Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 4MATIC+ 2022 Review : It Takes Finesse
Singapore - Naturally, we humans are folly to the laws of attraction. We’re often drawn to things which we deem beautiful, captive to their charms and slave to their thrall.
However, the perception of allure and elegance varies from person to person. In an automotive perspective, one particular crowd may adore the timeless elegance of a classic 300 SL while another may commend the stoic, enduring charm of a G-Wagen. Likewise in a horological narrative, one may favour a dressier Jaeger-LeCoultre, while others may fancy a sturdier dive watch from Rolex.
As they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Consequently, it seems as if car manufacturers are creating niche upon niche, upon even more niches to satiate the ever-growing and ever-changing tastes of consumers. I myself have a particular inclination toward the four-door coupe niche. And my penchant for swoopy fastbacks began when I first laid eyes on a particular car with a three pointed star.
It’s a car that started out as a Mercedes-Benz E-Class, before the artisans at Mercedes chiselled away at its stout bodywork to make it flatter, more curvaceous and more special.
That car, is the Mercedes-Benz CLS.
A car that sparked the four-door coupe/fastback sedan niche since its inception over 18 years ago. A niche that has ensnared manufacturers (often, of Teutonic persuasion) and enthralled consumers who desire something a little more glamorous. Something to set themselves apart amidst the sea of insipid luxury sedans.
To that end, this particular Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 4MATIC+ ticks all the right boxes for a stylish, suave, and sexy four-door coupe for the discerning driver. When stacked up against the flock of analogous luxury saloons from German manufacturers, the CLS carves its own identity as the prettiest car of the bunch. Even in its third generation, it still looks every bit as striking as the cars that preceded it.
Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 4MATIC+ 2022 - The Looks
Thankfully, the CLS’ sleek four-door profile hasn’t been hampered with in this latest facelift, so it retains its svelte shell and wears its curves proudly. Like the vehicular equivalent of a well-mannered gentleman in a Saville Row tux with its long flowing bonnet, slim headlamps, long wheelbase and tapered rear end. Add a smattering of goodies from AMG like the front apron, AMG-specific grille with vertical slats and 20-inch multi-spoke rims, and you’ve got an elegant head turner that stands out amongst the analogous fleet of Mercedes saloons.
Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 4MATIC+ 2022 - The Engine
However, fire up the engine and that elegant facade is quashed as the car spurs up smoothly and emits a throaty snarl on a cold morning. Lest we forget, this is badged as an AMG. So it has an electrifying heart underneath that stunning bodywork. And I do mean electrifying in both a figurative and literal sense.
Yes, the 435hp/520Nm from the turbocharged 3.0L straight-six certainly feels electrifying, but the facelifted CLS 53 also sees the addition of a 48V mild hybrid system. The ISG (integrated starter generator) bolted to the engine supplies an additional 22 horsepower to the proceedings, filling up any gaps in the power band. This is where we encroach into more familiar territory.
The CLS 53 4MATIC+ gets the same AMG Speedshift 9G-Tronic transmission, it still does 0-100km/h in 4.5 seconds and it tops out at 250km/h. Identical figures as the original third-generation car.
Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 4MATIC+ 2022 - The Cabin
On the inside, the cabin layout is largely familiar too, with minor updates that bring it in line with the latest generation E-Class. The MBUX system is updated, along with a new haptic touchpad on the centre console. The steering wheel is new too, with twin spokes on either side that house the array of multi-function buttons. It still has the same functionality as the previous generation wheel, though you’d need an even greater level of finger dexterity to cycle through the functions.
Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 4MATIC+ 2022 - The Sporty Bits
But the key update in the cabin of the new CLS 53 are the AMG-specific controls that allow you to switch between drive modes, suspension settings and toggle your traction control on the fly, amongst other things. So there’s always a sense of occasion when you toggle the drive selector dial to the car’s sportiest setting and set the AMG Dynamics to max attack mode for a spirited drive.
Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 4MATIC+ 2022 - The Drive
Point that AMG steering wheel in whatever direction and the sculpted front end of the car follows through with poise. Like threading the needle through the weave of a bespoke button-down, the CLS 53 darts in with precision and manages to keep its near two-ton mass on the money as you follow through a bend with the 4MATIC+ all-wheel drive system keeping your exit neat and tidy.
The steering is fabulously well weighted in the car’s sport/sport+ modes, and the gearshifts are smooth and quick as a whip with blips on downshifts. When called upon, the brakes are tremendously strong, very well weighted and delectably analogue-feeling, allowing for better brake modulation and control. Almost as if you could feel the discs turning beneath your foot. But the car’s frantic, excitable nature does mellow out if you take it out of its sportiest settings.
Drive it in the car’s most economical mode, and the gears readily shift to the tallest possible gear ratio to keep your revs to a minimum. Even coasting at speeds of about 70km/h, I found myself in 9th gear. And when you’re coasting along the freeway, the engine shuts off and hums back to life as and when traffic conditions permit. All told, I was able to net a fuel economy figure of 10.6L/100km over the days I had the car.
It might not have the V8 soundtrack or the performance of a full-blooded AMG, but the CLS 53 is adequately adept for what it is; A four-door performance grand tourer that gets up to ludicrous speeds quickly, with a sonorous rumbling orchestra belting out the quad exhaust tips to match. However, all that pace and sportiness does come at a cost.
When you trade winding back roads and narrow hairpins for the highway network and central business district, the AMG-tuned suspension does impart the car with a stiffer ride that jostles over highway expansion joints or road surface markings. Even with the AMG Ride Control+ air suspension in its comfiest setting. It works wonders when you’re going at speed, but the harsher ride may be a less palatable in congested areas with uneven road surfaces. But it’s only when you’re travelling at low speeds that these shortcomings reveal themselves. Get up to speed, and it’s golden.
I suppose the biggest caveat of the CLS 53 is its price. For the money (S$570,888 at the time of writing), there are numerous alternatives depending on your individual needs - and wants. Want the looks for less, you could jump into a CLS 450 which is over S$50,000 cheaper. Want something quicker that seats 5 with room in the boot, perhaps the CLA 45 S Shooting Brake for a whole S$154,000 less would tickle your fancy. Or the GLA 45 S AMG if you need a crossover.
That being said, there aren’t many cars that can do what the CLS 53 does. To extract the best that the Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 has to offer demands more tenacious, white-knuckle driving. Granted, it takes finesse to manhandle the car in such a manner, but this is a car that has to be pushed a little harder for it to be truly enjoyable. And if you’re a buyer with that level of spending power, chances are you wouldn’t be swayed.
PHOTOS Jay Tee
Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 4MATIC+
Engine 2999cc, inline6, MHEV, turbocharged
Transmission 9G-Tronic AMG Speedshift MCT automatic
Top Speed 250km/h
Fuel Consumption 9.8l/100km