If you love unpredictability, you’d love living in Melbourne. 18 hours before setting off for a drive in the 2022 Mercedes-AMG CLS53, it was sunny, around 25 degrees, and we were fanging a Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series around Phillip Island race track.
But 18 hours later it was raining sideways, one of the windiest days of the year, and we were situated on the windiest place on earth.
The perfect time to jump in an AMG Benz to go for a drive, right?
Thankfully the CLS53 is kitted out with all-wheel drive and a stack of safety equipment. As a result of the weather our drive was a little more limited than usual, so we’ll have to wait until we get the CLS53 through the garage for a proper assessment.
Anyway, our short stint was still fun regardless.
Mercedes-Benz has trimmed the CLS range in Australia to now just feature AMG-powered models. It makes life a little easier, and it also means buyers only get one of two options to pick from.
It has received a mid-cycle update that’s also brought with it a Limited Edition.
The AMG CLS53 and its Limited Edition counterpart are available to order now, with the former currently arriving in showrooms and the latter touching down in January.
Just 20 Limited Editions are coming to Australia out of a production run of 299 vehicles, priced at $197,600 before on-roads – $14,000 more than the regular CLS 53.
Additional equipment includes a steering wheel wrapped in Nappa leather and Dinamica microfibre, power-closing doors, and the AMG Dynamic Plus package which includes a Race drive program and Drift mode.
Visual tweaks include two-tone silver grey pearl and black Nappa leather upholstery, designo red seat belts, and carbon-fibre trim inside, as well as 20-inch matte black alloy wheels, an extended AMG Night package and red brake callipers.
The only paint colours available are Cashmere White Magno and Selenite Grey Magno.
Visual changes to all 2022 Mercedes-AMG CLS models include a revised fascia, with a new front apron, a high gloss-black splitter, and a restyled grille.
Pricing for the standard CLS53 kicks off at $183,600 plus on-roads.
Standard equipment on the CLS53 includes:
- 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system
- 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster
- Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
- Satellite navigation
- 13-speaker 590W Burmester sound system
- Head-up display
- Heated, power-adjustable front seats with memory
- DAB+ digital radio
- Nappa leather upholstery
- 64 colour-adjustable ambient lighting
- Wireless phone charging
- Rear privacy glass
- Nappa leather-wrapped steering wheel
- Open-pore black ash wood trim
- Paddle shifters
- Air Body Control air suspension
- AMG Performance selectable exhaust
- LED headlights with adaptive high-beam
- Keyless entry and start
- Tyre pressure monitoring
- 20-inch alloy wheels
- Carbon-fibre exterior package (lip spoiler and mirror covers)
- Power-closing doors
The Limited Edition adds:
- Nappa leather/Dinamica-wrapped steering wheel
- AMG Dynamic Plus package with Race drive program, Drift mode
- Power-closing doors
- Two-tone silver grey pearl/black leather upholstery
- Carbon-fibre interior trim
- Designo red seat belts
- Red brake callipers
- Extended AMG Night Package
- 20-inch matte black alloy wheels
In terms of external colours, buyers can pick from the two colours mentioned earlier for the limited-edition CLS53, while other variants come with the option of nine other colours.
The Mercedes-AMG CLS doesn’t have a rating from ANCAP.
Standard safety equipment includes:
- AEB with pedestrian detection
- Front cross-traffic assist
- Active Traffic Assist
- Lane-change assist
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Traffic sign assist
- Surround-view camera
- Front, side, curtain and driver’s knee airbags (nine in total)
- Adaptive cruise control
- Evasive steering assist
As soon as you plant your bottom inside the CLS it cocoons you perfectly and shrinks around you.
Depending on how you spec the interior you can go all out on carbon trims that give it a racy vibe, or you can go with more traditional open pore dark wood trims. I’m more a wood man, but your milage may vary.
I can’t emphasise the car shrinking around you enough. The supports on the side and lower bolsters hug you tightly, while the high beltline and centre tunnel make you feel like you’re sitting in a much smaller car.
It’s all about technology inside, with dual 12.3-inch screens proudly displayed in the centre. The infotainment screen can be driven using the touchpad or using the touchscreen, while the screen ahead of the driver is controlled using touch-sensitive steering wheel controls.
The infotainment system is driven by MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience), which features remote connectivity and an inbuilt modem for voice recognition and traffic mapping.
It’s easy to use and the voice recognition is powerful enough to get all the commands you need out of the way with ease.
A full LED ambient lighting package can be configured to display almost any combination of colour combinations with varying levels of intensity. It teams perfectly with the Burmester speaker covers which are perforated and cold to the touch.
The 13-speaker Burmester-branded sound system is an absolute cracker; it pumps out plenty of bass and has crystal clear higher frequencies. It’s like a fast, portable rock concert hall.
Material use throughout the cabin is premium with Nappa leather and leather-clad surfaces where the driver rests on long drives. The dashboard also features coloured stitching that continues along the seats and door trims.
