2009 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG

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 Porsche 911 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

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