Some cars are likeable because they look great, some are likeable because they perform very well, but few manage to mix looks and performance as well as the CLS63 AMG. Dramatic styling has always been a hallmark of the CLS, which is mechanically identical to the E-class. Personally, I don’t think the styling is worth the price premium over an E-class, because it makes the sedan a bit less useful in the name of fashion. But give the CLS a massage courtesy of AMG and the impracticality of the swoopy design is suddenly a lot less bothersome. After all, we often sacrifice utility in the name of performance with coupes and roadsters. Why not go all-in and add performance to your fashion accessory?
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor
I about fainted when I saw the price on this CLS63: $129,840 as tested. Granted, it does have about $34K in options. I suspect most people can do without the $12,625 carbon-ceramic brakes and the $6990 AMG performance package that gives you, among other things, an increase in the top speed, from 155 mph to 186 mph. As if anyone can use it, but it makes for nice bragging rights, I suppose.
There’s so much power on tap from the twin-turbo V-8 that if you’re on wet pavement and accelerate hard, the rear wheels will be groping for traction. Put the car in sport mode and select manual control for the seven-speed automatic, and you can really light up the rear end and have even more fun. The sound of the engine under full throttle is almost worth the hefty price. Almost.
Inside the CLS63, I appreciate the excellent forward visibility and the steering wheel, which looks great and feels good in your hands. I also love the carbon fiber cabin trim. One strange problem in our tester: the glove compartment door kept popping open.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
This will sound petty, but the first thing I noticed when I shut the door on this $129,840 Mercedes was the cheap black plastic barrel lock. It looks and feels about as substantial as the straw that comes with a juice box. Considering all the attention lavished on the materials elsewhere in this cabin — check out the beautiful slab of carbon fiber sweeping along the dash — couldn’t Mercedes have at least painted the locks silver or chrome? I can only hope Daimler chairman Dieter Zetsche reads this and immediately rethinks Mercedes’ entire door-lock philosophy.
Needless to say, I got over this injected-molded-plastic scandal the instant I put down my right foot. As Joe notes, the rear wheels break loose often, even if you’re already rolling, and the 5.5-liter twin-turbo V-8 fills the cabin with a refined yet reverberating roar. Quite fun, I have to say.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
One day, when I have a couple warehouses full of exotic and classic machinery, I might own a CLS63 AMG as a daily driver. Elegance, presence, comfort, luxury, power, and finesse: the CLS possesses all of the right attributes to qualify as a practical performance indulgence. I have a few quibbles to get out of the way first, though. Even in its softest mode, the adaptive suspension can’t quite take the edge off the stiff ride of the 19-inch wheels and low-profile tires. The seven-speed automatic punches through the gears with serious speed, but the paddle shifters don’t respond to requests for multi-gear downshifts. Instead, the driver has to wait for the transmission to kick down one gear before pulling the left paddle again. And that’s where my criticisms end.
The new, twin-turbo V-8 is a wonderful engine. True, the old, normally aspirated 6.2-liter had a unique sound and a beautifully brash demeanor, but the 5.5-liter has a sound that’s no less exhilarating. It also delivers power and torque instantaneously, anywhere in the rev band. The steering is well weighted, the body control is confident, and the sightlines are excellent. As satisfying as the CLS63’s performance is, I’m most taken by the heavenly seats, the perfectly sculpted steering wheel, and the ambiance of true craftsmanship. The CLS’s cockpit is a pristine place to spend time while the AMG hardware provides all the performance you could ever need on the street.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
Lucky me, I got to play with the CLS63 for an entire weekend. And you know what? I had no problem giving the keys back on Monday. The new turbocharged V-8 is a never-ending well of power and emits a luscious and enticing sound from its quad exhaust; the cabin is the epitome of Mercedes luxury with leather, carbon fiber, and real metal swathed across every surface; and the exterior design is breathtaking in its sultry undulations and intricate surface detailing. However, after the first impressions washed away, I found myself left wanting more emotion from the CLS. It is very Germanic in its buttoned-down manners and restrained opulence, making it a car that doesn’t quite produce the same kind of lust as, say, the Jaguar XJL Supersports. The Jag may not equal the Mercedes’ output (510 hp vs. the Merc’s 550), but it creates a visceral kind of attachment that makes you not want to hand over the keys.
Donny Nordlicht, Associate Web Editor
The $130,000 CLS63 is definitely not a cheap car, but compared with, say, the $194,000 Porsche Panamera Turbo S we recently tested, it almost seems like a bargain. With 550 hp on tap (coincidentally, the same as the Turbo S), the CLS63 offers more power and performance capability than most of its buyers will ever be able to exploit, but what it really has going for it is pure physical presence. The CLS63 simply looks exquisite from any angle, with a smooth, flowing roofline and muscular haunches that make it look both refined and aggressive. If I were ever to win the lottery (which is highly unlikely, since I pretty much never play), this is one car that I’d almost surely put on my shopping list.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG
MSRP (with destination): $95,775
PRICE AS TESTED: $129,840
5.5-liter twin-turbocharged V-8
Horsepower: 550 hp @ 5250 rpm
Torque: 590 lb-ft @ 2000 rpm
WHEELS AND TIRES:
19-inch aluminum wheels
255/35YR-19 Continental ContiSportContact front tires
285/30YR-19 Continental ContiSportContact rear tires
FUEL ECONOMY (city/highway):
Cargo: 15.3 cu ft
Legroom (front/rear): 42.1/35.0 in
Headroom (front/rear): 36.9/36.1 in
40GB hard drive GPS navigation w/voice control
Harman/Kardon surround sound audio system
Auxiliary audio input
Central controller w/7-inch display
4.5-inch color instrument cluster
AMG steering wheel w/shift paddles
4-way tilt-and-telescopic steering column
Power rear sunshade
Dual-zone automatic climate control
Split-folding rear seats
AMG-calibrated adaptive sport suspension
Sport exhaust system
Predictive protection system
Drive drowsiness monitor
Tire pressure monitoring system
OPTIONS ON THIS VEHICLE:
AMG carbon ceramic braking system- $12,625
AMG performance package- $6990
Carbon fiber spoiler
Carbon fiber engine cover
Red brake calipers
Raised top speed
AMG performance steering wheel
Increased engine output
Night View Assist Plus- $1780
19-inch AMG twin-spoke forged wheels- $1790
Rear side airbags- $420
Driver assistance package- $2950
Blind spot assist
Lane keeping assist
Premium package 1- $3690
iPod/MP3 media interface
Heated and ventilated front seats
Electronic trunk closer
Keyless entry and ignition
KEY OPTIONS NOT ON THIS VEHICLE:
Limited slip differential- $2030
AMG illuminated door sills- N/A
With AMG Performance package, Mercedes-Benz says this car will go from zero to 60 in 4.3 seconds. The performance package also bumps the car’s top speed up from 155 mph to 186 mph.