REVIEW | Mercedes’ lavish CLS 53 AMG 4Matic+


If there is one thing Mercedes-AMG is quite known for, it’s building outlandishly fast machinery.

To think, the first real AMG’s from Affalterbach were brutish, brawny machines. Loud, with the speed to match. If you had looked up the word ‘unapologetic’ in the dictionary back in the day, chances were you’d see an AMG as a visual representation.

Fast-forward a few years, and things have… well, they’ve changed - quite a bit.

We are still treated to blindingly fast AMGs, but they’re not biting at the bit like before. We still have AMGs with eye-watering top speeds, but your hands don’t sweat as much as they used to when you explore the limits. In an ever-changing world, Mercedes-AMG has to adapt to the times. They have to cater to an ever-changing clientele. And that means having a product portfolio that encompasses (almost) everything for everyone.

53 AMG?

This will perhaps be the biggest question around the car in question: “CLS 53 AMG? Shouldn’t it be 63?”

As alluded to earlier, Mercedes-AMG has to continuously adapt to the world and the direction it’s moving in. And the ’53 AMG’ nomenclature’ is part of that. In Merc’s naming structure, the 53 effectively slots in between the 63 AMG and 43 AMG - these two names commonly found on vehicles from the C- and E-Class families. Like the 43, the 53 also uses a turbocharged 3.0-litre six-cylinder petrol engine. The difference is, here it produces a staggering 320kW and 520Nm.

Think that’s impressive? The 53 also implements mild electric power. On short bursts, an additional 16kW and 250Nm is generated from an electric motor. It does affect how the vehicle carries itself on the road. And when you factor in that the car weighs a staggering 1980kg, you stand astounded at just how light-footed this car is.

So while the 43 and 63 offer ‘old school’ performance, the 53 blends the present and future (electric mobility).

mercedes-benz cls 53 amg,mercedes-amg cls 53 amg,

                                Image: Daimler Media

Brutish gear changes

The CLS 53 AMG is not the fastest vehicle AMG has ever produced, but it remains impressive. Unfortunately, the car is not fitted with launch control, so testing Merc’s claim of a 0-100km/h time of 4.5 seconds has to be done with little electronic assistance.

In this regard, deactivate traction control and engage Sport+ on the driving mode selector. Stomp on the brakes and build boost via the throttle. Release the brake and allow the car to smash through its gears. Engine revolutions climb with vigour, and at 6000rpm, each gear change is accompanied by a force that pushes your neck into the headrest.

It’s astounding how fast a car of this size picks up speed. The nine-speed automatic gearbox is an ideal fit for the car, but it’s not without fault. When Sport+ is engaged - the sportiest and most aggressive driving mode - first gear is somewhat jittery when coming to a halt. Even when coming to a rolling stop, cogging down from second to first and pulling away, the drivetrain tends to stutter. But run around in either Eco or Comfort modes, and that issue is a forgotten thought.

READ: Monstrous Mercedes-AMG trio - new performance-tuned CLS, E-Class 53-Series in SA

mercedes-benz cls 53 amg,mercedes-amg cls 53 amg,

                                Image: Daimler Media

Effortless driving

The most significant attribute of any Mercedes-Benz has to be its ride quality. Bar the AMGs of yore, Benz’s, typically, have a near-unrivaled comfort. Get comfortable in any one of the seats and indulge in the opulence of your Three-pointed Star.

It’s the same case with this CLS 53 AMG. Even though it’s an AMG, it has a ride quality that neither unsettles, nor deter from the experience. Despite riding on (optional) low-profile 20-inch tyres, the car still retains its comfort over most surfaces. Flick the driving mode into Eco or Comfort, or tune the settings to your liking via Individual mode, and the car will ponder along without effort.

READ: ROAD TRIP | Mercedes-AMG monster E53 through Route 53

In Sport and Sport+ modes, the CLS 53 AMG will sharpen its reflexes and forego some of the restraint. In these modes, especially the latter, the car releases all of its AMG grunt and will roar with every up- and downshift. Through a mountain pass or an open, winding road, the CLS 53 AMG will dish up plates of driver engagement.

The car is also fitted with Mercedes-Benz’s all-wheel drive setup, called 4Matic+. This surely aids the car in bringing forth the best possible performance.

mercedes-benz cls 53 amg,mercedes-amg cls 53 amg,

                                Image: Daimler Media

Anything else?

Worth noting is that the interior is infected with affluence. Despite some use of plastic, the overall feel and impression are one of quality. Soft-touch materials adorn the cabin, and the seats offer plenty of support on any drive.

The multimedia system - including the gauges in front of the driver - is easy to navigate through. Use either the controls on the steering wheel or the media controller between the seats, and find your way through the various menus. At first, the many menus might be confusing to some, but you soon find your way through it.

What did hinder was some sketchy build-quality. This was particularly troublesome when the roof handle on the driver side would begin rattling. The sound would go away when you apply some pressure on the device, but after a few moments, it would return. Another was some squeaky sounds emitted from behind the dashboard. One would not notice them if you’re not listening with a critical ear, but once aware you can’t un-hear it.

mercedes-benz cls 53 amg,mercedes-amg cls 53 amg,

                                Image: Daimler Media

In summary

Coming in at R1 501 972 (December 2019), the Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 4Matic+ is quite a machine. It has the performance to rival most cars on the road, while on the other hand, it can serenely carry itself. One would perhaps have liked a bit more bite from it, or a V8 engine rather than the six-cylinder that’s in use, but that’s all part of the adaptation Merc’s undertaken the last couple of years.

But to bring it back. The CLS 53 AMG manages to blend brute power and thrust with everyday drive-ability. One can almost say that it’s a product that encompasses (almost) everything for everyone.

mercedes-benz cls 53 amg,mercedes-amg cls 53 amg,

                                Image: Daimler Media

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