the car’s built-in MBUX operating system, you can always connect your phone to it with standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring; both work very well. And we approve of the CLS’s physical touchpad controller here because it’s usually vastly less distracting to use while driving than touchscreen systems.
What you don’t see is also part of Mercedes’ comprehensive equipment list; active blind-spot monitoring, steering assist, radar cruise control, traffic sign recognition, lane change assist, skid control, and more. It really is a long roll call.
It’s quite the competitive coupe when considering the out-going model cost $189k and the new facelift is $183,600. There are options like different alloys ($500), AMG exterior carbon fibre package ($2656) and those full Nappa leather seats. Alternatively, you may elect for the Limited Edition, which at $14,000 extra gives you one of 299 limited edition models worldwide. Some of the features for the white mango or matte grey painted version are full carbon fibre trims, AMG projection lighting, a race program with dynamic plus, red exterior highlights, unique wheels, and a fitted indoor car cover. And with or without that, the Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 is dressed to impress.