Mercedes CL63 (2006) AMG review

Published:05 October 2006

Mercedes CL63 (2006) AMG review
  • At a glance
  • 4 out of 5
  • 5 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 5 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5

By Ben Whitworth

Contributing editor, sartorial over-achiever, HANS device shirt collars

By Ben Whitworth

Contributing editor, sartorial over-achiever, HANS device shirt collars

Another Mercedes AMG model – is there no stopping these power-crazed Germans?

Yes, another AMG, and no, there’s no stopping them. Not that we're complaining. When the CL63 AMG arrives here next March it will be the thirteenth model in the AMG line-up (the S63, which we’ll report on next week, is the fourteenth) and frankly, it's bloody marvellous. Muscular yet agile, sophisticated and powered by a magnificent engine, it makes the Bentley GT look frumpy and cumbersome. If you have a loose £105,000 knocking about, there’s nothing that comes close to matching the CL63 AMG.

It is a pretty special looking car…

Glad you think so too. From the moment I first saw a 1965 260SEC, I’ve always had a soft spot for big Mercedes coupes. And the CL63 really delivers, its sleek and faintly sinister muscularity fully complemented by the AMG’s enhancements – lowered ride height, 19inch alloy wheels, a tarmac-touching body kit and four vast exhaust pipes. It’s a far better looking car than the S-class saloon on which it’s based. Oh, and it looks sensational in black, the paintwork beautifully complemented by the gunmetal alloys and restrained chrome details.

Is it as fast as it looks?

Oh yes indeed. It’s an absolute gem, this engine. Despite its big 6208cc capacity it revs with such a deep-lunged enthusiasm, delivering great gobs of acceleration with effortless ease. There’s 518bhp available at a screaming 6800rpm, so performance is searing. Once the CL gets going it feels like nothing will stop it – the acceleration is just relentless. Peak torque of 465lb ft may come in at a highish 5200rpm, but the all-alloy V8’s complex variable intake system means at a low 2000rpm there’s already a massive 369lb ft on tap. Gunned from standstill and the big coupe will race through its seven-speed automatic transmission to touch 60mph in 4.6seconds and bounce up hard against its 155mph as if it were a brick wall. Rocket sled doesn't even come close. Limiting this car to 155mph is like letting Gordon Ramsay only cook cheese on toast. You don’t really tap into its full potential.

Any good around corners?

Make no mistake, the CL is a big bit of metal to start larking about with. I’m not going to trot out some old nonsense about it shrinking around you so that you can hustle it along like it were a hot hatch. Because you can’t – this is a five metre plus car with a 2085kg kerb weight. But you can punt this large chunk of car very hard indeed up to a very well defined point. And that point sits so high on the white-knuckle barometer, that if you breach it, you’ll only have yourself to blame. The ABC active body control systems virtually eliminates body roll pitch and dive and along with the taut and surprisingly chatty steering, makes the car feel nimble and wieldy enough to give a Gallardo a hard time up an alpine pass. And it has the brakes to keep you out of trouble – those huge 390mm front and 365mm rear composite discs are gripped by newly developed sliding callipers that offer seatbelt-bruising levels of deceleration.

Those exhaust pipes are a bit OTT, aren’t they?

Hell, no. You only have to turn the CL’s ignition key to realise just how important they are. This engine sounds gorgeous. We'll never know how it passed European noise regulations, but every penny was money well spent. At idle its low-rev wobwobwob soundtrack sounds bruising and menacing. In the mid-range those four exhaust pipes pump out a crisp and clean howl. But it’s nudging its 7200rpm redline that the engine sounds its satanic best – a serrated banshee wail that can be heard for miles before the car rockets into view. And it burbles and crackles on the overrun. When was the last time you could say that about a micro-processed catalytic-converted de-smogged car?

Bet you it rides like a skateboard on cobbles…

It may ride on huge 19inch alloys wrapped in paper-thin profile tyres, but the CL rides with an unruffled equanimity that many luxury saloons fail to match. Sure, on its sports setting the low-speed ride becomes a bit nuggety and brittle, but given its performance and dynamism, it’s an excellent compromise. In the CL63, the settings for the 7G-Tronic transmission and adaptive suspension are linked, which makes a great deal of sense. So if you choose the Comfort setting, the transmission slips into smooth and easy-going and the dampers on multi-link front and rear suspension relax for a superbly comfortable and cosseting ride. Things speed and firm up in Sport, and in Manual, the shifts border on the violent and the ride quality sits just this side of rock hard.

So it’s a four-seater GT then?

Exactly. The spacious cabin is incredibly refined and insulated from the outside world, it seats four with ease and the boot is huge. It’s decadently equipped, too, pampering those on board with ventilated massage chairs, superb climate control, a squillion speaker Pro Logic sound system, DVD-based satnav and leather ‘n’ wood covered everything. Pre-Safe, Mercedes’ holistic safety package that links all the car’s active and passive safety elements, is also standard. The CL63 is beautifully constructed too. Everything feels solid and built to last - like a Mercedes should be, in other words. Which other car do you know that has – or needs – eight windscreen washer jets? My only complaint concerns those rather ugly electronic dials. Call me a Luddite but I like physical watch-like dials and needles, not computer game-style instruments that float about in front of me. Still, an IWC watch on the centre console is some consolation.

Verdict

This is such a wonderfully complete car. Yes, you could argue the point that its over-powered, over-priced and simply over the top. But spend a day in it and you’ll find yourself thinking that it has just the right amount of power and that it’s actually pretty good value. Promise. But most importantly it possesses an increasingly rare asset – character. If you have the money, you shouldn’t even think twice.

Specs

Price when new: £103,552
On sale in the UK: now
Engine: 6208cc 32v V8, 518bhp@6800rpm, 465lb ft@5200rpm
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Performance: 4.6sec 0-62mph, 155mph (limited), 18.9mpg, NAg/km CO2
Weight / material: 2085kg/steel, aluminium alloy
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 5065/1871/1418

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  • Mercedes CL63 (2006) AMG review
  • Mercedes CL63 (2006) AMG review
  • Mercedes CL63 (2006) AMG review
  • Mercedes CL63 (2006) AMG review
  • Mercedes CL63 (2006) AMG review
  • Mercedes CL63 (2006) AMG review
  • Mercedes CL63 (2006) AMG review
  • Mercedes CL63 (2006) AMG review

By Ben Whitworth

Contributing editor, sartorial over-achiever, HANS device shirt collars

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