SEAM­LESS 2019 Mercedes-benz CLS 450 4Matic/mercedes-amg CLS 53 4Matic

NEW EN­GINES, CLEANER DE­SIGN, A MILD HY­BRID, AND A SOOTH­ING CABIN DE­LIVER A SUB­LIME EX­PE­RI­ENCE

Motor Trend (USA) - - Contents - Alisa Prid­dle

New en­gines, cleaner de­sign, a mild hy­brid, and a sooth­ing cabin de­liver a sub­lime ex­pe­ri­ence.

Sunny Spain, with its wind­ing roads up the ser­rated Montser­rat moun­tains sur­round­ing Barcelona, was a per­fect place to gauge the lat­est Mercedes-benz CLS. It’s a chance to sam­ple the four-door coupe’s per­for­mance and han­dling, ap­pre­ci­ate the ex­haust notes from the new in­line-six, and wel­come an ex­panded lineup that now in­cludes the first Mercedes-amg CLS 53. A short rain shower seemed cued up to show­case the all-wheel-drive sys­tem, as well.

It was an op­por­tu­nity to see if the third-gen­er­a­tion CLS can hold serve in the seg­ment it cre­ated when it showed the first con­cept at the Frankfurt auto show back in 2003. De­spite the ap­par­ent con­tra­dic­tion of a “four-door coupe,” the world has be­come en­am­ored with the idea of coupe­like lines over­laid on a sedan struc­ture. The body style has res­onated with 375,000 CLS buy­ers around the world and has spurred com­peti­tors to cre­ate their own four-door fast­backs. Mercedes even trumped it­self at this year’s Geneva auto show, where it un­veiled the even sex­ier Mercedes-amg GT 4-Door coupe.

But the Ger­man car­maker has not for­got­ten that the CLS started it all. For the 2019 model year, the CLS fam­ily gets a cleaner de­sign, new en­gine port­fo­lio, and hy­bridiza­tion with a 48-volt sys­tem, which the au­tomaker sees as a cru­cial step in an au­to­mo­tive world that is in­creas­ingly be­com­ing elec­tri­fied.

At launch there are new 3.0-liter in­li­ne­six en­gines: a gaso­line and a diesel. The U.S. only gets the gaso­line ver­sion, which gen­er­ates 362 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque in the CLS 450 but also has the EQ Boost mild-hy­brid sys­tem and 48-volt elec­tri­cal sys­tem. Af­ter launch, Mercedes is adding a 2.0-liter four-cylin­der gas en­gine with a belt-driven starter al­ter­na­tor and 48-volt sys­tem—but it is not for the U.S., ei­ther. There are no specs yet, but of­fi­cials say it will pro­duce more than 300 hp.

The CLS 53 ups the per­for­mance to 429 hp and 384 lb-ft out of the I-6 by adding a

twin-scroll tur­bocharger and an elec­tric aux­il­iary com­pres­sor that builds boost un­til the tur­bocharger kicks in. Voila, no turbo lag. Ac­cel­er­a­tion is not neck-snap­ping, but it is quick for a two-ton sedan: Mercedes claims it will do 0–60 mph in 4.5 sec­onds. Smooth, too.

For the CLS 450, Mercedes com­bines the starter and a gen­er­a­tor in an elec­tric mo­tor po­si­tioned be­tween the en­gine and trans­mis­sion. The ex­tra 21 hp and 184 lb-ft helps en­sure power is at the ready and elim­i­nates any lag be­fore the twin-scroll tur­bocharger kicks in. The elec­tric su­per­charger in the CLS 53 makes it even quicker off the mark, but again the power de­liv­ery is very lin­ear. The other ad­van­tage is a seam­less start/ stop—we never felt the en­gine turn on or off—and the abil­ity to “sail” when the en­gine dis­con­nects from the trans­mis­sion and coasts.

The mo­tor also feeds the 1.0-kw-hr lithium-ion bat­tery. The 48-volt sys­tem can de­liver four times the power of a stan­dard 12-volt sys­tem at the same level of cur­rent (and hence wiring size). The CLS has an elec­tric wa­ter pump and AC com­pres­sor.

On the CLS 450, the op­tional 4Matic all-wheel-drive sys­tem fea­tures a fixed 31/69 split of power be­tween front and rear, and the CLS 53 has the stan­dard 4Matic+ sys­tem to con­stantly ad­just torque to wher­ever it is needed.

The mul­ti­link sus­pen­sion comes with steel springs with a choice of op­tional adap­tive damp­ing or the air sus­pen­sion sys­tem, which is stan­dard on the 53. Drive modes are what you’ve come to

ex­pect—com­fort, Sport, and Sport plus— and al­though re­spon­sive­ness im­proves with sportier set­tings, the dif­fer­ence is barely per­cep­ti­ble un­less you are go­ing quite fast.

