The choices almost seem endless when looking for a high-powered Germany luxury sedan. Not only is every major manufacturer represented in this segment, but most offer more than one option.
|Engine: Power comes from a 5.5-liter turbocharged V8 making 577 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque.
Transmission: The only transmission available is a seven-speed MCT automatic.
Fuel Economy: 16 mpg city and 22 mpg highway.
Price: The base CLS 63 AMG-S 4Matic starts at $107,425 after destination charges while our test vehicle came in at $$118,115.
Not happy with just regular luxury sedans like the E-Class, Mercedes-Benz decided in 2004 that something with more style, flash and swagger was in order. That year, the company introduced the CLS-Class four-door "coupe," starting an industry-wide onslaught as Audi, BMW and Porsche all vaulted onto the bandwagon.
But that was 10 years ago and stagnant products don’t last long in the six-figure price bracket. To keep things fresh, the CLS was restyled in 2011 and for 2014, it receives a serious shot in the arm thanks the “AMG-S” package.
For the first time on an AMG sedan, the CLS comes with an available high-performance version of Mercedes-Benz’s 4Matic all-wheel drive (AWD) system. Not happy with just an AMG trim? This even higher-performance S-model receives a standard limited-slip rear differential, red brake calibers, black Nappa leather seats, silver seatbelts, matte titanium wheels and a flat-bottom AMG steering wheel.
The biggest boost for the AMG-S model however occurs under the hood. In the 2014 CLS 63 AMG, the 5.5-liter turbocharged V8 has been cranked up to now generate 577 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque. With Mercedes-Benz’ race start mode (launch control), the 4,122-lb car is said to manage the 60 mph sprint in a forgetting-about-physics 3.6 seconds. That is insanely quick for any car, never mind a composed luxury Q ship.
The V8 itself makes a great noise under hard acceleration, but is a bit too quiet overall. We really wish there was an active exhaust setting that allowed more on demand. While on the topic of the beastly V8, after a week with our test car during winter, it still returned a not-horrifying average 16.2 mpg. The EPA says average fuel economy should be 18 mpg, but the penalty we saw really isn’t surprising considering the cold winter weather.
See Also: Mercedes 4MATIC AWD System Review
By stepping up to the AMG-S, the regular 155 mph electronic speed limiter has been removed, allowing the CLS to apparently hit 186 mph. Not only were we not able to verify this performance number, but we couldn’t verify any performance numbers thanks to a week of snow and below freezing temperatures. The all-wheel drive system did its best to keep the car accelerating regardless of road conditions, but more potential was definitely lurking behind the massive pointed star dominating the grille.
When not trying to grenade the engine and transmission with race start mode, the car feels a bit sluggish off the line. Power doesn’t feel all quite there, as if there is some turbo lag or programming to keep power reduced initially. But once under way, the car snaps the driver back and scampers down the road like a kid chasing an ice cream truck. This is one of those cars that want to travel well above speed limits at all times.
A lot of the impressive straight-line performance produced by this car can be attributed to the seven-speed MCT transmission that is essentially Mercedes-Benz’ regular seven-speed auto minus the torque converter. The transmission can be set in four modes: eco, sport, sport plus and manual. Even in the sport plus mode, it doesn’t keep the car in a ridiculously high-ratio gear at highway speeds. It will, however, provide quick downshifts under moderate to heavy braking and adjusts its behaviour when you’re ready to frolic along some twisting back roads.
On the center console resides an AMG button that when depressed, turns on the “manual” transmission mode, enters the suspension into sport plus mode and displays the vehicle’s current coolant and oil temps. Both of these are important as they need to reach 176 degrees Fahrenheit before race start mode can be engaged. As well, there is a lap timer within the AMG menu screens, but the chances of an owner taking a CLS 63 AMG-S 4Matic on a racetrack are slimmer than Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo winning a Golden Globe award.
AMG equips its low-flying missile with a set of substantial brakes and multi-piston calipers. These feel as though they will stop the car instantly at any speed. Brake feel is firm and constant in daily driving but does take a minor adjustment period due to their hair-trigger response.
The adjustable AMG air suspension can cycle through normal, sport and sport plus settings. In normal mode, the car is fairly smooth but can be upset by rougher roads and larger bumps. In sport + mode, the car becomes downright jarring and should be reserved for only the smoothest of roads. We get that this is more of a “track setting”, but as mentioned earlier we doubt this car will see many lapping days. Even with a 14:1 steering ratio, the CLS’s portly weight can be felt at all times and is not keen on changing directions quickly. This car truly is a straight-line menace, not an apex monster.
Inside, the CLS is exactly what should be expected from a $100,000 Mercedes. Some staff members find the multi-button center-stack design to be out of date while others still find it elegant. We all agreed that the carbon fiber insert across dash is a nice touch as well as the Alcantara headliner and Alcantara inserts on the flat bottom steering wheel.
Thanks to the coupe-like profile, front and rear headroom is a bit lacking. Otherwise, the front seats are comfortable and we love the adjustable active side bolsters. Rear seat legroom is also a bit snug at only 35 inches, but the trunk is generous at 15.3 cubic feet.
While on the topic of the coupe like profile, the new CLS seems to have lost a little something compared to the first generation model. Maybe we are just used to the idea of a four-door coupe now, but the new car feels less groundbreaking and attractive than the old model. Details we do like on the car are the aforementioned matte wheels, red brake calipers, full LED headlights and carbon fiber trunk lid spoiler.
The flamboyant CLS 63 AMG-S 4Matic is the ideal ride for well-off extroverts thanks to its excessive power, style and a price tag to match: $118,115. For most, the CLS 550 4matic would be more than enough car or even the more practical E 550. One thing is certain, there is a luxury car out there for every taste under the sun now, even those looking for an insanely fast all-wheel drive luxury four-door coupe.