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Mercedes-Benz CLS 63 AMG review: 4.5/5

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New-look Merc CLS spawns rocket-ship 63 AMG version.

Kyle Fortune

Words:

Published on: January 26, 2011

Words:

Published on: January 26, 2011

Massive power, fantastic looks and a menacing soundtrack, the new AMG CLS 63 has it all. More efficiency too - as if you care...

In the Metal

Fussier in detail than its predecessor, this second generation CLS's styling is divisive, but we're fans of its more assertive look. In AMG guise that's upped a notch, with subtle flaring of the wheel arches covering a wider track and 19-inch alloy wheels, 'V8 biturbo' badging positioned on a scalloped section on the front wing, a deeper front bumper with larger air intakes, quad tailpipes and a boot lip spoiler around the back. Opt for the Performance Pack and you can add some carbon fibre detailing to that, with the boot lip spoiler and wing mirror covers featuring the black weave, while the brake callipers gain some red paint.

The interior boasts a smattering of AMG badging and more sculpted sports seats, but the key difference is around the central transmission tunnel. There's now an automatic gear selector residing there, it moving from a stalk on the steering column to its rightful place between the front seats. Alongside it there are buttons and dials to change everything from the damper settings and gearshift speed to the intervention of the ESP system. Performance Pack cars also gain an Alcantara sectioned steering wheel, which not only features a flattened bottom, but a slight flattening at the top too.

What you get for your Money

It's unlikely you could ever be disappointed with the 525hp and 700Nm of torque that the standard CLS 63 AMG has at its disposal, but the optional Performance Pack delivers an extra 32hp and 100Nm. Against the clock that equates to 0.1 seconds faster to 100km/h, with the standard car reaching the benchmark in 4.4 seconds and the Performance Pack car in 4.3 seconds.

You can keep adding, too, with the 250km/h speed limiter replacing Driver's Pack upping the maximum to 300km/h - and including a day at the AMG Driving Academy; AMG Ride Control Performance suspension; a limited slip differential; and AMG ceramic composite brakes.

Driving it

It may be an expensive car, but drop the window a fraction and the CLS 63 AMG sounds like it's worth every cent. The twin-turbo 5.5-litre V8 loses nothing sonically to its forced induction, with a deep, low rumble layered with a rich mechanical melody that's as musical as it is menacing. If anything it's too quiet, with the majority of the drama reserved for those outside. The isolation of sound in the cabin is impressive, though slightly disappointing when you can only just hear the popping from the exhausts when downshifting at speed.

The sound is backed up with searing performance. There's little or no slack in the engine's response, with masses of mid-range torque meaning huge pace whenever you want it. The seven-speed AMG Speedshift MCT transmission for the most part is smooth and quick, though it's sometimes slow to react to input at the paddles. We'd like a more mechanical feel to them in place of the current arcade-game feedback. Tactility is offered via the steering though, with its weighting nicely judged and its response pleasingly linear and quick. There's feel there too, the CLS - and SLS - demonstrating that AMG has found its steering mojo.

Combine the engine's shocking pace and the quick, informative steering with a chassis that's beautifully balanced and the CLS 63 AMG is crushingly capable almost regardless of the type of road. At speed it feels hugely stable, while in challenging bends its composure is very impressive indeed. The ride is taut, but it's not at the expense of control - or even comfort in the suspension's most extreme settings. The result is a consummate all-rounder, though if you're planning on using the performance regularly you might want to invest in the greater fade resistance of the optional composite brakes. The ESP system flatters rather than frustrates, with the CLS AMG feeling far more agile than anything its size has any right to.

Worth Noting

Being a range-topping model with a Mercedes-Benz badge on it there's safety kit aplenty. The latest driver drowsiness monitoring Attention Assist, Blind Spot Assist and Lane Keep Assist come as standard. With the CLS AMG you'll be wide awake, unlikely to be overtaken and certain to stray over the odd white line when taking the fastest line through bends so usefully you can switch most of the systems off... In all, it's a safer car than before and more economical too, with the new CLS 63 AMG consuming 32 percent less fuel than its predecessor.

Summary

The Mercedes-Benz CLS 63 AMG is a supremely capable all-rounder that's both consummate grand tourer and exciting sports car. All wrapped up in a glorious-looking and practical four-door shell. It's not cheap, but then neither are its rivals - of which there are few. This or a Porsche Panamera Turbo? On looks alone the AMG aces it, and while ultimately the Porsche might prove fractionally quicker, it's the AMG driver who'd be having more fun.

Mercedes-Benz CLS 63 AMG:

  • Engine: 5.5-litre bi-turbo V8 petrol
  • Maximum power: 525hp at 5,250rpm
  • Maximum torque: 700Nm at 1,750- 5,000rpm
  • Acceleration (0-100km/h): 4.4 seconds
  • Maximum speed: 250km/h
  • Fuel economy (combined cycle): 9.9 litres/100km (28.5mpg)
  • CO2 emissions: 231g/km
  • Motor tax band: G
  • Annual road tax: €2,100