Vital Stats

Engine:
5.5L Twin-Turbo V8
Power:
550 HP / 590 LB-FT
Transmission:
7-Speed MCT
0-60 Time:
3.8 Seconds
Top Speed:
186 MPH
Drivetrain:
Rear-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
4,277 LBS
Seating:
2+2
MPG:
16 City / 25 HWY
The Original Four-Door Coupe Still Tickles Our Soul



The Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG is an Olympic decathlete wearing a hand-tailored tuxedo – its well-rounded performance is every bit as impressive as its physical appearance. Such talent and charm is often acknowledged by the automotive press, but such accolades don't always guarantee a winning combination in the showroom.

But Mercedes-Benz knows its AMG customers, understands what stirs them and realizes how to pry open their checkbooks. The automaker is aware that its affluent clientele don't purchase objectively. Rather, they gaze at the styling, take a deep whiff of the leather interior, grasp and hold the thick steering wheel and absorb the raucous note of the exhaust. A sale isn't far behind.

The sound of signed checks fluttering to the table may be common at the Mercedes-Benz dealership, but how does the CLS63 AMG perform out in the real world? What separates it from its CLS550 sibling? What are its strengths and weaknesses? Most importantly, what makes this iconic seven-year-old four-door coupe unique? We recently spent a week with the CLS63 AMG to figure it out.
2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG side view2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG front view2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG rear view

With the Performance Package, the factory claims that 60 mph falls in 4.3 seconds and the top speed governor is raised to 186 mph.

Launched in 2004 as an E-Class (W211) platform knock-off, the first-generation CLS-Class (W219) is credited with starting the whole "four-door coupe" segment. The second-generation model (W218) was launched in 2010, still sharing the same platform but with a slew of upgrades and a fresh new appearance. While there are many engine choices worldwide, in the States we are offered just two variants: CLS550 and CLS63 AMG.

The CLS550 is fitted with a twin-turbocharged 4.6-liter V8 rated at 402 horsepower and 443 pound-feet of torque. The four-door features a seven-speed automatic transmission sending power to the two rear wheels (the automaker's 4Matic all-wheel-drive system is offered as an option). Hardly a slouch, the standard CLS will sprint to 60 miles per hour in just 5.1 seconds with a top speed governed at 130 mph. However, and despite its valid reputation as a true driver's car, the CLS550 lost out to an Audi A7 3.0T in our comparison last year – blame its age, despite its refresh.

2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG engine

The CLS63 AMG turns things up significantly. Under the hood is a twin-turbocharged 5.5-liter V8 rated at 518 horsepower and 519 pound-feet of torque in standard trim, or 550 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque when optioned with the AMG Performance Package (as our test car was). To handle the additional torque, and deliver a sporty driving feel, the traditional automatic is replaced by an AMG Speedshift seven-speed MCT gearbox with launch control. The standard CLS63 AMG will hit 60 mph in 4.4 seconds with a governed top speed of 155 mph. With the Performance Package, the factory claims that 60 mph falls in 4.3 seconds and the top speed governor is raised to 186 mph. (Consider those numbers conservative as Car and Driver recently tested the 2012 CLS63 AMG at 3.8 seconds with a quarter mile of 12.0 seconds at 121 mph. Motor Trend got 3.9 seconds.)

Despite the mechanical upgrades, its curb weight is less than 100 pounds greater than the CLS550.

But there is much more to the AMG model than just a powertrain upgrade. The standard CLS550's independent Airmatic suspension is replaced with an AMG Adaptive Suspension with electronically controlled gas-filled struts up front, Airmatic electronically controlled damping in the rear, and the electro-hydraulic steering rack is replaced with an AMG-tuned unit. Braking capacity is increased with the fitment of six-piston calipers in the front and four-piston calipers in the rear (both are 14.2-inches, internally ventilated, drilled and slotted discs, but the fronts are thicker) – carbon-ceramic brakes are optional. Wheels grow from 18- to 19-inch units, now wearing 255/35R19 tires in the front and 285/30R19 in the back. Despite the mechanical upgrades, its curb weight of 4,277 pounds is less than 100 pounds greater than the CLS550.

The CLS63 AMG cabin is also enhanced for its performance role. In addition to the premium leather, the primary instrument cluster receives an AMG face, complete with performance-specific gauges, and its color is reversed (now white on black). The electronic transmission lever moves from the tree down to the center console (PRND, but with C, S, S+ and M modes) and there is new switchgear. Wood trim gives way to other sporty finishes, and AMG sport bucket seats replace the stock units. Our tester was also optioned with a simply gorgeous thick-rimmed flat-bottomed steering wheel with proper paddle shifters.

2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG interior2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG front seats2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG rear seats2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG trunk

Regardless of who the CLS63 AMG is competing against, it will most likely win.

