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2019 Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 Review

Terry Box | October 16, 2019
2019 Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 Review

Four beefy exhaust pipes beneath the bumper of the big black Mercedes-Benz appeared ready to spit high-dollar German fire and fury.

Get the kids, small dogs and senior citizens -- except me -- inside quick.

The Benz was about to deliver a blast of window-rattling, spine-shaking thunder, I figured.

When I hit the starter on the 2019 AMG CLS 53, though, clicks, whirs and a flat, dull hum tumbled out – the uninspired sounds of our muted, down-sized future.

But the fact is as emissions standards get increasingly more stringent – especially in Europe – engines like the highly complex 3-liter six in the CLS will likely become the norm.

The brawny AMG CLS, for example, is turbocharged and electrically supercharged, producing 429 horsepower. It also packs a 48-volt hybrid-assist system that can add up to 21 horsepower and 184 lb.-ft. of torque.

Even without much of a mechanical soundtrack, however, the metallic-black $108,000 CLS I had last week looked fast.

Low and kind of sinister up front, the CLS confronted the world with a prominent blacked-out grille and long, stylish headlamps.

A broad, powerful-looking hood, meanwhile, provided cover for all that stuff going on beneath it, while the smooth, somewhat soft sides sported slight shoulders atop the rear fenders.

Mercedes calls the four-door CLS a “coupe,” a marketing term it coined 15 years ago when it unveiled the CLS and its radically curved, coupe-like top.

Although my CLS didn’t seem quite as distinctive as those early “coupe”-sedans, it still wore a slinky, chopped-down top and clung to the street with meaty 20-inch spoked wheels wrapped with 245-35 tires up front and 275/30s in back.

I thought the CLS’ high-mounted wrap-around taillamps looked kind of generic, but I never tired of the four black exhaust pipes bristling from the back.

And as a high-performance AMG model, the CLS mostly fulfills the pipes’ promise.

It felt strong around town, with a torquey wave of power spinning a nine-speed automatic that combined to push the 4,400-pound CLS smoothly down the road.

Initially, though, the CLS seemed to lack the edgy, hard-edged surge that BMW’s turbocharged 3-liter six offers -- and the Bimmer supposedly has 50 percent less power than the Benz.

Then I rolled onto an empty stretch of concrete and slammed the accelerator to the floor.

With all-wheel-drive and a supercharger to fill any gaps as the turbocharger spooled up, the CLS emitted a slightly muted growl and ripped to 60 mph in four neck-popping seconds, according to Car and Driver.

Don’t mess with those quiet types, I say – especially those that can also get overall fuel economy of 23 miles per gallon.

Moreover, AMG knows how to tune heavy sedans to handle, so the CLS turned into corners with the aggression and poise of a sport-compact.

It rotated crisply through them, its steering providing decent road feel without being go-kart quick.

However, the big sedan’s ride in sport mode felt busy and fidgety over many city surfaces, though, oddly, it absorbed big bumps pretty well.

Out on the highway, where the Benz also got smoother, I had more time to admire the beefy sedan’s fine white interior.

Twin 12.3-inch rectangular display screens grab your attention first – one for the speedometer, tachometer and other gauges and the other for the stereo, navigation, climate and other systems.

It seemed a lot to absorb for a hick homeboy from Denton, but it worked pretty well.

The stereo, unfortunately, had to be tuned through the screen – a daunting task in traffic – but had Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capabilities.

In addition, the CLS offered brake assist, a predictive occupant-protection system, “attention” assist and blind-spot assist.

I just liked how all that stuff looked with smooth, pliable black dashboard wrapping around the giant screens, dropping to a lower dash in white plastic.

They joined a broad console in white with a piano-black top, while a slender lever on the steering-column served as the electric gearshift.

Frankly, it didn’t serve all that well. It could be a pain in the posterior, particularly if I had to go from reverse to drive. Most of the time, I ended up in neutral – with traffic honking at me.

Again, I ask: How is this progress?

Like the dash, the door-panels featured smooth black plastic on their tops with white centers, while the car’s white leather seats looked great with their stylized, perforated centers.

Despite its big back doors, the CLS didn’t have as much back-seat space as I had anticipated, with reasonable leg-room but fairly tight head-room.

In typical luxury-car fashion, my CLS arrived with a staggering list of 22 options that added nearly $30,000 to the car’s price, including massaging seats ($1,320); a Burmeister stereo ($4,550); and the driver-assist system ($2,250).

As much as I liked the CLS and its gutsy performance, I never really warmed to the car. I’m afraid the sanitized, high-tech future just leaves me kind of cold.

2019 Mercedes-AMG CLS 53

  • What I liked most: The CLS’ stout engine – despite its complexity – as well as its crisp handling.
  • What I would change: The styling, which just doesn’t feel special, and that electric shifter, which I’d quickly toss into the Danube.
  • MSRP: Base price, $79,900; as equipped, $108,060.
  • Official color: Obsidian Black Metallic
  • Fuel economy: 21 miles per gallon in the city, 27 on the highway and 23 combined with filler on right.
  • Odometer reading when tested: 5,854 miles.
  • Spare tire: None.
  • Weight: 4,389 pounds.
  • Length-width-height: 179.1 inches long/74.4 inches wide/56 inches tall.
  • Fuel-tank capacity: 18 gallons.
  • Towing capacity: Not applicable.
  • 2019 Mercedes-Benz AMG CLS 53 in a few words: A serious sports sedan in need of more distinctive styling.
  • Warranty: Four-year, 50,000-mile overall warranty.
  • Final assembly location: Sindelfingen, Germany.
  • Manufacturer’s website: www.mbusa.com
  • E-mail me at terry@carprousa.com
  • Up next: 2019 Rolls-Royce Cullinan

Credit: Mercedes-Benz AMG

Tags: Mercedes-AMG, Mercedes-Benz AMG, CLS 53, New Vehicle Review, Luxury Sedan
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