2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS63
Sometimes beauty is not enough.
In 2004, Germany’s Mercedes-Benz introduced the CLS, a chic, more expensive alternative to its mid-sized E-Class sedan. With a 302-horsepower V8 and a sticker price of around $65,000, it was three inches longer, a couple of inches lower and was styled like a sleek, wind-cheating coupe.
The look inspired sincere flattery like the Volkswagen CC and derivatives like the new Jaguar XF and XJ, as well as more recent popular-priced cars like the new Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima.
Despite that, and sadly for Mercedes, CLS sales started out strong but then declined steadily until, in 2010, dealers sold only 2,135 copies in the United States.Mercedes seldom gives up easily, as witness its stubborn dedication to the crossover R-Class, which doesn’t do much better than the CLS on the sales charts.
Fortunately, the company has a built-in trick up its corporate sleeve. It’s called AMG, which takes Mercedes vehicles to higher performance levels, much like a hot-rod shop. To take just one example, its engines are assembled by hand and individually signed by the technician.
With that background in mind, witness the arrival of the 2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG, which brings its own manifest destiny to the exotic class of ultra-performance automobiles.
Newly styled, it has been bulked up on designer steroids with a brutish prow and Clydesdale haunches that are off-putting at first glance when compared to its graceful predecessor. But it is one of those perceptions in which familiarity breeds acceptance and, ultimately, affection.
As before, it is a longish mid-size sedan with a roofline arc that starts and ends at the front and rear bumpers, different from but not unlike the Porsche Panamera. The side windows have no frames and the interior makes no pretensions of practicality. There are seats for four medium to small individuals and no more, with a console that runs the length of the cabin.
The guts, up front and driving the rear wheels only—no all-wheel drive here—consist of a silent monster of a V8 engine that uses engineering alchemy and twin turbochargers to deliver 518 horsepower through a seven-speed automatic transmission that can be shifted manually, although there’s no need. The computer does it way better than a human brain/finger.
The combination enables the driver to snap off zero-to-60 miles acceleration in 4.4 seconds, with a top speed governed at 155 miles an hour. That’s enough even for the speed-limitless German autobahn but, if you must have bragging rights with your wealthy pals, you can spend an additional $8,500 for the performance package, which boosts the horsepower to 550, the zero-to-60 time to 4.3 seconds and the top speed to 186.
In keeping with current concerns over planetary resources, this engine even has a tint of green around the edges. There are four driving modes, starting with C for comfort or, if you prefer, controlled efficiency. Drive it that way and a green “eco” light illuminates and tells you that if you drive carefully you can duplicate or perhaps better the EPA city/highway fuel economy rating of 16/21 miles to the gallon, which is enough to escape a federal government gas guzzler tax.
It incorporates a stop-start system, in which the engine shuts down at stop signs to conserve fuel. It’s an ingenious solution, in which the on-board computer senses which of the stopped eight cylinders is ready to fire and then sends the spark and fuel there the instant you take your foot off the brake. Still, because of the abrupt engine start, it can get annoying in slow, stop-and-go traffic.Likely most owners will chose one of the two sport settings, which disable the stop-start and care more about crackling shots off the line than preserving a few pints of high-test gasoline.
In those settings, the computer also orchestrates the accelerator to blip the engine revolutions to match the transmission’s gear on downshifts. It’s particularly satisfying to haul the CLS63 AMG down from a high speed while listening to the engine growl on double downshifts.
Of course, the steering and suspension systems are carefully calibrated to integrate seamlessly with the capabilities of the engine and brakes. This is a car that, with proper tires and a few additional pieces of safety equipment, likely would be quite at home on a road-racing course.
Should you be inclined in that direction, the AMG folks offer the option of carbon ceramic brakes, which would allow you to flog the CLS63 AMG all day around said race track without breaks to cool the brakes.
Most buyers likely will be happy to impress their friends—and themselves—with daily driving and prominently parking their prize in a conspicuous place. In that, they will encounter a beautiful car with every luxury and safety accouterment, including systems to compensate for driver incompetence and inattention.
For this, the tariff is about 100 large, though prices were not finalized at introduction time. Check the boxes for the performance package, ceramic brakes and a few other options, and you’re looking at an estimated sticker price of around $125,500.