Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 embraces the future

Somehow, I don’t think Hans Werner Aufrecht and Erhard Melcher, the founders of AMG, would have believed a single word you had to say some 60 years ago, if you told them that their high-performance cars would benefit from electrically assisted power.

A quick and interesting fact… A as in Aufrecht, M as in Melcher and G as in Grossaspach (AMG). History lesson as told by Mercedes-Benz. The story starts in the 1960s: the engineers were working on the 300 SE racing engine in the development department at Daimler-Benz, till the company discontinued motorsports activities. But they were not done yet and in Aufrecht’s house in Grossaspach they spent their spare time further honing the performance of the 300 SE engine.

In 1965, Manfred Schiek, a colleague at Daimler, went to the start in the German Touring Car Championship with the 300 SE engine that Aufrecht and Melcher had developed – and won 10 times! That triumph formed the foundation of Aufrecht and Melcher’s reputation as experts for sustaining and optimising the performance of Mercedes-Benzes. Reputation was not enough for Aufrecht, however: his vision was to offer road vehicles modelled after the successful racing car.

In late 1966 he left Mercedes-Benz and persuaded Melcher to venture into a shared business with him. In 1967, they founded the Aufrecht Melcher Großaspach Ingenieurbuero, Konstruktion und Versuch zur Entwicklung von Rennmotoren. The headquarters was a former mill in the nearby municipality of Burgstall.

Very quickly, the engines that were revamped there became a must for private racing teams. The first milestone in terms of racing was in 1971 during the 24 Hours of Spa, which went down in the annals of the company. The AMG Mercedes 300 SEL 6.8 was the champion in its class and won second place overall. A heavy luxury sedan pulling a fast one on the competing lighter race cars? It caused a sensation and the name AMG spread throughout the world.

In 1990 a cooperation contract was concluded with Daimler-Benz AG, and demand and customer acceptance were given a tremendous boost now that AMG products could be sold and maintained through Mercedes-Benz’s worldwide network of dealers.

Further expansion led to the opening of a third plant in 1990 and an increase in the workforce to 400 employees. In 1993, the company unveiled the Mercedes-Benz C 36 AMG, the first jointly developed vehicle to result from the cooperation agreement.

In another development the same year, the Patent Office recognised AMG as a trademark, and the rest is history. Now, back to an electrifying future with the new Mercedes-AMG CLS 53 that we had on test. I say electrifying because this AMG car is offered with an electric auxiliary compressor. And this EQ Boost starter generator temporarily delivers an additional 16kW of power, to go with a hearty 250Nm of additional torque, to go with the 320kW and 520Nm you get from the 3.0-litres straight six turbocharged powerplant.

This electric auxiliary compressor helps to seamlessly build up boost pressure before the traditional exhaust-driven turbocharger kicks in. And this, in turn, translates into a car that is rather fast while reacting just as quickly to your accelerator input for easy and simple overtaking.

A further bonus is that real-world fuel consumption came in at a very decent 11.3l/100km for a 1 980kg four-door coupe. Let’s be straight, the enthusiast buys an AMG so he can go fast. I took the car to Gerotek for high-speed testing. The AMG Speedshift TCT 9G transmission is as fast and smooth as always, with a proper manual shifting function for improved fun on the track or on a nice piece of twisty road.

In CLS 53 AMG guise, there is no Race Start function, so instead of the car dialling in some boost, launching hard and making the most use of the AMG Performance 4Matic+ all-wheel drive, you have to rely on flooring the accelerator. Unless, of course, you want to go old-school style – left foot brake the car to build boost – but I tried that once and the CLS 53 AMG does not like you trying to instantly dump all that power and torque through the drivetrain with the wheels locked.

I still managed to hit 100km/h in 4.83 seconds and the quarter mile (400m) in 13 sec, the 1km at 225km/h, while the optional AMG Driver’s Package increased the top speed to 275km/h on the clock with 268km/h showing up on the RaceLogic VBOX.

While not as fast or a brutal as a 63 AMG, this 53 AMG hits a brilliant sweet spot between performance and price at R1 311 700. If you are not in the mood for behaving like a hooligan, you have five Dynamic Select drive modes to choose from, and they extend from efficient and comfortable to very sporty.

Moving inside, the interior appointments are top class, and there is more room than there was in the previous generation CLS. And you get Mercedes-Benz’ fully digital cockpit that allows you to control most of what you see right in front you.

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