Speaking specifically about our test vehicle, the 2012 CLS63 AMG with black over black premium leather carried a base MSRP of $94,900 (plus $875 destination and delivery). It was configured with the P01 Package for $3,690 (iPod/MP3 interface, rearview camera, heated and active front seats, active multicontour driver seat, adaptive highbeam assist, full LED headlamps, electronic trunk closer and Keyless Go), Driver Assist Package for $2,950 (Distronic plus with Pre-Safe braking, active blind spot assist and active Lane Keep assist), AMG Performance package for $6,990 (carbon fiber trunk lid spoiler, carbon fiber engine cover red brake calipers, increased top speed, AMG performance steering wheel, sport suspension and power boost), Parktronic for $970, rear side airbags for $420 and forged 19-inch AMG twin five-spoke alloy wheels for $1,790. Add it up, and the bottom line on our car was $115,435.

It is difficult to put a finger on the CLS's competition, especially at that price. The new Audi S7 ($78,800) seems like a natural enemy, but it is significantly down on power when compared to the torque-heavy AMG. The Porsche Panamera GTS ($111,000) is also an interesting foe, but one needs to step up to the Panamera Turbo ($138,650) to match the AMG's straight-line performance. Will shoppers also consider the Maserati Quattroporte Sport GTS (base price $135,200), or will it also be dismissed as a second-string athlete too? Regardless of who the CLS63 AMG is competing against, it will most likely win.

2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG grille2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG wheel detail2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG taillight2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG exhaust tips

With the gearshift in "D" and the selector on "Sport +", it is in full attack setting.

We spent one full week with the well-toned four-door, driving it so much that its engine never completely cooled. Few vehicles in our garage warrant this much affection. Rather than gush over the engine, brakes and handling in traditional linear manner, it is best to recall a few significant excursions.

On its second day in our garage, we went for an extended evening cruise on a deserted stretch of local real estate. It took all of five minutes to discover that there's no shortage of power under the hood. Punch the accelerator and the twin-turbo 5.5-liter V8 spools up with near imperceptible lag. With the gearshift in "D" and the selector on "Sport +" (we preferred this configuration over manual mode), it is in full attack setting. The AMG Speedshift MCT seven-speed transmission did an impressive job sending the power to the rear wheels (the gearbox uses a wet clutch pack, instead of a torque converter, to deliver both smooth and rapid-fire shifts). Gear changes were dual-clutch quick, and the electronics were uncanny in their ability to anticipate our next move. We mentioned earlier that some publications are reporting sub-four second sprints to 60 mph. We can happily report that this AMG felt every bit that fast all the time. Check off another near-perfect relationship between engine and transmission.



The only time the sleek coupe seemed to hesitate was when the corners became really tight and its size and weight got in the way.

On its third day under our watch, we headed up the famed Mulholland highway. Cruising through the canyons at a very good clip, the CLS63 AMG handled the corners effortlessly. The tires stuck tenaciously and the stock iron brakes never gave up an inch to fade (ceramics are optional, but we didn't ever get close to needing them). It was a real hoot to drive spiritedly, hearing the deep exhaust boom off the canyon walls, and we opened the sunroof and dropped the windows in celebration. The only time the sleek coupe seemed to hesitate was when the corners became really tight (on windy Decker Canyon Road) and its size and weight (4,275 pounds) got in the way. Drive it really hard – too hard – and the four-door won't let you forget that it has a very comfortable second row of seats behind you.

On its fifth day in our possession, we pointed the four-passenger Benz towards California Speedway. We figured the 200-mile jaunt would afford us some meaningful highway time. Despite a very firm suspension, which never bothered us but did raise more than a few of our passenger's eyebrows, we found it to be an excellent long-distance sled. The CLS63 tracked like an arrow at high speed, there was always plenty of power on tap, and the automaker's Distronic Plus cruise control worked miracles in steady and stop-and-go traffic. We've come to regard it as the best autonomous cruise control on the market (unfortunately, its extended-wave radar operating at 77 GHz and 24 GHz does very annoying things to radar detectors). We arrived at the event (a Porsche Owners Club race), parked up front, and had to wipe dozens of fingerprints off the glass. The big coupe was a big hit.

2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG rear 3/4 view

The day of reckoning always comes at the end of the week, just before a car is picked up. It's the time when we pull out the window sticker, take a second look at a few of the small details, and then try to figure out who its primary competitor is. While that last part isn't usually difficult, this particular CLS had us a bit stumped. After a bit of chin rubbing, we settled on the Porsche Panamera S.

The CLS63 AMG is worth every penny of its $115,000 sticker price, and that isn't something we say very often.

Our guess is that the engineering team at Mercedes-Benz never envisioned that its CLS-Class would be compared to a Porsche (the Panamera didn't arrive until 2009, five years later), but the correlation is a solid compliment to both parties. Some will argue that the Porsche is underpowered compared to the burly Benz, and it is. But this isn't so much about power as it is about driving dynamics. More specifically, rear-wheel-drive vehicle dynamics. Unlike the many all-wheel-drive competitors, delivering all-season grip at the expense of driving pleasure, the Panamera S and CLS63 may be tossed and caught with the throttle on all types of pavement. They are both fabulous, and thoroughly engaging, drivers' cars – and there is no clear gold medalist.

