by Deiondre van der Merwe
Janis Joplin once sang "Oh Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes-Benz?" and if Janis can sing about it, we can certainly write about it, especially when the Mercedes-Benz in question is the third generation of Mercedes' swoopy four-door coupe, the CLS, in AMG 53 guise. The mid-size luxury coupe is truly something to behold: alluring design and raw power are at the heart of the Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 and, for all its brawn, it still boasts undeniable charm. Not for the penny-pincher, the CLS 53 has a starting MSRP of $81,200, though the price is certainly well worth it if you're after a well-rounded four-door performance coupe. Loaded with standard features from top to bottom, the ferocious machine offers 429 horsepower and 384 lb-ft of torque from a turbocharged straight-six with electric assistance. Still, with competitors including its more expensive sibling, the AMG GT 53 and the refined Audi S7 Sportback, it's bound to be a hard fight for the top spot.
The 2020 Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 stays similar to the 2019 model, but some features that were available as additional options before now come standard. These include Emotion Start (fancy Mercedes-Benz lingo for a louder growl when the AMG is started) and AMG illuminated door sills are now standard. A couple of new additional options are now available, too, including an AMG Matte Fiberglass Trim that encases the cockpit in sporty fiber accents and new 20-inch wheel options. Also, "slippery mode" is now available for rainy days with the AMG Dynamic Select package. Additionally, Graphite Grey joins the exterior paint palette.
See trim levels and configurations:
|AMG CLS 53 4MATIC||
3.0L Turbo Inline-6 Gas
The CLS 53 hardly has any flaws, but if we're being honest, the ride and handling is a little temperamental with this one. The majority of your journey will be smooth in the four-door coupe all thanks to the standard air suspension and adaptive dampers showing a work ethic similar to Zuckerberg circa 2004, but the CLS is prone to lose its footing a bit on bumpy roads, and a particularly rough pavement will prove to be distressing for the AMG derivative.
Now that we've dealt with the negatives, let's touch on that EQ boost a little more. The starter-generator provides exceptionally seamless stop-start in traffic and is certainly a great point for the CLS 53. The steering is also delightfully direct and provides good feedback despite the electric assistance.
Nimble quick, and composed, the CLS 53 is generally a pleasure to string through bends and carve up canyons with, with impressive levels of body control and pliant absorption of mid-corner bumps. The AMG GT 53 may be more focused, but aside from the brittle ride on broken roads, the CLS 53 is generally impressive.
NHTSA safety ratings are not available at this time.
It proved an extremely difficult task to find any glaringly obvious faults in the captivating four-coupe, but as usual, nothing is without fault, the CLS 53 included. The trunk space is a bit on the small side compared to the E53, as is the amount of space for rear-seat passengers. Pricewise, the mechanically identical E53 is also much cheaper, meaning you're paying a premium for less practicality in the pursuit of style. It's also notable that the ride can be a little harsh at times and many driver assistance features are optional, driving the price up further.
Having said that, the CLS 53 is superb in many categories, with stellar performance, impressive fuel economy, and an interior design that's second to none. It's also cheaper than direct four-door coupe rivals like the Audi A7 and Porsche Panamera, and it's strikingly similar to the more expensive GT 53 in terms of features and performance. The CLS 53 is designed for the driver and provides an exemplary experience for the performance enthusiast.
At the end of the day, you don't buy a CLS 53 for its value for money or top-notch accommodation of rear-seat passengers - you buy it as a luxuriously styled four-door coupe with a turn of pace, and in this light, it gets a thumbs-up from us.
There is a considerable chunk of cash separating the AMG CLS 53 and the AMG GT 53. The GT 53 costs $18,750 more than the CLS 53's starting MSRP of $81,200. Given that the two produce the exact same 429 horsepower and 384 pound-feet of torque and share a platform, is there really a reason to buy the GT 53 unless you're a die-hard fan?
The CLS is more fuel-efficient than the GT with a combined EPA estimate of 23 mpg to the GT 53's 21 mpg. The GT is also a little less forgiving when it comes to interior space, although neither is the most practical, if we're completely honest. Notable features offered on the GT 53 that are not found as standard in the CLS include a Wi-Fi hotspot and power liftgate, while the AMG chassis is a little more aggressively tuned as well. But considering the similarities between the siblings, are the relatively minor differences and the cachet of the AMG GT name enough to motivate a nearly $20,000 dollar jump from the CLS to the GT? The answer from us is no, it isn't, and the CLS 53 comes out on top.
Arguably the CLS 53's strongest rival, the Audi S7 Sportback does a good job of putting up a fight for the prime spot in the segment, and, with just $2,700 separating the two (the Audi being more expensive), it's likely to be a close one.
Straight out of the gate, the Audi produces slightly more power than the CLS with 444 hp standing against the AMG's 429 hp. The Audi also brings considerably more torque to the table with 443 lb-ft towering over the Merc's 384 lb-ft. Ultimately, this results in the S7 being slightly less economical than the Mercedes, and yet, surprisingly, no quicker to 60 mph. But the S7 is better-equipped, offering hard drive media storage, a Wi-Fi Hotspot, four-zone climate control, and a heated steering wheel all standard on the base trim, with the Prestige catering to even more. The S7's Sportback design also makes it more practical, with nearly 25 cubic feet of storage decimating the CLS's paltry 11.9 cubes. Head and legroom in both the front and rear of the Audi are better, too, making it more practical all-round. However, in a heart-over-head decision, it's the CLS we'd rather have for its emotive driving dynamics and fluid powertrain. If you really wanted practicality, you'd be looking at an E-Class instead.
The most popular competitors of 2020 Mercedes-AMG CLS 53: