The 2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG is a schizophrenic machine. On the one hand it’s a comfortable four-door luxury sedan, filled with all manner of creature comforts and technology, and on the other, it’s a ground pounding muscle sports car with performance to rival any Corvette or Ferrari on the road today. It begs the question, “Who needs a car like this?”
|1. A twin-turbo 5.5L V8 makes 518-hp and 516 lb-ft of torque for a 4.4 second 0-60 mph time.
2. An AMG Performance Package adds a carbon fiber trunk lid spoiler and engine cover, sports suspension, AMG steering wheel, upgraded brakes and brings power to 550-hp and 590 lb-ft of torque for a 4.3 second 0-60 time.
3. The AMG Speedshift MCT 7-speed automatic transmission offers five drive modes: ‘C’ (controlled efficiency), ‘S’ (sport), ‘S+’ (Sport Plus), ‘M’ (manual) and ‘RS’ (race start).
4. CLS63 AMG models start at $94,900.
Well, nobody needs a car like this. But this Mercedes isn’t about needs, it’s about wants. If you are a well heeled individual who can afford to write a check for a little more than $112,000, this is a car you want. And for those who can’t afford it, Mercedes has positioned it as a car that you aspire to own while you drive their more pedestrian offerings and contemplate how you’re going to make your next few million dollars to move up to this one.
The heart of this beast is a twin-turbo 5.5-liter V8, which is downsized from last year’s naturally aspirated 6.2-liter powerplant. But don’t worry, the new engine isn’t down on power. It produces 518 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque, and will spool the speedometer up to 155 miles per hour – with ease. All of this while managing a 32% increase in fuel economy. While those impressive performance numbers may satiate the appetites of most drivers, check the $6,990 AMG Performance Package box on the order form, and you buy the almost insane numbers of 550-hp and 590 lb-ft of torque. After all, who wants to get to 60 miles per hour in 4.4 seconds, when you can get there is 4.3 seconds? Oh, and Mercedes removes the electronic limiter and allows the AMG’s speedometer to hit 186 miles per hour, for those times when you’re really in a hurry to get to work.
While fuel economy isn’t necessarily a priority for a car with all this power and performance, it still gets 16-mpg city and 25-mpg highway. And for those speed demons with a green bent, placing the car in the “Eco” mode will have the engine shut off when the car comes to a stop, and then instantly re-fire when the gas pedal is depressed.
Now that seven grand AMG Package doesn’t just get you more horses, torque, and top speed. You also get a carbon fiber trunk lid spoiler, a carbon fiber engine cover, sport suspension, AMG steering wheel, and massive brakes with red 6-piston calipers in front and 4-piston calipers out back, to haul this CLS back down from warp speed quickly, easily, and with no fade.
Putting all that power down to the pavement would be a tricky task if not for Mercedes’ outstanding Speedshift seven-speed multi-clutch transmission. This may be the best-tuned automatic transmission on the planet. The driver can choose settings from “C” (comfort) to “S” (sport), “S+” (well you get the idea) and “M” (manual). Each setting up that ladder means a bit more revs before each gear shift, and a bit more aggressive steering and suspension tuning. But regardless of what mode you choose, every shift is smooth, lightening fast, and for those control freaks who must be in command of their gear changes, the large well placed paddle shifters just behind the AMG steering wheel will be well served. One other setting that the Speedshift tranny has is called “RS” or Race Start. It is a 6-step process designed to unlock the maximum acceleration capabilities of the CLS. But since we didn’t pass any drag strips, nor pull up alongside a ZR1 Corvette at a stop light, we didn’t employ the system.
The CLS63 pushes out the spent gasses from the motor through two chromed tipped exhaust pipes. But more than just releasing scrubbed exhaust fumes, there is a melody of tunes that escape as well. It’s almost as if each car is equipped with an orchestral conductor to provide the correct amount of sound the driver will want to hear at any given moment.
Push the start button and the engine springs to life with a nice guttural burble to let you know there’s something special under the hood. That sound lasts a few seconds, and then settles down nicely. Accelerate gently, and things tune up a bit, but certainly nothing intrusive. After all, you may be on your way to drop Grandma off at church, and she deserves a respectful, quiet trip.
Afterwards, if you feel like tromping on the go pedal, the CLS will light up with neck snapping acceleration, and a full-on song of V8 growl that will rival any sportscar, and let the driver (and other cars and pedestrians in the vicinity) know that triple digits are only a heartbeat away. And then when you achieve your desired speed and back off the throttle, the AMG turns back into a luxury Mercedes, and will then just whisper down the road until the next time you ask it to sprint.
Steering is precise, and effort is dictated by which setting you have chosen for your trip today. Cornering is also direct and surefooted, with little body lean, and again, settings for grandma’s comfort, or canyon carving are a push button away. And while the CLS is a 4,275 pound car, it certainly doesn’t feel like it when pushing it through tight corners. Yes you feel the heft, but it’s not sloppy. This is a car that wants to be driven fast, and it rewards the driver with a visceral sensation like few other cars can achieve.
Inside, the cabin surrounds the driver and passengers in executive level appointments. Sumptuous leather seats (heated and cooled) wrap the driver with excellent bolstering, with active assist so that when one turns right or left, the opposite bolster inflates to hold the driver in position. There is also a massage feature that inflates the bolsters and lumber support up and down the spine to help the driver avoid fatigue on long trips. An Alcantera headliner looks and feels like suede. The beautifully curved soft leather covered dash is handsome, and throughout the interior, one is surrounded by piano black, carbon fiber, and brushed stainless trim.
Most of the controls are easy to find and use, although the center stack does appear a bit busy. But the large 7-inch display screen for GPS and other information is easy to see and use. We continue to hate Mercedes’ placement of the cruise control stalk, exactly where one would expect the turn signal stalk to be, and even after a spending a week with the car, we still kept hitting it.
We loved the $2,950 Driver Assist Package with includes Active Blind Spot Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist, and the best system for cruise control which allows the driver to set a safe following distance from the car in front of you, while the vehicle will automatically brake or accelerate to maintain that distance. So the driver never has to fiddle with the controls to keep up or slow down.
Rear seat passengers get a bit more room than the previous model, and two tall passengers can enjoy the experience with sufficient leg room and head room, despite the sloped coupe-like rear greenhouse. As for the trunk, it’s much larger than it looks from the outside.
The styling is clean, and has a taut and athletic look. The front end is aggressive and aerodynamic, with a sleek character line running from the front fender to the taillights. Another cut line sweeps up from the lower front wheel well to the mid point of the rear fender. Front three-quarter and profile views are where the CLS looks the best. The rear end is more ordinary looking, but with the kind of power this AMG has, other drivers won’t get much of a chance to study it up close.
This CLS starts at $94,900, and with the AMG Package and some other options, our tester came to $112,585. That amount of money will buy most people three or four cars, but for those who can afford it, it’s actually quite a bargain. After all, you get a complete full sized luxury car, and can save a hundred to two hundred thousand dollars by not needing to buy that Porsche, or Ferrari as a second vehicle to satisfy your speed demon jollies.