The manner in which the CLS 53 rides is arguably the least AMG-like aspect of its on-road demeanour.
Where the full-fat 63-badged models – even those that ride on air springs – make notable sacrifices of rolling comfort in the name of connectedness with the road surface, the CLS comes across as a relative softy.
On threadbare British roads, there’s far less of the sharp-edged jostle and thump that’s typical of the low-speed ride of a modern 63, with the CLS 53 being more open to the idea of at least attempting to smooth over the occasional lump or bump.
That’s not to say its secondary ride is seamless: there is still a degree of bristling resistance to inputs here even with the car’s dampers set to their softest, though by no means enough to dissuade you from the idea of daily-driving the CLS.
Adding some pace is the key to really making the CLS shine. The balance between vertical body travel and ride comfort has been well struck, with the air-sprung Mercedes remaining impressively composed over undulating surfaces, while still maintaining that sense of pliancy you’d expect from a luxury four-door coupé, even an AMG-badged one. And the pay-off is that the CLS 53 makes for a compelling long-distance tourer: one that could make otherwise arduous motorway miles not just bearable but really enjoyable – something you can’t say about all of Affalterbach’s models.
Reasonably quick steering – we measured 2.4 turns lock to lock – lends the CLS a front end that’s by no means averse to turning in, but the electromechanical rack doesn’t quite offer the incisiveness or feel you get from the likes of the Panamera.
It’s also difficult to shake the sense that a degree of its potential handling finesse has been sacrificed in the pursuit of those heightened comfort levels. Roll around its longitudinal axis is still neatly contained and controlled given the car’s size and heft, mind, and there’s abundant grip. But, when push comes to shove, either on a truly testing road or on a track, this isn’t quite the thrill-a-minute driving machine you might have hoped for – or that bigger-engined AMG saloons prove themselves to be so regularly.
The relatively soft suspension of the CLS 53 does have a marginally adverse effect on the precision and composure with which it tackles Millbrook’s Hill Route. Numerous high-speed directional changes serve to emphasise the car’s mass and hamper, to an extent, its sense of mid-corner adjustability. Corners over crests can cause the Mercedes to skip about on the road surface, too, although never in an alarming or dangerous fashion.