The CLS is a much better match for the 6.2-liter AMG V-8 than the S-class. I was expecting the CLS to feel a bit awkward with this engine since it seems to be nearly as large as an S-class, but I was pleasantly surprised. The CLS is even better suited to this particular engine than the CL coupe, which was another surprise. The tip in is a little funky, but once you’re on the road this V-8 sounds great and packs plenty of punch.
Distronic is always nice when you’re following a driver who doesn’t like to hold a consistent speed, though I wish the distance control switch were located on the cruise control stalk. It’s not intuitive to look down next to the shifter to control how closely you follow a car. I used the system at night and I didn’t find the distance control until this morning when it was light. Aside from this ergonomic niggle, distronic is my favorite of the active cruise control systems and the only one I really trust to slow my car down safely and consistently if the car in front of me hits the brakes.
I suppose the main selling point on this car is the styling. The CLS started the four-door coupe segment and has spawned many imitators. A design that once stood out from everything else on the road now has several competitors and even the 2009 Mazda6 has a similar shape to this Mercedes. I wonder how the market will respond to these new imitators and what that does to image-conscious Mercedes buyers. The next CLS needs to be as revolutionary as the 2004 CLS was.
Phil Floraday, Senior Online Editor
After the manic C63, I think this is my second-favorite AMG “63” model, although it’s a close call in light of the excellent CL63. As Phil noted, the size and spirit of this car work extremely well with the high-revving nature of this 507-hp normally aspirated V-8. Like some of the other great V-8s on the market today, there’s something wholly intoxicating about this engine’s glorious song. Let’s just say it’s tough to keep this Benz at legal speeds. But it’s not just during autobahn-style blasts that the CLS63 is awesome; curves can be very fun, too, thanks to the car’s excellent balance and steering.
With black paint and the AMG styling touches, the CLS’s anti-sedan design reaches peak chic. Fuel mileage of 12/18 mpg city/highway becomes a nonfactor. If I paid more than $115K for a car, however, I’d expect it to at least have parking sensors and/or a reverse camera.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
It’s funny; there’s nothing like a black-on-black CLS 63 to make you feel like a drug dealer/all-around badass/cutthroat, profilin’, capital-p Pimp. The car simply oozes evil, but thankfully, it’s the good kind of evil – the kind that drinks all the beer in your fridge and leers at your cat but still has enough class not to try and date your teenage daughter.
I’m with Rusty on this one. Even ahead of the manic CLK63 Black Series, this is still my second-favorite AMG model (like him, I think the C63 takes the first-place cake). The engine’s soundtrack and the menacing profile essentially make the car, and you tend to forget that it’s little more than an E-class in an expensive, albeit damn good-looking, suit. Like all the other 6.2-liter AMG cars, the CLS snorts and snarls when you stand on it, and it crackles and pops on the overrun like an old-school hot rod. It feels just a little unhinged, and the resultant I-fought-the-law feeling works well with the swooping sheet metal.
Would I buy one? Probably not. The C63 is more my style; it’s less ostentatious, more practical, and slightly more of a hooligan. But if the CLS63 didn’t exist, the world would be a much poorer place.
-The stability control seems to be tuned more loosely here than in a lot of AMG models – low-speed oversteer is still possible with the system on, which means you can leave stop signs looking out the passenger window if you toe into the throttle too much. Love it.
-Like all CLSs, the CLS63 feels more special than it really is (blame it on the low roof and fat C-pillars, both of which are obvious from the driver’s seat). The effect is magnified here thanks to the carbon-fiber trim, the suede headliner, and the heavily bolstered seats. This is one of the few modern cars that actually feels like it comes from another era. It’s a nice touch.
-The square-bottomed steering wheel. Call me a racing geek, but I love it.
Sam Smith, Associate Editor
Yeah, yeah, all of that. But the coolest thing is when you let off the accelerator after a long burst of bad behavior and hit the brakes, and the CLS 63’s transmission downshifts itself with big accompanying engine roars. Shiver me timbers.
Jean Jennings, President & Editor-in-Chief
I agree about the snap, crackle, pop of the engine during the downshifts – this is lovely, lovely stuff. You find yourself repeatedly smashing the accelerator, then letting up, just to hear the powertrain do its thing. I spent the weekend with the CLS63 AMG and, as I drove into the office on Monday morning, it occurred to me that this is not a bad choice for someone who’s done the Turbo thing and wants a little more room but still wants a car that’s relatively rare. With 507 hp and a really well-tuned chassis, this car offers, let’s face it, all the performance most people need or could want on a public road. It’s also, as others have noted, one of the best applications of AMG’s new 6.2-liter V-8 in Mercedes products.
The CLS63 AMG really stands out on the streets of Ann Arbor, where University of Michigan students (mostly male) turned their heads, pointed, and stared at this sleek black machine. On Sunday, my friend Charley and I met up with some friends at the Detroit Yacht Club, which is on the east end of Belle Isle, in the Detroit River. To get there, you can take a winding, one-way road through the trees that begs you to make it your own private racetrack. Which I did, happily, to the delight of the friends I took for a ride, who were aghast at how well the car handled, gripped, braked, and accelerated.
Naturally, there is a price to be paid for the CLS’s low-slung roofline and tiny greenhouse, and that is compromised ingress/egress and a fairly cramped cabin. I am not a particularly big person, but I found myself hitting the seat bolsters every time I slid into the driver’s seat, no matter how graceful I tried to be. On the up side, the two rear seats (the center space is taken up by a console) are certainly more hospitable than those in any normal two-door coupe, and the trunk is surprisingly spacious – it’s not real tall, but it reaches deeply toward the cabin.
Joe DeMatio, Executive Editor
2009 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG
Base Price (with destination and gas guzzler tax): $98,025
Price as tested: $115,605
-Carbon fiber trim $2500
-Premium package including electronic trunk closer, power rear window shade, heated and ventilated front seats, bi-xenon headlights, keyless go, headlight washers $3200
-AMG performance package including 19-inch 5-spoke wheels, AMG limited-slip, AMG compound braking system, track calibrated airmatic suspension, AMG steering wheel, 186 mph top speed $9650
-12/18/14 mpg (city/hwy/combined)
Size: 6.3-liter 32 Valve DOHC V-8
HP: 507 hp @6800 rpm
Torque: 465 lb-ft @ 5200 rpm
Weight: 4210 lbs
-19-inch forged alloy wheels, 255/35 R19 (front) 285/30 R19 (rear) high performance tires