There was really no such thing as a “four door coupe” until Mercedes-Benz took the venerable E-Class chassis and drew a streamlined body with thinly arched roof over it. The first-generation CLS was at once a car that resurfaced the elegance of 1930s Mercedes while pointing the brand in a much more sporting direction. It was beautiful. The second generation was more like a bow and arrow with chiseled rear haunches that channeled the 1950s “Ponton” models. A new third generation reflects the past while accelerating into the future.
Sleek Simple Styling
Stylists stripped down the design, removing every line that doesn’t matter. Gone are the accentuated rear fenders, replaced by stronger fuselage forms that give the car a long, planted look. Angled-back headlamps bracket Mercedes traditional sport grille with large star and single lamella. Look close to notice LED headlamps and taillamps. Our AMG edition sports 20-inch five-spoke alloys, carbon fiber mirror caps/spoiler, and accentuated ground affects. It looks radiant in Cardinal Red Metallic paint.
If the exterior promises a classy, yet contemporary cabin, it delivers. A wide flowing horizontal expanse is graced with silvery Gray Ash wood and complemented by twin screens for gauges and infotainment, the latter controlled with a console joywheel. Massaging Nappa leather seats are splendid, especially when heated/ventilated and accompanied by a heated steering wheel, armrests, and rear seats. Crank the Bermester High End 3D audio system, power up the rear sunshade, and dial in the tri-zone automatic climate control for exquisite travel.
Moving further into the future is an array of technology. A head-up display, navigation, and device connections via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are a start (though, programming the navigation system with the joywheel one click at a time makes taming a toddler seem easy). Adaptive cruise, forward collision warning with auto brake, blind spot warning, and lane keep assist are expected, but the CLS adds semi-autonomous lane centering (even around curves), active lane change assist (moves the car over and re-centers it), and attention assist to prevent drowsiness.
Swift Smooth Power
Compared to the rocketry common in today’s performance cars, the CLS53’s 3.0-liter turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine is tame. The unit conveys 429 horsepower and 384 lb.-ft. of torque through a 9-speed automatic transmission to the 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system. All that accelerates the car from 0-60 mph in just 4.4 seconds – lickety split for a mid-size luxury car. Thanks partially to auto stop/start, fuel economy is rated a quite reasonable 21/27-MPG city/highway.
Hammer down and flowing into the left lane, the car takes a heavy set on its adjustable air suspension, but even in Comfort mode, it rides anything but comfortably as the big wheels crash over bumps on anything but perfect pavement. This is not a traditional Mercedes chassis that could seemingly soak up boulders like an iron sponge. Pot-holed city streets are a pill – and require pills to take. I just pressed the awesome little exhaust button on the console to raise the noise level and help scramble my brain.
The CLS53 is far from perfect given its overly harsh suspension, but that can be forgiven when one looks at the sleek exterior and sumptuous interior with comfy seats and array of technology. Prices start at $79,900, but came to $106,980 as tested, making it a worthy competitor for the BMW 8-Series Gran Coupe, Audi A7, and Jaguar XJ.
2019 Mercedes-AMG CLS53
- Five-passenger, AWD Sedan
- Powertrain: 3.0-liter TI6, 9-spd auto
- Output: 429hp/384 lb.-ft. torque
- Suspension f/r: elect Ind/Ind
- Wheels f/r: 20”/20” alloy
- Brakes f/r: disc/disc
- Must-have features: Style, Performance
- 0-60 mph: 4.4s
- Fuel economy: 21/27 mpg city/hwy
- Assembly: Sindelfingen, Germany
- Base/As-tested price: $79,900/106,980