As you have figured out by now, the original high-performance four-door sports coupe has really impressed us. As it does to affluent buyers each day in the showroom, it tickled our enthusiast soul. We won't suggest that it is a perfect match for all drivers, but we will boldly proclaim that the Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG is worth every penny of its $115,000 sticker price, and that isn't something we say very often.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 67 Comments
      • 2 Years Ago
      [blocked]
      KY
      • 2 Years Ago
      The only really competitor with this car is the BMW 6series but I will still choose this car over it. 1) I don't know what the trick is but BMW make the car look like a sedan trying to be a coupe but the cls look like a coupe turned into a sedan. 2) cls is faster in a straight line and ALOT faster with a ecu tune. 3) 6 series is way too expensive. Look, price and performance. CLS have it all.
      Matthew Dawson
      • 2 Years Ago
      I'm probably in the minority here (and I'm fine with that), but I find the 1st gen CLS is better-looking than this. It had that great line that ran from the front wheels to the taillights that perfectly accented the shape of the car. And now that's replaced with strange side surfacing and big bulging rear wheel arches. Feels like unnecessary fiddling with the shape to me.
        JP
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Matthew Dawson
        i agree! but would need to say the 1st gen facelift AMG to be more specific. amazing lines.
      buzzmart.com
      • 2 Years Ago
      One again, Autoblog shows us another powerful AMG car and decides to upload a video of the headlights or like last time something ridiculous on how spacious the trunk is. How about a video of some exhaust noises!
      Teko
      • 2 Years Ago
      If only the Maybach brand looked this good, then maybe the company would still be in production.
        libertedelacroix
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Teko
        If only the Maybach brand wasn't affiliated with Rick Ross and other rappers, then maybe the company would still be in production.
          SloopJohnB
          • 2 Years Ago
          @libertedelacroix
          That doesn't seem to have hurt Bentley
      David
      • 2 Years Ago
      video about headlights.. veeeeeery interesting((
      carguy1701
      • 2 Years Ago
      "The second-generation model (W218) was launched in 2010, still sharing the same platform but with a slew of upgrades and a fresh new appearance." I thought the 2nd gen CLS was based on the W212 E-class.
      Tina Dang
      • 2 Years Ago
      Absolutely beautiful. Superb performance considering size, driven wheels, and transmission. Out of all the 4-Door coupes, this is still my baby. @roadhazzard You say atrocious, I say out of this world, especially in person and definitely at night. Different strokes I guess.
        ravenosa
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Tina Dang
        At night. With a car cover on. Also, under a foot of snow. But no doubt my Dad and his seventy/eighty-something country club crowd will just LOVE it.
          NightFlight
          • 2 Years Ago
          @ravenosa
          You aren't funny. The median age of this vehicle isn't even close to 70 either.
        leo
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Tina Dang
        considering driven wheels? RWD is the only way
      roadhazzard11
      • 2 Years Ago
      Any picture that shows the front end of the CLS just glaringly points out how atrocious looking it is. If you could look at the car from just the front doors back, it would be beautiful. The front end of this car is something that only a blind mother could love.
      Black Dynamite
      • 2 Years Ago
      That is one ugly sumbitch! BD
      ravenosa
      • 2 Years Ago
      It'll be interesting to see if Mercedes can ever produce a mess of an interior that isn't a decade behind everybody else. Hopefully you have to have this boat parked to operated anything on that mess of a console. I wouldn't trust any of the geriatric Mercedes drivers to not crash while navigating that buttonfest...
        NightFlight
        • 2 Years Ago
        @ravenosa
        The Command system is incredibly easy to use. Once you are used to it, you don't even have to look down as it become second nature.
        roadhazzard11
        • 2 Years Ago
        @ravenosa
        Thats because the HVAC controls are essentially the same from the 2003 E-Class and have been used in everything from the C-Class to the SLS AMG. The feel of those HVAC knobs is that of something from 10 years ago.
      HUMANMPC2000
      • 2 Years Ago
      I will take a C.C. Volkwagen or a Hundayi Sonota,a the original 4 door coupes..
        SloopJohnB
        • 2 Years Ago
        @HUMANMPC2000
        Certainly less expensive but I think you're missing the point.
        libertedelacroix
        • 2 Years Ago
        @HUMANMPC2000
        Do us a favor and go kill yourself.
        FuelToTheFire
        • 2 Years Ago
        @HUMANMPC2000
        Sonata is not a 4 door coupe, it is a trashy low rent car for trashy ghetto people, with a Chinese knockoff of the VW CC design, terrible reliability, and overestimated pg, performance, hp figures.
          A P
          • 2 Years Ago
          @FuelToTheFire
          Wow, stupid and a bigot with a side of racist! You are a real dirtbag.
        Gorgenapper
        • 2 Years Ago
        @HUMANMPC2000
        You do that.
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