German luxury carmaker Mercedes-Benz has enjoyed tremendous success with its Mercedes-AMG sub-brand after deciding to start local assembly of selected models several years ago.
The current Mercedes-AMG line-up from Thailand is spearheaded by the facelifted CLS 53 4Matic+, which is powered by a 48-volt mild hybrid engine and priced at 5.57 million baht.
Since the first-generation CLS in 2004, styling has been the most important factor with this four-door coupe coming with a menacing look. A long bonnet, small frameless windows and a deeply raked C-pillar are among the design highlights of the CLS.
This is the third-generation CLS, with scheduled design upgrades including the AMG radiator grille, bumper and apron up front as well as 20-inch alloy wheels painted in high-gloss black. There are also AMG sills on the side and spoiler lip at the rear to add even more detail to the already sleek exterior.
The powered sunroof goes well with the theme of the CLS 53, which also comes with the AMG night package exterior trim.
The cockpit features Nappa/Dynamica upholstery for the seats (with red seat belts) as well as on the new AMG multi-function steering wheel with shift paddles. Jet-turbine air-con vents come with a high-quality look and feel, and the adjustment controls are nice to use as well.
The interior trim is luxurious, although those expecting high comfort levels may be disappointed. The AMG seats in the CLS 53 are super sporty, and although there's enough room up front, tall passengers may not get much headroom in the back due to the highly raked C-pillar. There is 520 litres of space in the trunk, while the sleek trunk lid comes with convenient kick gesture opening/closing.
Both the digital instrument panel and centre touchscreen have high-res 10.25-inch screens, with plenty of display choices to choose from. As the gearshift lever is located on the steering column, the space between the front seats is taken up by a large touchpad. There are two USB-C ports up front (two more under the armrest), hard disc navigation, Apple/Android integration and "Mercedes me" connective services.
There's also a high-end Burmester surround sound system with 13 loudspeakers and 64-colour ambient lighting that turns the cabin of the CLS into a nightclub on wheels.
In terms of safety the CLS 53 comes with the full package, including a smooth active lane-keeping assist, active parking assist (automatic parking) and 360-degree camera.
As mentioned, the CLS 53 comes with a mild hybrid powertrain, consisting of a turbocharged 3.0-litre straight-six (M256) pumping out a healthy 435hp and 520Nm, and a starter-generator that can briefly churn out another 21hp and 250Nm (it also supplies the 48-volt onboard electrical system). The point of the hybridisation is not so much for extra performance, but for reducing fuel consumption (which is pretty heavy at 11.2kpl) and emissions (203g/km).
The engine is mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission that offers smooth shifting in comfort mode and lightning-quick shifts in Sport and Sport+ modes. Mercedes claims 0-100kph acceleration in 4.5secs and a top speed of 250kph.
The CLS 53 holds on to corners like it's running on rails, thanks to a fully-variable 4Matic+ all-wheel-drive system as well as front and rear multi-link set-up. It also comes with the AMG Ride Control+ air suspension system, but don't expect S-Class comfort levels.
The suspension is tuned for sportiness, and delivers a fun-filled experience when driven on highways as well as winding country roads. But it does feel a little heavy (1,985kg) and might be tiring to drive on a race track.
While the comfort mode is adequate for everyday driving, many CLS 53 drivers will be tempted to turn the drive mode dial on the steering wheel to Sport or Sport+ to enjoy the feisty transition in engine response as well as a sporty exhaust note.
Thanks to local assembly, the CLS 53 4MATIC+ comes with attractive pricing that's millions lower than the CBU version (previously sold at more than 7 million baht), and this would explain the growing number of this Mercedes-AMG model on Thai roads.
While interior space or comfort might not be the strengths of the CLS 53, its strong styling and sporty performance of the AMG powertrain are the main attractions of this car.
Pros: Looks great, sporty performance, great pricing
Cons: Limited rear headroom, some harshness in the suspension