Review: 2022 Mercedes-AMG CLS 53

Words: Calvin Chan

Photography: Calvin Chan

Published: July 29, 2022


The CLS is the sport sedan ‘coupe’ that started it all. What we mean by that is that much like the BMW X6, the CLS’s sloped roof and coupe-like silhouette has paved the way forward for an entirely new segment of four-door sedans. Think Audi A7 and BMW 8 Series Gran Coupe. The CLS was the progenitor of it all. It’s even flared up some cross-pollination with the brand’s own GT 53 AMG.



But despite the worries of sacrificed functionality due to the constraints of the styling, there’s no denying that the CLS shape is attractive and eye-catching. That vertical-slat front grill is now synonymous with the AMG branding, and we find it to be one of the distinctive design features in modern automotive history. To the point where we’ve seen older Mercedes models with aftermarket versions of that grill fitted on because everyone wants it, and we don’t blame them. The road presence it offers, from the front end at least, is spectacular. The rear of the CLS 53 is much more tapered, offering quad exhaust outlets exiting out the bumper and a roofline that integrates nicely into the acutely angled trunk lid. With many of the other Mercedes models like the E-Class and S-Class growing softer in design, we think this sharper CLS is one of the most mature-looking AMGs on the road.



Typical of Mercedes, the interior is a feast for the senses and we love the cabin aesthetics. There’s more drama, pizzazz, and plump leather surfaces than any of its competitors. The column-mounted gear stalk still feels cheap but the rest of the switchgear is upscale. The new, five-spoke AMG steering wheel is a showpiece worthy of its own paragraph, though the ergonomics haven’t really been improved, and the haptic touchpad is still frustrating at times where it never seems to highlight what we wanted in the fussy menu system, but it’s more usable than before. The paddle shifters feel expensive and worthy of a premium offering though, and offer that crisp metal feedback when depressed. The two dials that control the driving mode and settings are improved in both quality and sturdiness, and no longer feel like they were cheaply glued on like an afterthought.



The more we use the MBUX system, the more we dislike it and grow frustrated at its convoluted interface. There are multiple methods of input from the steering wheel buttons to the center trackpad and voice control, but none of them feel as quick, accurate, or as easy as a simple rotary dial like in BMW and Genesis models. And to no one’s surprise, the rear seat space in the CLS 53 is restricted. Headroom is atrocious due to that sloping roof line, and we have to hunch our necks so our hair doesn’t get restyled every time we hit a bump on the road. These are the unnegotiable penalties of these slanted sexy coupes, so keep that in mind when shopping around.



But onto the drive because that’s what this AMG is all about. The CLS 53 fights at a disadvantage against its V8 competition with two less cylinders on deck, but its 3.0-litre turbocharged inline-six packs quite a wallop. And what makes it unique is that it’s also paired with an electric-powered compressor and a mild hybrid system that Mercedes calls EQ Boost. It equips the CLS with a battery that serves multiple purposes, like powering the car’s electronics, acting as both a starter motor and alternator, allowing the car to disconnect from the transmission while coasting at speed, and dishing out 21 hp and 184 lb-ft of supplementary torque that serves as an intermediary to eliminate turbo lag.


On its own, the straight-six produces a healthy 429 hp and 384 lb-ft but with all hands on deck, the CLS 53 will reach 0-100 km/h in 4.5 seconds. Acceleration is strong but nothing overwhelming. Taking control via the paddles offers an extra layer of driver engagement but its numb steering and clumsier ride do not offer the same kind of road control or involvement as a BMW M850i.



There’s a reason why rivaling BMW has stuck with straight-six engines for so long and continue to do so. They are inherently smooth, exhibit potent yet linear power delivery, and feel refined at any point in the powerband. Mercedes’ engine does just that and gets the CLS 53 dancing in an upbeat rhythm that is clearly absent in their grainy V6 powerplants. Turbo lag is imperceptible and the entire combustion and electric symphony perform harmoniously.


But what seems to break that layer of polish is the 9-speed gearbox, the weakest part of the powertrain. It never seems to engage a gear properly if you’re indecisive on the gas or brake pedal, and this is most notable during rolling stops or when creeping to a stop, where the engine cuts off and the electric motors kick in, and there’s a delay when you command it to wake back up. There’s a disconnect in the powertrain in these instances, and it happens quite often. At one point when trying to accelerate as the light turned green, the clutch failed to bite, and we were stuck revving like fools only for it to finally engage and take off five seconds later. It was an odd one-off situation that we unfortunately, could not recreate.



The suspension is more forgiving than in the previous CLS models. It’s softer and more compliant this time around and doesn’t crash as hard. The ride has an edge to it but still manages to smother the worst of the road surface imperfections. It’s no S-Class and it doesn’t match the road comfort of an M850i or RS6 Avant either, but it’s getting close. Furthermore, the turning circle is tight and the CLS demonstrates a decent level of cornering agility when thrown around, but not enough to make you forget about its significant weight and footprint.


Obvious penalties of impacted cabin space and trunk room aside, the CLS 53 hasn’t lost its lustre since first pioneering the segment. What it loses in practicality and ergonomics, it gains in drop-dead gorgeous looks and a stunningly upscale interior. The gearbox is a weak spot, and its six-cylinder lacks the adrenaline rush of its V8 compatriots, but there’s still charm and engagement to be found in this purposefully flawed Mercedes.


Photo Gallery:


2022 Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 2022 Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 2022 Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 high tech silver


2022 Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 high tech silver rear 2022 Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 high tech silver front grill


2022 Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 high tech silver wheels 2022 Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 high tech silver spoiler black 2022 Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 high tech silver blacked out rear badge


2022 Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 high tech silver exhausts 2022 Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 high tech silver red interior


2022 Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 high tech silver drive mode dial 2022 Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 high tech silver dual displays


2022 Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 high tech silver red front seats 2022 Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 high tech silver rear seats red



Model: 2022 Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 4MATIC+ Coupe

Paint Type: High Tech Silver
Base Price: $99,900

Price as Tested: $118,750
Wheelbase(mm): 2,939
Length/Width/Height (mm): 5,001 / 2,072 (with mirrors) / 1,422

Curb weight (kg): 2,017
Engine: 3.0-litre turbocharged inline six + electric compressor + battery
Horsepower: 429 hp @ 6,100 rpm (EQ Boost +21 hp)
Torque: 384 lb-ft @ 1,800 - 5,800 rpm (EQ Boost +184 lb-ft)
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD

Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway ) L/100km: 11.6 / 8.8
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 11.9

Tires: Pirelli P Zero





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