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Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 2022 review

The Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 is the only CLS variant offered in 2022. (Image: Tung Nguyen)
EXPERT RATING
8
Positioned between the E-Class large sedan/wagon range and the executive S-Class limo, the CLS tries to blend the comfort of the former with the tech of the latter in a stylish four-door coupe suit, but is this a model anyone is asking for?

Mercedes-Benz loves to fill a niche. This is the company, after all, that has a coupe version of its GLC and GLE SUVS, four-door coupes ranging in size from the CLA to the AMG GT 4-door, and enough electric vehicles to make Tesla jealous.

The nichest of all though, might the CLS, which has been updated for the 2022 model year.

Positioned above the E-Class but below the S-Class in the line-up as a sporty sedan for customers after a blend of style, technology and performance, the new CLS is available in just one engine now, while styling and equipment have also been tweaked in the update.

Can the CLS earn its place in the Mercedes line-up or is it destined to be a bit player amongst more popular models?

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   7/10

When the third-generation Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class hit Australian showrooms in 2018, it was available in three flavours, but the 2022 refresh has trimmed the line-up to just one – the top-spec AMG-tuned CLS 53.

The discontinuation of the entry-level CLS350 and mid-tier CLS450 means the CLS-Class now kicks off at $188,977, before on-road costs, which makes it more expensive than rivals like the Audi S7 ($162,500) and Maserati Ghibli S GranSport ($175,000).

Standard equipment includes a sunroof. (Image: Tung Nguyen) Standard equipment includes a sunroof. (Image: Tung Nguyen)

With BMW ditching the 6 Series, the Bavarian brand doesn’t offer a direct rival to the Mercedes-AMG CLS 53, but its bigger 8 Series is offered in a Gran Coupe body style that starts at $179,900.

So, what does Mercedes include in the CLS’s asking price?

Standard equipment includes interior ambient lighting, a head-up display, 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, power-adjustable and heated front seats, woodgrain interior trim, powered boot lid, rear privacy glass, push-button start, keyless entry, and a sunroof.

As an AMG model, the 2022 CLS is also fitted with a unique steering wheel, sports seats, illuminated door sills, drive mode selector, 20-inch wheels, a performance exhaust, boot lid spoiler and blacked-out exterior package.

As an AMG model, the 2022 CLS is fitted with 20-inch wheels. (Image: Tung Nguyen) As an AMG model, the 2022 CLS is fitted with 20-inch wheels. (Image: Tung Nguyen)

Handling multimedia duties is a 12.3-inch 'MBUX' (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) touchscreen, with functions including Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity, digital radio, a wireless charger, satellite navigation and a 13-speaker Burmester sound system.

It’s a long and fully-featured equipment list, for sure, and it’s so extensive that there aren’t really any options available.

Buyers can opt for an 'AMG Exterior Carbon Fibre Package', power-closing doors, and different finishes for the exterior paint, interior trim and seat upholstery – that’s it!

While its nice that everything you’d want comes included in the asking price, it’s hard to ignore the fact that its Audi S7 rival is more than $20,000 cheaper, but also well equipped.

Handling multimedia duties is a 12.3-inch 'MBUX' touchscreen. Handling multimedia duties is a 12.3-inch 'MBUX' touchscreen.

Is there anything interesting about its design?   7/10

Mercedes’ homogenised design is a bit of a double-edged sword, and while the CLS does wear its styling confidently, it probably looks a little too much like the cheaper and much smaller CLA for our tastes.

Both are swoopy four-door coupes from Mercedes-Benz, so of course there will be some similarities, but keen-eyed car spotters will notice some differences.

While the proportions are similar, the longer wheelbase and bonnet line gives the CLS a more mature look, and the extra details found in the head- and tail-lights, and front bumper stand it apart.

The changes to the 2022 version also brings in AMG’s 'Panamericana' front grille, which adds a bit of welcome aggression to the front end.

All four doors are frameless, which is always cool to see. (Image: Tung Nguyen) All four doors are frameless, which is always cool to see. (Image: Tung Nguyen)

From the side, the steeply raked roof flows seamlessly into the rear, while the 20-inch wheels fill out the arches well.

All four doors are also frameless, which is always cool to see.

From the rear, quad-exhaust tips hint at the CLS’s sporty intentions, while a prominent rear diffuser and subtle boot lid spoiler also feature.

