Class: Premium Midsize Car
Miles driven: 349
Fuel used: 17.7 gallons
Real-world fuel economy: 19.7 mpg
Driving mix: 60% city, 40% highway
EPA-estimated fuel economy: 21/27/23 (city/highway/combined)
Fuel type: Premium Gas
Base price: $79,900 (not including $995 destination charge)
|CG Report Card|
|Room and Comfort||C+|
|Power and Performance||B+|
|Fit and Finish||A|
|Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.|
|Big & Tall Comfort|
|Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. "Big" rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, "Tall" rating based on 6'6"-tall male tester.|
|Engine Specs||429-hp 3.0-liter|
|Engine Type||6-cylinder turbo hybrid|
Options on test vehicle: designo Cardinal Red Metallic paint ($1080), 20-inch AMG Twin 5-Spoke Wheels w/ Black Accents ($750), High-Performance Tires (no charge), AMG Performance Exhaust System ($1250), 115V AC Power Outlet ($115), AMG Track Pace Application ($250), Heated and Ventilated Front Seats ($450), Active Multicontour Front Seats w/Massage Feature ($1320), Head-Up Display ($990), Power Rear-Window Sunshade ($440), 3-Zone Climate Control ($760), Burmester High-End 3D Surround Sound System ($4550), Heated Rear Seats ($580), Soft-Close Doors ($550), AMG Exterior Carbon Fiber Package ($1750), Acoustic Comfort Package ($1100), designo Black/Titanium Grey Pearl Nappa Leather Interior ($4900), Exterior Lighting Package ($900), Warmth and Comfort Package ($1050), Energizing Comfort Package ($550), Parking Assistance Package ($500), Driver Assistance Package ($2250)
Price as tested: $106,980
The great: Smooth, supple, copious power; luxurious interior
The good: Distinctive performance character of turbo straight six; swoopy styling of CLS “Coupe” body
The not so good: Less practical and significantly more expensive than a comparable E-Class
If you want to try out Mercedes-Benz’s latest engine, you’re going to have to get in line. Wait, make that inline.
Once famous for excellent straight sixes, M-B went away from them for a while, but they’re back for 2019. In fact, the premium-midsize CLS “4-door coupe” uses nothing but the turbocharged 3.0-liter powerplant that is offered in two states of tune. Consumer Guide sampled the mightier 429-horsepower job reserved for the CLS53 model that was worked up by the automaker’s AMG performance branch.
The new engine represents the intersection of historic layout and futuristic power generation. It is a mild hybrid with Mercedes’ new EQ Boost system that includes an integrated starter/generator. EQ Boost delivers as much as 21 additional horsepower and up to 184 lb-ft of torque for limited periods of time, permits coasting for fuel savings, and recaptures energy during deceleration. To meet the increased electrical demands of the beltless engine (components like the water pump and air-conditioning compressor are now powered directly), a 48-volt lithium-ion battery has been adopted.
CLS 450 models were the first U.S.-market M-Bs to get the new engine, which is rated at 362 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque in base form. In the CLS53 it not only develops another 67 horsepower but it spins out a quickly reached 384 lb-ft of torque. A 9-speed automatic transmission is standard in all CLS models, but the 53 has a modified AMG SPEEDSHIFT TCT gearbox with multiple driving modes that can be summoned from the DYNAMIC SELECT menu. Plus, the trans can downshift multiple gears with a single press on its shift paddles.
Swift and fairly athletic feeling even in normal “Comfort” mode, the CLS53 sharpens up when advanced to Sport or Sport+. In “plus“ you feel crisper gear changes that the optional AMG performance exhaust announces with a bark and a grunt at upshifts. The manufacturer claims 0-60-mph acceleration of 4.4 seconds and an electronically limited top speed of 130 mph. The EPA rates the CLS53 at 21 mpg in city driving, 27 mpg in highway operation, and 23 in combined use. In addition to EQ Boost’s coasting capability there is a standard stop/start function to help conserve premium fuel. However, even with these features working for him, and judicious use of the Sport settings, this reviewer posted just 18.3 mpg after logging 181 miles with 70 percent city-style driving.
Underpinning the 53 are a sport suspension and 4MATIC+ all-wheel drive, both with AMG-ordained calibrations. The air suspension pairs with adaptive-damping technology to deliver a mix of reasonably comfortable ride with good body-motion control. The car lowers automatically at higher speeds in pursuit of increased stability. The drive system can vary torque distribution from 100 percent rear drive to an even 50/50 split based on input gleaned from the mix of driving mode, acceleration, and degree of grip in a given situation.
In addition to the new engine, the CLS has new styling. Structurally, it remains a close relative to the E-Class sedan, with which it shares a 115.7-inch wheelbase—and there’s an E 53 model that borrows the 429-horse EQ Boost six. However, the CLS draws some inspiration for its looks from the Mercedes-AMG GT sports car. Compared to the E 53, the CLS53 is 3.9 inches longer, one inch lower, and 0.2 inch wider.
The delivered starting price of a CLS53 is $80,895, but the test car was thoroughly optioned to $106,980—which no sane person would do. Many standard features were replaced or upgraded in some way by one or another of the options and packages poured into the Cardinal Red Metallic example that we drove. Depending on what extras you select, it’s possible to get high-end audio, copious comfort features and luxury appointments, and more electronic driving aids and active-safety technologies than you might have thought possible.
Fit and finish inside are lush, with lots of high-grade soft-touch material throughout. Indeed, one of the things the $4900 designo interior package did was add genuine Nappa leather to the door tops and upper dashboard in place of the standard leatherette. Two 12.3-inch screens provide large, legible virtual driving gauges, and a big, bright audio/navigation display. As it has for some time, M-B uses the COMAND system, with a universal control dial on the console, to govern its infotainment options, but learning to master COMAND does not come easily.
Rear-seat leg- and headroom are in short supply, and entry/exit takes some work—especially if you don’t want to knock your noodle. The situation is a little better in front. A low roofline and short windows give the CLS its coupelike character, but they restrict driver vision somewhat.
Cabin storage gets by with a modest glove box and smallish console box. Twin covered cup holders in the console share space with a USB port and a tray large enough to hold a smartphone. (Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity is standard.) Hard-sided pouches attach to the back of each front seat. A rear pull-down armrest has a shallow covered bin and two pop-out cup holders. The four door pockets aren’t big but they are flocked inside.
Trunk capacity is OK, though the opening narrows some, and liftover is moderately high above a tall lip. There is some organized space under the floor. Rear 60/40 seats fold flat and flush with a slight rise in the forward portion of the trunk floor, but the transition is subtle, so it shouldn’t obstruct loading of long objects.
The Mercedes-AMG CLS53 is a sharp workout with satisfying performance, but it clearly values panache more than it does practicality. Matched up against the E 53, the CLS has the same factory-claimed 0-60 time (though the latter does weigh 106 pounds more), it cedes 1.2 cubic feet of trunk space, has less headroom and rear-seat space, and yet it costs $7350 more to start. If you’re going to get in line to try out the hotter version of the new Mercedes straight six, the queue will probably be shorter in the CLS aisle.
2019 Mercedes-Benz AMG CLS53
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