By Paul Gover.
Hybrid driving is taking motoring in a very different direction to the path that was pioneered by the Toyota Prius.
The newest arrivals are plug-in hybrids, which draw power from a power-point plug to boost their green factor and improve the distance the car can travel on purely electric power.
The newest member of the plug-in club, the Mercedes-AMG CLS 53, is something else again.
It’s a plug-in hybrid, and it can run fully electric, but the emphasis is also on making green with go for the mid-sized Benz coupe.
Mercedes calls the car a ‘mild’ hybrid, which means a minimal battery range but the chance to boost the car’s performance without going to the extremes of a signature AMG V8 with a hefty thirst to match is heavyweight kick.
The result is a car that’s in tune with the times, and also a very pleasant piece of mid-sized luxury motoring.
The CLS has never been a huge seller, and definitely not as an AMG 63, but Benz could see an opportunity with a car that’s mild in more than just the hybrid package.
It’s not a shouty go-fast car, or an extreme attack machine, but it is swift and – if you push the right buttons on the AMG sports modes – can really fire up and also produce the sort of exhaust popping and banging which has become a signature for so many turbocharged performance cars.
The CLS is the second AMG 53 model in Australia, after the E Class sedan, which is no surprise when they share so much below the skin.
But the coupe has smoother looks, a cabin which ticks all the boxes for luxury and quality – as well as giant digital display screens – and the sort of understate style which works for a lot of Benz buyers.
Mechanically, the CLS 53 has an old-school inline six-cylinder petrol engine – marking a move over more costly and complicated V6s – with a 48-volt hybrid package. It’s called EQ Boost and means a basic 320 kiloWatts and 250 Newton-metres of torque, with an extra 16kW and 250Nm on tap from the hybrid package.
It’s a stealthy approach which means the CLS can roll around without creating any waves, while cosseting its occupants in Mercedes-Benz comfort, with the potential for an explosive blast from the traffic lights or a swift trip into the country.
The CLS 53 is not cheap, but it’s a car to enjoy.
There is nothing to complain about in the specification or final finishing, although some people will find the back seat cramped for adults and it’s really only intended as a four-seater coupe. The boot, too, could be bigger.
But it’s a car to drive and enjoy, and its dual personality means it can be either a luxury Benz or a very fast AMG Q-ship depending on your mood.
It’s not as rorty as the flat-out fun from an AMG 63 V8, but it is the sort of car which will be making much more sense in coming years.
MERCEDES-AMG CLS 53
Position: luxury sports coupe
Plus: quick and composed
Minus: very expensive, a bit bland
THE TICK: Not this time