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First UK Drive: Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 4Matic+. Image by Mercedes-AMG.

First UK Drive: Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 4Matic+
Hybrid power does nothing to diminish the brilliance of the ‘halfway-house’ Mercedes-AMG models, like this CLS.


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Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 4Matic+

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Our first quick blast in the part-electric Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 on UK roads, following our initial drive of the same car at its international launch. And the quick (and, for some strange reason, Cockney) summation would be: cor blimey, this hybrid AMG ain't 'arf bleedin' good, guv'nor.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 4Matic+
Pricing: CLS range from £51,870; AMG 53 4Matic+ from £74,050; car as tested £78,615
Engine: 3.0-litre straight-six turbocharged petrol with 48-volt EQ Boost mild hybrid assist
Transmission: 4Matic+ all-wheel drive, AMG Speedshift TCT nine-speed twin-clutch automatic
Body style: four-door 'coupe'
CO2 emissions: 203g/km (VED band 191-225: £1,240 first 12 months, then £450 per annum years two-six of ownership, then £140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 31.7mpg
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
0-62mph: 4.5 seconds
Power: petrol 435hp at 6,100rpm, electric 22hp, combined peak output 457hp
Torque: petrol 520Nm at 1,800-5,800rpm, electric 250Nm at 500rpm, no peak combined output quoted
Boot space: 490 litres (30 litres down on regular CLS, due to hybrid equipment)

What's this?

The Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 4Matic+ with added EQ Boost, which means it's a 435hp/520Nm turbocharged straight-six 3.0-litre petrol, augmented by 22hp and 250Nm of electrical assistance from a 48-volt hybrid system. The '53s' using this configuration will phase out the old '43s' with the unassisted 3.0-litre V6 - such as this one - and there's really no need for us to go on at great length about that, or indeed the Mk3 CLS, right here and right now, as there's a link to Neil's first international drive review (which goes into such things in glorious detail) of the CLS 53 at the top of this article. Although it does behove us to say kudos to Mercedes' UK PR team for the particular colour combination on our test car; Cavansite Blue metallic with a Macchiato Beige and Magma Grey Nappa leather interior is a winning pairing, making the most of the AMG-enhanced version's looks inside and out. No doubt this is the most attractive Mk3 CLS we've yet seen, then.

How does it drive?

Goodness, this thing's quick! Like, quick to the point of wondering whether a V8 AMG is strictly necessary, save for the improved soundtrack it would offer. Earlier in the day, we'd sampled the CLS 400 d and though its 700Nm was hard-hitting enough for the four-door coupe, but the 53 is another level again, even if Mercedes won't quote a system maximum of torque due to the petrol and electric motors making their peak outputs at different points of the rev range. And when we say the V8 AMGs sound better, that is not to dismiss the 53's symphony out of hand - because the inline-six emits a lovely, hard-edged note when it's being pushed hard, helpfully reminding you that you're in something potent without you needing to glance down at the speedometer.

The CLS is also delightful in the handling stakes, albeit you can never quite shake the feeling that you're asking a five-metre-long, two-tonne four-door to do things normally associated with much smaller, nimbler sports cars. However, Mercedes-AMG's steering is among the best set-ups on sale right now and the CLS 53 is no exception, with excellent weighting, beautiful consistency and a decent amount of feedback. The AMG version of the CLS also gains air suspension as standard and while its forte is ride quality - where the 53 is peerless, as it soaks up the absolute worst that some of Surrey's bucolic, crumbling back roads can throw at it, despite rolling on optional £1,295 20-inch alloys - it manages to keep the big Merc's body well in check during lateral and longitudinal g-force loadings. This allows you to exploit the CLS 53's almost hyper-keen turn-in and neutral balance to the full, meaning threading the Mercedes-AMG along tighter UK lanes is an exercise in precision driving, rather than a terror-inducing battle with the forces of physics.

Yes, undoubtedly the CLS 53 is at its absolute best just whispering along a motorway or dual carriageway, with its exceptional hybrid drivetrain doing next to nothing (which kind of makes you wonder whether a 350 d wouldn't do all of this stuff just as well, for less money), but it most certainly won't disappoint you when the right road presents itself before the coupe's long prow and you dial it up into Sport+ mode in readiness...


Hybrid power only enhances the Mercedes-AMG product offering, as the CLS 53 is a hugely alluring, deeply impressive, grand-touring performance car. It manages quiet, efficient cruising to a level that wouldn't disgrace a Bentley, while there's enough road-holding nous and handling verve to ensure the AMG letters on its boot lid do not feel thoroughly misplaced. And while the guts of £79,000 is hardly what we'd dare call cheap, for this level of unremitting quality and across-the-ground speed, the CLS 53 feels - if anything - somewhat undervalued. Still sure you want that AMG GT four-door...?

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Exterior Design

5 5 5 5 5 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

5 5 5 5 5 Comfort

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Driving Dynamics

5 5 5 5 5 Powertrain

Matt Robinson - 17 Dec 2018

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2018 Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 4Matic. Image by Mercedes-AMG.2018 Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 4Matic. Image by Mercedes-AMG.2018 Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 4Matic. Image by Mercedes-AMG.2018 Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 4Matic. Image by Mercedes-AMG.2018 Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 4Matic. Image by Mercedes-AMG.

2018 Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 4Matic. Image by Mercedes-AMG.2018 Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 4Matic. Image by Mercedes-AMG.2018 Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 4Matic. Image by Mercedes-AMG.2018 Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 4Matic. Image by Mercedes-AMG.2018 Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 4Matic. Image by Mercedes-AMG.


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