Driven: 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL

For 2011, that doyenne of decadence, the Mercedes-Benz CL coupe, has undergone a bit of restyling at the front and rear, although the more substantive changes are under the long hood. Both the CL550 and the CL63 AMG have new, smaller V-8 engines (although that's not reflected in their names). But never fear, masters of the universe. Despite the downsizing, the new engines are significantly more powerful than their predecessors.

The CL550 engine has gone from 5.5 liters to 4.7 liters, but it gains two turbochargers and direct injection. Output jumps by 47 hp to 429 hp, and torque increases by nearly a third, to 516 lb-ft. As before, output flows through a seven-speed automatic transmission to all four wheels. (The CL550 is the only big Mercedes coupe with 4Matic.)

The CL63's powertrain features even more changes and ushers in a new era for AMG. The old 6.2-liter normally aspirated V-8 gives way to a new twin-turbo, direct-injected 5.5-liter, an update that will eventually come to all of AMG's "63" models (including the S63, which gets the new engine concurrently with the CL). Standard output is 536 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque, up from 518 hp and 465 lb-ft. Opt for the AMG Performance Package, however, and the engine spins out 563 hp and 664 lb-ft (and a more indulgent top-speed limiter allows 186 mph). So equipped, the CL63's 0-to-60-mph time is4.3 seconds, per AMG, against 4.4 seconds in standard trim.

The CL63 has AMG's seven-speed Speedshift transmission, which uses a wet clutch in place of a torque converter. Seen previously in the SL63 and the E63, the gearbox here has a different clutch pack and new software and is better mannered. Not only does it snap off superquick gearchanges and match revs on downshifts, but it now also equals the smoothness of a torque-converter automatic when taking off from a stop.

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Overkill turned up a notch.

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