2013 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG

Rather than fuss with the seemingly pedestrian, entry-level Mercedes-Benz CL550 4Matic, starting at just $116,205, we recently straightened our tie and climbed right into the burly flagship at the other end of the CL-Class range – the most exclusive entry behind the velvet ropes that goes by the name CL65 AMG.

With a price of $214,105, the bad-boy of big Benzes soars in rarified air – the same stratosphere occupied by Aston Martin and Bentley. Like the S65 AMG, its sedan sibling, the coupe is fitted with a handcrafted 6.0-liter bi-turbo V12 that delivers 621 horsepower and a mind-boggling 738 pound-feet of torque. Mirroring the sedan, the CL65 is also equipped with the automaker's robust five-speed "AMG Speedshift" automatic transmission sending power to just the rear wheels. Loaded with nearly every option in the automaker's arsenal, but all fitted as standard equipment, the four-place cabin is a cocoon that keeps its occupants isolated from the outside world while coddling them with the world's finest upholstery and trim. The CL65 AMG is elegant, spectacular and very exclusive.

Driving Notes
  • The V12 engine provides thrust levels that are more common to small jets. Despite the large displacement, there is slight turbo lag as the turbochargers build up their 22 psi of boost. Once pressure hits, a fraction of a second later, the driver plays spectator to a ferocious battle between the engine and electronic traction control system as the 4,940-pound coupe launches to 60 miles per hour in about 4.2 seconds. Triple digits on the electronic display arrive effortlessly and its passing power leaves everyone giggling. The engineers have restricted its terminal velocity to only 186 mph, apparently to prevent it from going into orbit.
  • Mercedes calls the CL65's Active Body Control (ABC) underpinnings "arguably the most advanced suspension in production" as its hydraulic systems actively control squat, roll, vibration, pitch and dive during maneuvers - it even mitigates the effects of crosswinds. Despite its AMG-calibration, and a near lack of body roll, the suspension never felt harsh or rough. Truth be told, it was actually much softer and more comfortable than we had expected it to be.
  • Twin-sliding front calipers, over 15.4-inch perforated rotors (the holes are cast in place), provide confident levels of stopping power and look great inside the forged 20-inch wheels. The high-performance tires are 255/35R20 front and 275/35R20 rear, with wide contact patches that contribute to stability. Those meaty rubbers are needed to keep the heavy coupe planted on the pavement, but noise from the tires annoyingly permeates the cabin on certain road surfaces.
  • Four adults will fit comfortably inside the CL65 AMG. Front passengers have an enormous amount of room to stretch out, but backseat passengers will need those up front to move forward a bit for the most comfortable accommodations. We marveled at the fit and finish, but would pass on the slick steering wheel and gloss black trim in favor of carbon fiber or wood.
  • The CL65 AMG feels more athletic and slightly more nimble than the strapping Bentley Continental GT, but not as agile and spry as the smaller and lighter Aston Martin DB9. The Mercedes-Benz CL-Class is a better four-passenger vehicle than both of its competitors, but its discreet badging may not warrant the same attention from an ignorant valet - lest it be confused with a visually similar CL550 – possibly damaging a fragile ego.