The 2019 Mercedes-AMG CLS53 Wasn't Exactly What We Expected

2019 Automobile All-Stars contender.

The Mercedes-AMG CLS53 was among the 24 standout vehicles competing for a coveted 2019 Automobile All-Stars award. See the rest of the field here, and go here to see the winners!

The all-new—that's what Mercedes-AMG calls it—CLS53 coupe (and yes, it has four doors) is an interesting car that falls in a category that might be called AMG Lite.

Yes, it has 429 horsepower, aided by a 48-volt starter-alternator system that kicks in 21 horsepower, but it really feels more like, we'd say, 300 horses from the 3.0-liter turbocharged straight-six. That isn't bad for a luxury passenger car; it just isn't what we've come to expect from AMG.

"No drama, just beauty," contributor Ronald Ahrens said. "Lots of composure. Dignified and fast. Initial understeer is a mercy. The interior features a gorgeous carbon inlay. This is the perfect luxury car for a lot of people—it has the look, the comforts, and surprises with a strong punch."

Senior online editor Erik Johnson called it "soft, not for the track; smooth and luxurious and more livable on the road than the more granitic 63 models." However, he noted that "as you step up the CLS price ladder, the 53 just seems like a compromise I wouldn't be willing to make. I'd rather stick with the CLS450 or jump to an E63, given the lack of a CLS63 now." That's even with the CLS53's 64 available colors of ambient lighting, the sort of thing likely to be more important to CLS customers than cornering g's.

"What's disastrous on the track is downright soothing on the road, and its smooth and seamless 48-volt setup makes for imperceptible stop-start and neato coasting at higher speeds," contributor Basem Wasef said. "However, the fact the CLS is like a mini S-class is perhaps what makes it disappear amid this field of charismatic contenders; it just might be too subtle for its own good."

Senior editor Aaron Gold found it a pleasant surprise. "Great road car, great engine sounds, lovely interior, great high-tech feel, very quick, very comfortable, and competent in the turns," he said. "Exactly what the buyer of something like this would want. All All-Star? Probably not, but a very, very nice car."

Features editor Rory Jurnecka summed up the CLS: "Lovely to look at, stately and sporty in the best Benz tradition. Unfortunately, it doesn't drive as well as it looks and certainly doesn't feel like a true AMG."

2019 Automobile All-Stars
The Winners | The Contenders | The Venues

2019 Mercedes-AMG CLS53 Specifications

PRICE $80,895/$103,850 
(base/as tested)
ENGINE 3.0L turbo DOHC 24-valve I-6; 429 hp @ 6,100 rpm, 384 lb-ft @ 1,800-5,800 rpm; 48-volt electric motor, 21 hp, 185 lb-ft
TRANSMISSION 9-speed automatic
LAYOUT 4-door, 5-passenger, 
front-engine, AWD sedan
EPA MILEAGE 21/27 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H 196.9 x 74.4 x 56.0 in
WHEELBASE 115.7 in
WEIGHT 4,474 lb
0-60 MPH 4.1 sec
TOP SPEED 130 mph
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