Earlier this week Mercedes-Benz South Africa (MBSA) introduced an all-new model into the local market the Mercedes-AMG CLS53. Double Apex was invited to sample the newcomer at its local ride and drive event.

Mercedes-Benz, it seems, has been on a new product offensive for the better part of two years. Barely a month passes before a new model is launched either locally or abroad. This week we saw the introduction of a handful of new models onto the SA sales listings.

MBSA chose to introduce a new engine into a few derivatives at the same time, thereby creating a new family of performance models, under the ‘53’ banner. The new engine (more detail below) has been dropped into three different body styles to bolster the local line-up. First up is the E53 Coupe which is followed by the drop-top version of the two-door. The last, an all-new addition to the SA market, is the Mercedes-AMG CLS53.

CLS Gen 3

Mercedes, arguably, created the four-door coupe segment when it launched the first gen CLS in 2004. Across the first two generations over 375 000 units were sold worldwide.

This latest version has the same svelte outward appearance as its forebears. Angular headlamps, similar to those on the new A-Class, set the tone for the appearance. A steeply raked front windscreen flows into an arching roofline that ultimately terminates in a round derriere. A hunkered-down appearance is underlined by 19-inch, aero-tuned alloys, though you can size up an inch if you so wish.

The exterior appearance is matched by an equally stylish and modern cabin treatment. Wide-format screens are used for the instrument cluster and infotainment screen. A fat, flat-bottomed steering wheel and carbon-fibre trim denote that this is the most sporting of CLS derivatives. The new CLS is an appealing design that will catch the eye of even die-hard fans of other German brands.

New powerplant

The new motor, internal code M256, is an interesting one. The inline six is an all-new development that features lightweight construction as well as technology that ushers in hybridisation of Mercedes performance powertrains.

The modular unit (with an individual cylinder volume of 500 cm3, similar to four-, and eight-cylinder AMG engines) weighs a massive 90 kg less than the V6 unit in the AMG models with ‘43’ designation (such as the C43 we drove in this review). An exhaust gas compressor (ie a turbocharger) is accompanied by an electrically driven compressor. Working in unison these two units provide boost pressure across the rev-range with sharp throttle response low in the speed range.

Powering the electric compressor is an EQ Boost starter generator that combines a starter and an alternator in one electric motor that sits between the engine and the transmission. In addition to providing the 48 V power required for the compressor the EQ Boost component also adds 16 kW and 250 N.m to the equation. All up the new powertrain is good for 320 kW of power and develops peak torque of 520 N.m. Incredibly, the quoted fuel consumption for this car is just 8,7 L/100 km.

All-wheel grip

Helping to effectively transfer that power to the road is Mercedes’ latest AMG Speedshift TCT 9G transmission. The unit uses a traditional torque converter, and not a multi-pack clutch as other, more hard-core models do. The transmission is coupled with an adaptive and variable all-wheel-drive system that shifts torque between the two axles to ensure optimum grip in all conditions.

Interestingly, this transmission does not feature a ‘race start’ (Mercedes speak for launch control) function, which is a shame as the AWD 53 models would really scoot off the line if they did. As it stands Mercedes quote a sprint time of 0 to 100 km/h of 4,5 seconds. Top speed is limited to 250 km/h, though if you take the optional Driver’s package that increases to 270.

In action

Mercedes-Benz SA laid out a few exercises at Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit to experience the various aspects of the car’s dynamic repertoire: a low-speed slalom, a braking test and acceleration runs. In each, the Mercedes-AMG CLS53 acquitted itself well and showed that is worthy of the AMG badge.

The really fun exercise, however, was lapping Kyalami. On SA’s best-known circuit the CLS53 maintained its composure through the high-speed corners and showed a playful side through the slower stuff. If you provoked it enough, you could even get the rear axle to take on a bit of angle, but the sideways antics are quickly reined in by the active all-wheel-drive system. Slowing from higher speeds was not a problem for the 370 mm front and 360 mm rear discs.


The Mercedes-AMG CLS53 is a fine addition to the local Mercedes portfolio. It has a unique appearance and more performance than almost all drivers will ever need/use. The latest engine from the Affalterbach ushers in a new era for the speed merchants and what they can/will be creating going forward. After years of dominating the Formula One World Championship, we are finally seeing the technologies pioneered in white-hot competition translating into series production benefits.


Mercedes-AMG E53 Coupe           R1 311 700

Mercedes-AMG E53 Cabriolet      R1 430 600

Mercedes-AMG CLS53                    R1 491 600