Test Drives

Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 2019 Review: CLS: Coupe Like Siao

We’ve often decried four-door coupes as a try-hard marketing label, but the Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 makes us eat our words


This is the new semi-hot AMG version of the Mercedes-Benz CLS, a four-door coupe.

Mercedes-Benz likes to say it created the four-door coupe segment with the first CLS back in 2004. The right answer to that is: “So what?”  

The first CLS looked like a banana, the second-gen model added far more uniqueness to the looks, but it was still an abuse of the ‘coupe’ term, which is generally accepted to mean a car with two doors.

This is the second-gen CLS which, like us, hasn’t aged well 

Yes, like ‘crossover’, it’s something that could be argued about until the heat death of the universe but let’s not go there.

But the real reason CarBuyer has never rated the CLS highly as a ‘coupe’ –  the Shooting Brake and the nutjob CLS 63 AMG aside – is that in spite of all the coupe-jargon thrown around, the CLS has never quite had enough of its own character.

Sure if you were a diehard for its appearance fine, but otherwise you could just get an E-Class with the same engine and have space for five people (CLS has previously always been a four seater) and pay less.

The Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 has changed our tune.

For now it’s the most powerful model of the third-gen CLS range, until the inevitable full-fat V8 AMG model arrives.

The CLS 53 is a brand new addition to the CLS lineup too, it’s a mid-tier AMG like the ‘43 AMGs’ including the very excellent C 43 sedan and coupe. With no Audi S7 Sportback yet announced, the CLS 53 has no direct competition.

The new CLS looks fantastic – we’ve already seen how the entry-level  CLS 350 fares in Singapore on CarBuyer.com.sg – and the 53 model adds on the usual AMG spiciness, including the dual-louvre grille/air intakes, plus a rear diffuser flanked by quad tailpipes.



The interior is just as pleasant to behold. It’s similar to the E-Class coupe’s with its quad ‘anemone’ vents and dual HD glass cockpit screens, the grey-stained wood layered atop the deep crimson upholstery up the ‘rowr’ factor aplenty.

Recall all of the sex-related imagery Ju-Len has used to describe the new CLS (or then again, don’t) and a look at the balanced yet aggressive design choices of the CLS 53 proves he hasn’t taken his final misguided steps towards incurable perversion. If Mercedes had made the CLS like this to start, we’d be a lot less cynical.

The CLS 53 could’ve received the excellent V6 the 43 cars pack and still delivered the goods, but there’s more intrigue: Not only is the CLS 53 a mild hybrid, just like the new C 200 sedan is, it’s the first Mercedes in Singapore to receive the new 3.0-litre inline six engines.

Overseas, these engines debuted on the facelift of the S-Class (S 450 L review on CarBuyer.com.sg) but Singapore stuck with the V6 powerplants.

With the addition of hybrid components, Mercedes has opted for a straight six presumably for packaging purposes, but the side effect of this in a sporty car like the CLS 53 is major.

An inline six is exactly half a V12, and that’s certainly true in this case. It’s a ripper of an engine, adding the sort of sound and appropriate punch you’d expect from a coupe.

The hybrid e-motor adds 21hp and 250Nm of torque to the 435hp/520Nm of the inline six, and despite the healthy figures it’s not violent rocket sled but velvet locomotive sort of  acceleration, the performance of the drivetrain paired with the size and weight give the CLS a distinct grand touring character.

It’s not a super-precise corner carver, but is totally happy with big speed and G-force, we couldn’t even muster tyre squeals with hard cornering, and yet there’s still that valuable sense of involvement the mid-tier AMG cars all seem to have.

Like many AMG cars, you’ll find yourself piling on the power and lifting off, or downshifting just to hear the lively crackle and pop that follows from the standard issue sports exhaust.

With AMG’s Track Pace onboard telemetry app, every road can be a Nurburgring! Or not. 

The CLS 53 isn’t all about well-dressed mayhem, and I admit I totally forgot there’s a three-seat bench behind, but also good room for adults there too. It echoes the pleasing all-roundedness in the car’s character, diddle the appropriate settings and the air suspension softens up to take the edge off the KPE’s horrible ripples. With the drivetrain in efficiency mode it coasts and sails (engine off, e-motor on) quietly along.

The $450k with COE price tag is, like the car itself, not modest and the omission of adaptive cruise control is missed, although the car does have lane guidance, and a blind spot monitor.  

The promise of the CLS is, as the Germans would say, for someone who wants a more emotional experience than sedan ownership. Up until now, it’s been largely a design exercise. Nothing wrong with that, but it wouldn’t move the hordes of happy E-Class owners from their comfy thrones.

The CLS 53 could easily do that by moving something else entirely. Turns out nobody gives a fig how many doors a coupe has, as long as it makes you feel the right way, and the CLS 53 makes you feel very right indeed.

Mercedes-AMG CLS 53

Engine 2,999cc, inline 6, turbocharged
Power 435hp at 6100rpm
Torque 520Nm at 1800-5800rpm
Gearbox 9-speed automatic
Electric Motor 21hp/250Nm
Battery Lithium Ion, unknown kWh
System Power Not stated
System Torque Not stated
0-100km/h 4.5 seconds
Top Speed 270km/h
Fuel Efficiency 8.9 L/100km
VES Band / CO2 C2 / 203g/km
Agent Cycle & Carriage
Price S$449,888 with COE
Availability Now


about the author

Derryn Wong
CarBuyer's chief editor has a keen interest in all things mechanical, technological, animal and mineral. He's particularly fascinated by eco-cars and cars which make no logical sense. An avid motorcyclist and photographer, he also enjoys cats. Follow him on Instagram @werryndong