No, the Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 doesn’t come with an old school V8, but it does have six cylinders, two turbos, an electric motor and a Sport+ switch.

Steve Chalmers

“True AMGs are V8s!” exclaimed Insta-follower ‘Danblingo’ under my arty-but-unfiltered pic of the CLS 53. I’ve known Dan for years, and as he sells classic Mercedes for a living, I respect his opinion on the six cylinder AMG. If you think of your favourite AMG models, the sixes, such as the C32 and C36 don’t immediately spring to mind. Instead, the V8-powered G63, C63 and E55 do. Does the understandable down-cylindering of the new AMG take anything away from its performance and character? We’re about to find out, but not before I drop the delivery driver off at Me’aisem Mall.


Usually, Ahmed the delivery driver turns up with a support car. But today, he’s on his own, so I offer to drop him off at Me’aisem’s taxi rank. Normally, I spend a good few minutes familiarizing myself with a new car, but now, as I jump onto the driver’s seat and press the start button, I don’t have the time. Expecting the AMG to roar into life with a throaty G63-like burble, I’m greeting with nothing but serenity. Slipping the column-mounted gearshift into ‘drive’ and pulling away from Yachts Towers, there is no exhaust howl, no whistling of turbos and no wrestling with the wheel to keep it in a straight line. After a few minutes I’m left empty-hearted. Maybe Dan ‘Blingo’ was right; the new AMG should’ve been a V8 instead of a sixpot, as you would expect an AMG to be a rabid animal that frightens small children and has Porsche drivers anxiously checking their mirrors, and here I am in something my Grandma could happily drive to bingo. The CLS 53 just doesn’t feel raw – refined, sophisticated and smooth, yes, but where’s that apex predator attitude?


Dropping Ahmed at the taxi rank, I decide to go find some empty asphalt and so I head for the desert. It’s just me and CLS 53 now and all of a sudden this seemingly docile performance car is starting to make sense. For starters, the Nappa-clad steering wheel has F1-inspired straight grips with a flat bottom. Only the top half of the wheel is actually round and this features a red strip sewn into it to tell you which way it’s pointing when you’re in maximum attack mode. AMG wouldn’t sew a red strip into the steering wheel for nothing, would they?


And then, the silence comes to an abrupt end, as I spot the AMG Dynamic Select on the centre console – a small, subtle switch that controls the entire behavior of the CLS – it’s Mercedes-Benz’s very own Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde switch. The system features five selectable modes that change key driving parameters to alter the behavior of the transmission, steering, accelerator, and suspension. For the drive to Me’asem with Ahmed it was in Granny-pleasing Eco mode – totally docile, quiet and refined – the un-AMG setting, if you will. But out on these emptying desert roads, I bypass Comfort, Sport and Individual and switch straight to Sport+ and with it, the CLS has gone full-AMG.


With Sport + flashing up on the dash, the once subdued exhaust note has disappeared in a wail of six cylinder, turbocharged fury. Minutes earlier, I had been driving around in almost complete silence and now I’ve got the windows down listening to pure anger coming out of the exhaust tips. I try a mandatory emergency start. Right foot all the way down to the carpet and boom! The twin turbos, aided by the EQ Boost electric drive, catapults the AMG towards the horizon on a wave of power and torque.


The 3.0 litre inline six cylinder pushes out 435hp with a flat torque curve showing 384 lb·ft from 1,800 to 5,800 rpm. It’s a brutal push in the back and it’s relenting. The thrust doesn’t stop, but come off the throttle and the CLS 53 does something few road cars do on the overrun, courtesy of the opened exhaust valves and the ECU mapping, it ‘claps’, really loudly. You may have heard the odd Golf R, or sporty Audi pop and bang while off-throttle, but that’s nothing compared to the AMG. Here, the crack is best described as Thor-type thunder explosion. What makes it so addictive is it doesn’t happen all the time, only on certain engine-overrun conditions.


AMG has moved with the times, leaving some of us (like Danblingo) on catch up. The CLS 53 is basically two cars in one sleek bodyshell. Quiet, comfortable and Granny-friendly in Comfort and Eco mode (it gets 8.8 1/100km, combined) and a snarling, ear splitting, head turning muscle car in Sport and Sport+. In my humble opinion, it also happens to look stunning. After years of questionable family faces, Mercedes has got its nose styling bang on. The soft, rounded headlamps of the outgoing model have been replaced with sharp, aggressive units, echoing the shark-like fronts of the ‘good old days’, back when Mercedes-Benz cars were perceived as the world’s best. If the AMG CLS 53 is to go by, the next batch of models from the Affalterbach-based tuner will put them squarely back at the top of the performance car pile. I think even Danblingo will approve.

Mercedes AMG CLS 53 specifications
Engine inline 6, twin turbo
Displacement 2,999cc
Max power 435hp
EQ power boost 22hp
Torque 384 lb·ft
EQ torque boost 184 lb/ft
Price from AED 377,000