Test Driven: Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG, Al’s TakePosted: October 11, 2011
There are many an oxymoron in the automotive market. Some of them include the “car-based pickup” (Honda Ridgeline, Subaru Baja), “sports-activity vehicle” (BMW’s SUVs), and the strangest one of all, the so-called “four-door coupe.” Mercedes-Benz virtually invented the latter back in 2004 with the new CLS model, a four-door sedan designed to moonlight as an exclusive, stylish personal coupe. It was a hit with buyers, and Mercedes saw fit to redesign the car for the 2011 model year. Mercedes-Benz had the top-dog, $100K CLS63 AMG for test drives at Pebble Beach this year, and I was only happy to oblige.
The new model takes the same philosophy as the old one, but looks much more attractive. The original CLS’s sleek, linear styling has been displaced by a much more aggressive, slightly more angular look. The new model still has the same idea on the inside, with comfortable seating for four, covered in supple leather and high-quality wood trim. The engines in this one are similar to the old one, with the basic V8 CLS550, andt this particular test car, the flagship CLS63 AMG. The new AMG features a brand-new twin-turbo, 5.5L V8, a first for AMG’s V8 engines, backed up by a brand-new 7-speed multi-clutch transmission. The engine is still hand-built, and despites its performance credentials is more fuel-efficient than its predecessor, a big headline these days. This new engine puts out 518hp and 516lbs-ft of torque, an improvement of 4hp and 51lbs-ft over the old 6.2L V8.
On the move, the CLS AMG is a standard Mercedes at first. The engine is smooth, the ride is very comfortable, and the seats do nothing less than give the driver a feeling of absolute security. They are hard, but very supportive; I don’t know what M-B did in this case, but other manufacturers should take notice. The massage function, while unnerving at first, was a seriously cool addition to the early experience. Once out on the 17-Mile Drive, I put the suspension settings into Sport+ and set off for the forest, with the adaptive seat bolsters doing an excellent job of keeping me in place. This car is, to be honest, two cars molded into one. Without the sport settings on, it’s a comfortable cruiser with enough toys to keep anyone busy. But, hit the sport settings and mash the gas pedal into the floormat, and the big Benz howls like a wolf at the moon. This car simply flies–and the rest of its setup can handle anything in its way. Even though its a big, heavy car, it feels smaller in turns, and despite the firmer settings in Sport+, the ride isn’t totally compromised–in fact, it irons out bumps and doesn’t even let the driver know that there was one in the way. The brakes are excellent as well–a good thing considering that the big AMG hits 60 in 4.3 seconds (according to AMG). The only issue I see with this car is the cruise control stalk, which is located too close to the turn signal stalk–get it wrong, and you’ll turn the cruise control on when you want to turn right.
While Nick took the wheel, I settled into the back seat. Despite his attempts to get me to say “Enough” from the rear, I felt so comfortable that I had no need to say a word. Although it doesn’t have the rear-seat room of the big Maybach or Rolls-Royce Ghost, it feels exclusive. The entire rear experience is comfortable, and makes the passenger feel important (despite this being a driver’s car as well). The massage functions, again, are fantastic and feel as if they were designed by an expert chiropractor. It’s not the cavern that the Maybach is, but it feels comfortable and exclusive in its own right. Overall, I was pretty impressed with the new CLS AMG–it may not be the muscle car that the CTS-V is, but it has a charm and feel all its own, and feels as if it’s worth the six-figure price it commands.