I drove a $112,000 Mercedes AMG CLS53 Coupé to see if the four-door could combine luxury and power — here’s the verdict
- The 2019 Mercedes AMG CLS53 Coupé is a fastback four-door with a 429-horsepower engine that gets some boost from a small hybrid-electric system.
- The AMG CLS53 deftly combines power and style.
- The sticker price is steep, but for this much luxury and performance to come in a single package, it’s ultimately a bargain.
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Mercedes-Benz has really been doing it for me lately. I’ve driven a bunch of MB vehicles, and every single one has seriously impressed me. At every level, from fit-and-finish to technology to style and performance.
I’ve honestly never been all that hot on Benz. But the car maker is one of those things: it’s always simply there, at the top of the mountain, telling all comers to bring it on. You might not appreciate the brand’s commitment to ostentatious luxury, but over time you can’t deny that Mercedes does it right.
So I’ve spent years assuming Mercedes’ excellence without really coveting it, as I’ve dallied with BMWs, Porsches, Audis, Lexuses, and so on. That’s all changed in a hurry as I’ve sort of decided to approach Mercedes as a blank slate. With that in mind, it hasn’t taken long for the brand to etch a deep impression in my consciousness.
Case in point: the 2019 AMG CLS53 Coupé, which I recently sampled.
The 2019 Mercedes AMG CLS53 Coupé that I tested had a base price of $80,000 but was optioned up to $112,000.
Anytime you’re looking at a car that’s going to set you back a down payment on a house, you’re dealing with an expense that has to be considered. But I’ll cut to the chase: the AMG CLS53 Coupé crams so much value into the fastback sedan form that I truly think it’s a bargain.
OK, do you need to spring for the car in a “Selenite Grey Magno” paint job with a “Bengal Red and Black Nappa Leather” interior, for a total additional outlay of roughly $7,000? Perhaps not. But then again, the exterior on my tester was gorgeous, and the interior was memorable. So you could call it an investment in your ongoing happiness.
The design of the CLS53 Coupé is what much of the residual sedan market seems to want these days: a hatchback, with sloping glass from a curved roofline. This is what MB means by “coupé,” which of course traditionally denotes a two-door hardtop. The AMG CLS53 I drove around for a week saw its fastback culminate in a dramatic carbon-fiber spoiler. A bit much? Yes. But why not?
I also got 20-inch AMG five-spoke wheels, to go along with some high-performance rubber. An AMG carbon-fiber extras package tacked on another three grand to the price. And an AMG “Night Packages” added $650 worth of shimmery, goth-y blackness to the exterior.
Back in the day, I wasn’t much of a fan of these fastback four-doors, but I’ve come around. True, the CLS53 can come off a big “humpy,” like a stretched-out turtle. But overall, the design is brash and surprisingly versatile, as the hatch provides a decent amount of cargo capacity. The drawback is the rear seating area, where the slope of the roofline cramps the cabin.
“AMG” stands for the names of the 1960s-era founders of the high-performance division, originally devoted to racing: Hans Werner Aufrecht and Erhard Melcher, with the “G” signifying Grossaspach, the town where Aufrecht was born.
The entire CLS53 I drove was upgraded by the masters at AMG. This made for a fairly ferocious machine, under all circumstances, regardless of whether I selected the docile everyday driving mode or pulled out all the stops to unleash hell.
I didn’t even use the AMG Track Pace feature, which is intended to amass racetrack-level data. I didn’t turn any laps in the car. But I did test out the other AMG goodies, ranging from the 4Matic all-wheel-drive system (implacable) to the Speedshift nine-speed automanual transmission (bracing) to the sport suspension (staggeringly competent).
Let me tell you, these AMG engineers are killing it right now. Every extra was excellent and compelling.
Mercedes has the best interiors in the business these days.
Audis are nice, and so are bimmers, but both are minimalistic. Lexus comes close, but Mercedes takes the crown. You feel very, very special when you strap into their AMG CLS53.
The seats are cool. They’re lush yet supportive, and the have a nifty dynamic bolstering feature that can be set at two levels of intensity. The seats will squeeze you when you swing around a corner or swerve to avoid a collision, keeping your body in a stable, upright position. It was odd at first, but I grew to love it.
I also dug a feature called Energizing Comfort, which combines music, aromatherapy, and seat massage, in assorted configurations. Sounds over-the-top. Is over-the-top. But feels spectacular.
Meanwhile, the instrument cluster and infotainment system run on a pair of 12.3-inch screens that cover much of the dashboard. The resolution is superb, and while the MB Comand setup isn’t my favorite, I’ve started to warm up to it. Comand uses a touchpad and some buttons in the center console to control the system; it’s overly sensitive, but in the end, it handles most requirements well.
I paired devices with Bluetooth, had Apple CarPlay and Android Auto at my disposal, and could plug devices into USB ports and charge my iPhone wirelessly. The Burmester 3D Surround Sound audio system was $4,500 extra, but it’s one of the two or three best in the world, and wow, did it reproduce music gloriously.
Under the hood of the Mercedes AMG CLS53 Coupé was a 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine, turbocharged and making 429-horsepower with 384 pound-feet of torque. It also has a small hybrid-electric system called EQ Boost that adds 21 ponies to that total.
I’ve soured of late on cars that have massive amounts of horsepower. But with the AMG CLS53, I thought Mercedes got it just about right. OK, sure, 429 is perhaps 100 more than I tend to find useful even for spirited driving on public roads. But again, AMG has upgraded the inline six to a standard of stunning expression, and the car’s exhaust note was such a consistent symphony of combustion at all velocities that I didn’t care if I wasn’t going fast.
The engine plus transmission plus suspension plus brakes and steering cover a broad band of driving moods, from tooling around town to hunkering down to attack curves and straightaways. As fate would have it, not long after I enjoyed the six-banger, I got a crack at the V8 twin-turbo in the AMG GT 63 S (630 horsepower, 664 pound-feet of torque) and once I recovered my senses I could say that while the CLS53 isn’t powered by poleaxe, it’s plenty beefy and won’t leave anyone casting their eyes northward to the realms to 500-plus ponies.
Fuel economy is not too bad, at 21 mpg city, 27 highway, and 23 combined. I drove the car hard for a week and was surprised at how it managed its fuel consumption. Remember, this sucker can do 0-60 mph in four seconds. The EQ Boost system also eliminated any hint of turbo lag, and in fact provided a bit of extra pop to go along with power delivery that was notably linear and assured.
My tester came with a $2,250 driver-assist package that aggregated advanced cruise control with a sort of semi-self-driving steering assist feature — as well as a gaggle of other safety add-ons — that performed admirably when I used them, mostly on the highway. The rest of the time I wanted to drive the AMG CLS53 myself.
Believe it or not, the Mercedes AMG CLS53 Coupé at $112,000 is a serious bargain — luxury and power in an ideal combination.
What Mercedes now excels at is the COMPLETE PACKAGE. BMW might deliver slightly more engaging driving. Audi might have slightly better technology. Lexus might represent modern luxury in superior fashion.
But nobody puts everything together as well as Mercedes, and when you throw in the AMG action, you put a wonderful car over the top into memorable territory. The coupé four-door idea, too, is dandy: Why not pair performance that’s just shy of supercar-dom with the ability to haul luggage and groceries and passengers?
What a truly well-executed automobile! A hundred grand-plus never looked so much like a bargain!