Inside, the biggest change to the CLS is now the inclusion of the MBUX multimedia system, which keeps it in line with the E-Class, C-Class and other Mercedes models.

AMG sports seats are also fitted, wrapped in Nappa leather and 'Dinamica' fabric upholstery for all pews.

From the rear, quad-exhaust tips hint at the CLS’s sporty intentions. (Image: Tung Nguyen) From the rear, quad-exhaust tips hint at the CLS’s sporty intentions. (Image: Tung Nguyen)

Our test car also came fitted with red contrast stitching and seat belts, adding a racy streak to the CLS cabin.

Have to point out the new steering wheel that comes with the 2022 CLS, though, which mirrors the tiller offered in the new E-Class, and is a step back in terms of functionality.

It looks premium enough thanks to its chunky leather-wrapped rim and gloss black dual-spoke design, but using the buttons, especially when on the move, is difficult and unergonomic.

This design is definitely function over form, and might need a few more revisions to get it right.

Overall, we’d say the CLS is a good-looking car, but does play it a bit too safe with its styling?

Inside, the biggest change to the CLS is now the inclusion of the MBUX multimedia system. (Image: Tung Nguyen) Inside, the biggest change to the CLS is now the inclusion of the MBUX multimedia system. (Image: Tung Nguyen)

How practical is the space inside?   7/10

Measuring 4994mm long, 1896mm wide, 1425mm tall and with a 2939mm wheelbase, the CLS slots neatly between the E-Class and S-Class in size and positioning.

Up front, occupants are afforded ample room for head, legs and shoulders, while the electronically adjustable seats make it easy to find a comfortable position.

The steering wheel also features a telescoping function – an always appreciated feature – and the expansive glasshouse makes things feel open and airy.

Up front the electronically adjustable seats make it easy to find a comfortable position. (Image: Tung Nguyen) Up front the electronically adjustable seats make it easy to find a comfortable position. (Image: Tung Nguyen)

Storage options include a deep door pocket, a cubby found under the armrest, two cupholders and a smartphone tray with wireless charging capabilities.

It’s a different story in the second row, though, as the sloping roofline does noticeably eat away at headroom.

Don’t get me wrong, a six-foot-tall (183cm) adult can still slide in there fine, but the roof is dangerously close to the touching the top of the head.

Our test car came fitted with red contrast stitching and seat belts, adding a racy streak to the CLS cabin. (Image: Tung Nguyen) Our test car came fitted with red contrast stitching and seat belts, adding a racy streak to the CLS cabin. (Image: Tung Nguyen)

Leg- and shoulder-room is pretty good in the outboard seats though, while the middle position is compromised by the intrusive transmission tunnel.

In the second row, passengers have access to a bottle holder in the door, a fold-down armrest with cupholders, backseat map pockets and two air vents.

Opening the boot reveals a cavity offering 490 litres of volume, with an aperture wide enough to fit golf clubs or luggage for a weekend getaway for four adults.

The rear seats also fold in a 40/20/40 split fashion, but Mercedes-Benz is yet to detail how much volume is on offer with the rear seats down. And as a traditional sedan, the CLS is less practical than the liftback Audi S7.

Opening the boot reveals a cavity offering 490 litres of volume. (Image: Tung Nguyen) Opening the boot reveals a cavity offering 490 litres of volume. (Image: Tung Nguyen)

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   9/10

Powering the Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 is a 3.0-litre turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine, punching out 320kW/520Nm to all four wheels via a nine-speed automatic transmission and Merc's '4Matic+' AWD system.

A 48-volt mild-hybrid system, known as 'EQ Boost', is also fitted that serves up to 16kW/250Nm from take-off.

The result is a 0-100km/h acceleration time of 4.5 seconds, keeping it on pace with the likes of the 331kW/600Nm Audi S7 (4.6s) and 390kW/750Nm 250kW/500Nm BMW 840i Gran Coupe (5.2s).

While not as brutish as AMG’s eight-cylinder engine, the straight six strikes a great balance between pace and poise that perfectly suits a model like the CLS 53.

Powering the Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 is a 3.0-litre turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine. Powering the Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 is a 3.0-litre turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine.