The new steering wheel layout is also futuristic. The dual-tiered steering wheel features LCD displays for drive mode selections, while the buttons are touch sensitive and can be swiped up, down and left/right depending on the button to progress through menus.
While leg and head room in the first row is great, the second row is cramped from a leg, toe and headroom perspective. I guess it’s the compromise you make when you buy a ‘coupe’ – it’s not really built for tall adults.
Cargo capacity comes in at 490 litres, which is reasonable for this segment.
The 2022 Mercedes-AMG CLS53 is powered by a turbocharged 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder engine producing 320kW of power and 520Nm of torque. It’s mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive.
Its 0-100km/h claim is 4.5 seconds. The 2022 Mercedes-AMG CLS uses 9.2L/100km on the combined cycle. It has an 80L fuel tank.
The engine comes with 48V mild-hybrid technology called EQ Boost. No, it’s not like a Toyota Prius where its primary purpose is fuel saving. Here it’s used to increase performance in an instant.
An electric motor replaces the starter motor and alternator, acting as a starter generator. It can supply an additional 16kW of power and 250Nm of torque at an instant to fill torque gaps while the turbocharged six kicks into action.
In addition to that, the 48V mild-hybrid tech can also keep the vehicle’s high-tech electric system running at high speeds when the car is shut off. It can also allow higher shutdown speeds for the stop/start system when coming to a stop.
As soon as you turn the engine over there’s a purposeful idle that gives you an overtone of performance.
Don’t read too much into this, but it has XR6 Turbo/Toyota Supra vibes when it comes to idle. It’s intrinsic to an inline six-cylinder engine and it has a meaty grumble about it, especially when you get stuck into the throttle.
At low speeds it’s incredibly smooth and the nine-speed automatic does a commendable job of smoothing out shifts and delivering a premium feel when you’re just pottering along in Comfort mode.
That applies to the ride, too. Air suspension with adaptive damping means the ride in comfort mode is dead smooth, despite riding on big wheels. As you move through the remainder of the drive modes it firms up, but stays smooth and doesn’t become neck jarring.
It’s the same story with stop/start. The integrated starter generator makes the stop/start almost imperceptible. It will switch on and off without you noticing, and it’s able to do that from a fairly high speed (around 20km/h) thanks to that 48V mild-hybrid system.
As the pace picks up, the smoothness is interrupted by a decent amount of tyre noise that comes into the cabin. Rolling on low profile 20-inch alloy wheels, there isn’t a huge amount of insulation from tyre and road noise. We’ve experienced similar things in other AMG performance models (namely the A-Class) and it’s a shame they can’t improve that experience.
It’s worth caveating that by saying it was absolutely sopping wet and inherently that may introduce more tyre noise in the cabin, but even in the drier sections it was still pretty noisy on course-chip country roads.
If you put that all to one side it becomes somewhat moot when you switch the drive mode to Sport+ and open the exhaust up.
520Nm of torque doesn’t sound like a great deal, but when it’s supplemented by the EQ Boost system it pins you back in the seat as the all-wheel drive system catches traction in the wet. This inline-six is almost the perfect companion to this chassis, it offers razor sharp throttle response and delivers one of the sweetest and most sonorous notes this side of a V8.
The nine-speed automatic also complements the package with quick shifts and a readiness to rifle back through the gears during harder driving. There are also crackles and pops as you move up and down the gears, which are a welcome addition to the package.
Braking performance is great, but obviously with the torrential rain we didn’t get a chance to properly experience its cornering dynamics or braking performance.
Our brief stint in the wet was confidence inspiring though. I’ve driven a C63 S in the wet before and you have to be very brave each time you reach for the throttle pedal, it has a heap of grunt and is ready to show that to you each time you’re a little too eager with the loud pedal.
The all-wheel drive system is fully variable, meaning it can send up to 100 per cent of torque to the rear axle when required. The Limited Edition even comes with a drift mode that can effectively disable the front axle to allow some epic drifting fun.
We’re going to need to have another crack in the CLS53 when the weather is better, but our first experience behind the wheel shows you really don’t need a V8. The CLS53 has all the fun parts of a V8 without the associated fuel bill.
The 2022 Mercedes-AMG CLS53 requires servicing every 12 months or 25,000km, whichever comes first.
It’s offered with three- and five-year servicing plans, costing $2500 and $5100 respectively.
Mercedes-Benz and Mercedes-AMG cover their vehicles with a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.
The Mercedes-AMG CLS53 is nice. In fact, it’s very nice. And despite the fact it’s not a full-on turbocharged V8 63 model, it performs exceptionally well for a mild-hybrid turbocharged six.
It also has the cracks, pops and overtones that one comes to expect from an AMG-badged Benz.
It’s expensive, there’s no two ways to look at it, but it’s equipped with a high level of standard equipment and looks the part when it’s cruising on the road. Especially in that Limited Edition trim.
If you’re after a svelte AMG bruiser that isn’t over the top, this could very well be the perfect option.
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