Nothing raises the holiday spirit more than a 2019 AMG CLS 53 coupe

By Paul Borden

(January 9, 2019) MIAMI — Travel during the holidays, especially if it involves flying, can be especially trying, tiring, and frustrating, so as an auto reviewer it’s nice to know that a new vehicle will be waiting at the local Park-N-Fly when I get home. Like on my recent return from a visit to my daughter’s for Christmas.

A text the day before we left on our return flight home had informed me that the car would be waiting for me courtesy of my friendly press fleet folks.

Frankly, knowing that any vehicle would be there helps ease the pain of sitting three hours on a jam-packed airplane and then negotiating the looonnngggg American Airlines concourse at Miami International with a carryon bag that seemed to have gained a few pounds since it was last packed.

That it was a new 2019 Mercedes-Benz AMG CLS 53 was a bonus.

The 53-Series is new model to CLS Coupe, E-Class Coupe, and E-Class Cabriolet models in the Mercedes stable for 2019.

The AMG CLS 53 is top-of-the-line among the other CLS offerings (450 Coupe and 450 4MATIC) and, as the AMG designation suggests, is the most performance-oriented of the group.

Its 3.0-liter, gas turbocharged inline 6-cylinder engine is tuned for 429 horsepower and 384 pound-feet of peak torque and it gets another 21 hp and 184 from the new EQ Boost auxiliary power system.

The EQ Boost starter-alternator in electric motor fitted between the engine and the transmission which, among other functions, provides mild hybrid functions like helping boost fuel mileage to a respectable 21 miles-per-gallon city, 27 highway, and 23 combined.

But wait! There’s more!

The EQ Boost system also smooths out restarts after the stop-start system is engaged when you come to a complete stop, making the transition and restart barely noticeable.  And EQ Boost provides for a quicker increase in acceleration by eliminating turbo lag, a common characteristic with turbocharged engines.

With a 9-speed automatic transmission and Mercedes-Benz’ 4MATIC all-wheel drive, the company says the AMG CLS 53 will scoot from zero-to-60 mph in an estimated 4.4 seconds.

Five drive modes are offered to alter driving characteristics to your preferences. Eco, Comfort, Sport, Sport-plus, and Individual operate as an automatic, and you may also select gears manually via paddle shifters by pressing the “M” button on the center console.

Performance is not the only area where the CLS 53 stands out. Its looks are stunning, Starting with its famed, large 3-point start in the center of a new black lattice pattern grille and continuing with its slick profile and its chromed-tipped exhaust pipes, the styling is both aggressive and refined.

Magnificent is probably the best word to describe the interior. The plush leather seats coddle your back and bottom, and multi-color ambient lighting enhances the visual experience. Setting the driving mode in Comfort yields a quiet, comfortable, sure ride while Sport and Sport-plus add to the overall experience with sharp notes from the dual quad exhaust when gearing down.

A 12.3-inch panoramic display screen dominates at the top of the center stack providing a wide view for operation of technological features like standard navigation, audio, and dual-zone climate control off the touchpad controller or knob at the center of the console. This is not a touchscreen, which too often can become blurred with unsightly fingerprints especially in sunlight.

Mercedes brands the AMG CLS 53 as a coupe, which is a subject for some discussion. Sharp observers among you notice it comes with four doors, which has become associated with a sedan versus the coupe’s traditional two doors.

But the profile fits a more couple-like sleekness than a sedan, and past models seated only four as is typical of the coupe class. Frankly it is an issue not worth quibbling over. If the Germans say it’s a coupe, it’s a coupe!

The AMG CLS 53 carries a base MSRP of $79,900, but the $995 destination and delivery charge quickly gets the price over the $80,000 mark, and the addition of packages and options can get the final tab into six figures.

My test AMG CLS 53 came with several extras with the three most expensive $4,550 for the Burmeister 3D Surround Sound system; $2,990 for AMG Magna Gray/ Espresso Brown leather upholstery; and $2,250 for a suite of safety features that included steering assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist (which can be a bit overly aggressive at times), blind-spot assist, and more.

All that ran the total to $103,010. Yes, I agree that’s a lot. Since I rarely buy lotto tickets, I’m just going to hope that I may already be a winner in the Publisher’s Sweepstakes.

What I liked about the 2019 AMG CLS 53: What's not to like? It offers amazing performance in a luxurious package with the highest quality cabin around. The addition of buttons on the center stack help simplify operation of the COMAND infotainment system, and the wide display screen is great for navigation.

What I didn't like about the 2019 AMG CLS 53: Watch your head! The roofline that gives the CLS its coupe-like profile also can make getting in a bit tricky. It's not overly difficult, but you need to pay attention. I found sticking my butt in first and swinging both feet around made it more manageable than putting my left leg in first as I am accustomed to doing.

Would I buy the 2019 AMG CLS 53? In a heartbeat. The only downer is the small trunk (11.9 cubic feet) typical of coupes.