The un­der­hood sound­track in the AMG is full of hits, start­ing with the sat­is­fy­ing crescendo of a straight-six ac­cel­er­at­ing and adding a sym­phony of snorts, pops, and gur­gles on the down­shifts. That’s mu­sic to any driver’s ears.

The nine-speed snicks up and down seam­lessly. Smooth best describes the shift­ing, steer­ing, and brak­ing. The brakes never grab, and they re­spond as if they are read­ing the driver’s mind—es­pe­cially in a groove on a wind­ing road with non­stop twists and switch­backs, all of which the brakes han­dle with a sub­lime ef­fort­less­ness.

Like the S-class above it, the CLS has a suite of safety and driver-as­sist tech­nolo­gies to steer, ac­cel­er­ate, and brake as con­di­tions de­mand. And like the Tesla, it can make a lane change by merely click­ing the turn sig­nal.

The ul­ti­mate nanny is the Distronic route-based cruise con­trol, which ad­justs speed to the le­gal limit and also reads pre­pro­grammed data about the road ahead to keep you from bar­rel­ing into a curve or round­about. The first time you ex­pe­ri­ence the ve­hi­cle slow­ing it­self can be dis­con­cert­ing, es­pe­cially when you stomp on the ac­cel­er­a­tor and noth­ing happens. It is un­usual to find driveras­sist fea­tures that can’t be over­rid­den by man­ual ac­tions. In this case the sys­tem ig­nores your fran­tic foot on the gas pedal. You must first tap the brake to dis­en­gage the safety sys­tem and al­low you to re­sume con­trol of your speed again. And of course, the fea­ture can be turned off.

Mercedes has played with de­sign since the orig­i­nal C219 slot­ted be­tween the S-class and E-class, chang­ing for the sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion W218 in 2011. This third gen­er­a­tion has a sim­pler, and ar­guably meaner look—with a shark nose an­gled down and a chrome twin-blade ra­di­a­tor grille that used to be re­served for AMGS with a V-8. En­gi­neers have deemed the new I-6 wor­thy of the de­sign cue.

For this gen­er­a­tion, de­sign­ers worked to re­duce ex­cess lines. The re­sult is a sleeker and more ele­gant over­all look. Gone are the blocky hips over the rear wheels. The front fas­cia’s flat head­lamps have been up­dated, and there is a split­ter in front and func­tional spoiler in back. The 53 has an air cur­tain to help air­flow in front and round quad ex­haust pipes. The li­cense plate has been fit­ted into the rear bumper, and there is a two-piece rear tail­lamp for the first time.

The CLS has a high shoul­der line; com­bine that with a thick A-pil­lar and the raked wind­shield, and shorter driv­ers will bat­tle a no­tice­able blind spot— mak­ing twist­ing moun­tain roads more adren­a­line-filled than de­sired. But the high shoul­ders and nar­row green­house make for a sump­tu­ous side pro­file. En­gi­neers claim its drag co­ef­fi­cient of 0.26 is the best in the seg­ment.

The 2019 model was de­signed as a true five-seater, with a bench in the back ac­com­mo­dated by an in­crease in ve­hi­cle width. But there’s no get­ting past the fast­back roofline, which chal­lenges taller pas­sen­gers. The only con­ces­sion is the slim­mer seats, which pro­vide more legroom. Con­versely, the new AMG GT will only be of­fered as a four-seater in the U.S. (but as a five-seater in Europe; guess Amer­i­cans gotta lay off the cheese fries).

The CLS cos­sets its oc­cu­pants. This be­ing a Mercedes, the seats are heated and cooled and of­fer a choice of mas­sage sen­sa­tions. Turn on the ac­tive seat func­tion to ap­ply side bol­sters as needed dur­ing a spirited ride. The 53 has the AMG per­for­mance flat-bot­tom steer­ing wheel, as well. For in­fo­tain­ment, the CLS fol­lows other Mercedes of­fer­ings with a pair of 12.3-inch screens un­der a sin­gle cover of glass to pro­vide an ar­ray of data about the car and your trip.

The 2019 Mercedes-benz CLS 450 and Mercedes-amg CLS 53 will go on sale this fall in the U.S. Pric­ing has not been an­nounced but should start at about $78,000 and stretch to $100,000. n

ELE­GANT LINES De­sign­ers for the new Mercedes-benz CLS aimed for a sleeker, cleaner look.

TRUE FIVE-SEATER The 2019 AMG CLS 53 has beau­ti­ful sport seats in the front (heated, cooled, and mas­sag­ing) and a bench in the back.

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