How much fuel does it consume?   8/10

Official fuel consumption numbers for the CLS 53 are pegged at 9.2 litres per 100km, while we managed an average of 12.0L/100km in our launch drive.

All of our driving was relegated to country back roads and high-trafficked urban areas however, with no consistent freeway driving.

We’ll reserve judgement on how accurate the fuel economy figures are until after we’ve had the car for longer, but the EQ Boost system is designed to help keep consumption down by being able to coast the engine in particular situations.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   8/10

The Mercedes-Benz CLS is yet to be tested by ANCAP or Euro NCAP, which means there is no official crash-test rating that applies to local market vehicles.

However, the standard safety equipment list is extensive, and covers autonomous emergency braking (AEB), nine airbags, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring, tyre pressure monitoring, a surround-view camera, route-based speed recognition and lane-change assist.

The rear seats also feature two ISOFIX mounting points for child seats.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

5 years / unlimited km warranty

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   9/10

Like all new Mercedes-Benz models sold in 2021, the CLS 53 comes with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty with roadside assist over that period.

This outclasses the assurance period offered by BMW, Porsche and Audi (three-year/unlimited kilometre), and matches that available from Jaguar, Genesis and Lexus, who recently upgraded their offering.

Scheduled service intervals are every 12 months or 25,000km, whichever occurs first.

The first three planned services will set buyers back $3150, broken down as $700, $1100 and $1350 apiece.

What's it like to drive?   9/10

There are certain expectations on a vehicle when it wears a Mercedes badge, namely it should be comfortable to drive while also dripping with the latest tech. And here the large four-door coupe delivers in spades.

Driving the car is smooth, easy and comfortable when in its default drive setting, you can really sink into the CLS and just eat up the miles in comfort.

One of the best parts of the CLS 53 experience, is the sound, with the exhaust letting off the right sort of pops and crackles in Sport+ mode on overrun. One of the best parts of the CLS 53 experience, is the sound, with the exhaust letting off the right sort of pops and crackles in Sport+ mode on overrun.

There are small niggles, like the 20-inch wheels and low-profile tyres (245/35 front and 275/30 rear) throw up a bit too much road noise into the cabin, but for the most part, around town, the CLS is serene, supple and supremely soothing.

However, switch it over to Sport or Sport+ and the steering gets a bit heavier, the throttle response a bit sharper, and the suspension a bit stiffer.

Does it transform the CLS into a sports car? Not quite, but it certainly dials up driving engagement to a level where you can really have some fun.

Switch it over to Sport or Sport+ and the steering gets a bit heavier. Switch it over to Sport or Sport+ and the steering gets a bit heavier.

Though this isn’t a full-fat AMG in the same vein as an E63 S and doesn’t feature the ubiquitous 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8, the CLS 53’s 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine is still plenty potent.

Coming away off the line feels particularly brisk, likely due to the EQ Boost system adding a bit of poke, and even flat-footing it mid-corner delivers a noticeable surge of urgency from the creamy straight six.

However, the best of the CLS 53 experience, in my opinion, is actually the sound, with the exhaust letting off the right sort of pops and crackles in Sport+ mode on overrun.

Driving the car is smooth, easy and comfortable. Driving the car is smooth, easy and comfortable.

It’s rude and obnoxious, but also completely surprising coming from the motoring equivalent of a three-piece dress suit – and I love it!

The brakes are also up to task for scrubbing speed, but our relatively brief time with the car was in extremely wet conditions, so the 4Matic+ AWD system was hugely appreciated.

Verdict

Comfortable when it needs to be and sporty when you want it to be, the CLS 53 is a bit like Mercedes’ Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde – or maybe Bruce Banner and the Hulk is a better frame of reference for some.

While it doesn’t excel in any one particular area, its breadth of useability is commendable, but ultimately it might be its all-too-familiar aesthetics that is the biggest letdown.

From the inside, it looks and feels like any other large Mercedes model (not necessarily a criticism), while the exterior – in my opinion – doesn’t go far enough to differentiate it from the CLA.

After all, if you wanted a stylish and sporty sedan, shouldn’t feel special too?

EXPERT RATING
8
Price and features7
Design7
Practicality7
Engine & trans9
Fuel consumption8
Safety8
Ownership9
Driving9
Tung Nguyen
News Editor

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