This is the new Mercedes CLS63 AMG, Merc’s hotrod version of its ‘four-door coupe’. Think of its as a sleeker, more stylish version of the E63 AMG, only that this new Mercedes CLS63 doesn’t utilise its siblings naturally aspirated 6.2-litre V8, but AMG’s latest direct-injection, twin-turbo 5.5-litre V8.
Can the new forced-induction engine match the aural delights of the E63, and is it better to drive? Read on for CAR’s first drive review of the new 2011 Mercedes CLS63 AMG.
So why is the new Mercedes CLS63 AMG not called the CLS55 AMG?
Because that would seem like a step in the wrong direction to Merc's marketeers: just as the Golf R32 didn’t become the Golf R20, most customers wouldn’t want to buy a new car with an inferior badge on the back. Despite the new engine being smaller, there’s nothing wrong with the power put out though: it has the same 518bhp as the E63 AMG, but produced at 5250rpm rather than 6800rpm.
Still not convinced the CLS will be quicker? Then what about its 516lb ft, produced from 1750-5000rpm, up against the E63’s 464lb ft peak at 5200rpm? And just in case you’re worried about the forthcoming BMW M5, the optional AMG Performance Pack ups the engine’s ante to 550bhp and 590lb ft, and knocks a tenth of the 0-62mph, taking it to 4.3 seconds. This car is darn fast.
Granted those figures are pretty astounding, but even more impressive are the efficiency gains. The outgoing CLS63 managed 19.5mpg and 345g/km, but thanks to direct-injection and stop/start tech, the new car notches up 28.5mpg and 231g/km. And those figures are the same for the AMG Performance Pack version too.
And the rest of the tweaks to the new CLS63 AMG?
Not everyone loves the looks of the new CLS, but with the more aggressive bonnet, bumpers and sills it looks like it was born to wear its AMG bodykit (rather than being tacked on as an afterthought). And a whole host of body panels are made from aluminium to cut weight, including the doors, front wings, bonnet, bootlid and parcel shelf.
Inside there’s Nappa leather on the sports seats, a three-spoke AMG steering wheel with paddles, and alongside the new-spec stubby gearstick is the AMG Drive Unit with a dial for the gearbox settings and buttons to control the suspension and ESP. With the dash wrapped in leather and lots of silver highlights, it feels more special than the E63, which looks a little utilitarian in comparison.
What about the driving experience?
Three things are obviously apparent within minutes of driving a CLS63 AMG. The first is just how good the ride is in the softest setting, with the steel front and air-sprung rear soaking up the worst of San Diego’s roads with aplomb. In and around the city centre the stop/start system works consistently too, shutting down the bigger V8 at each traffic light. Need to creep forward as the traffic shuffles closer while you wait for a green? The CLS restarts, and while most systems would not shut down again, the Merc does it even if you move half a metre forward.
The third thing to be noticed? The steering, which while still good, doesn’t have the clarity of the E63's helm – blame the new fuel-saving electromechanical set-up. And then you notice something else: how good the engine sounds. Despite forced induction, when you floor it, there's a wonderfully rich V8 burble.
Cruise along in the CLS63 and it’s comfortable. It’ll hustle along quickly as well, but like the E63 it needs a tweak of the dampers to firm up the body control and turn it into a different beast. Grip levels are always high, and it always rides well, but it’s keener to turn in with the adjustments and genuinely doesn’t feel like a big four-door saloon.
The efficiency gains of the new CLS63 AMG are welcome (even if your average AMG customer won’t care), the new turbo’d engine manages to sound great, and despite the oh-so-slightly-worse steering, it’s still a stunning super-saloon.
For now the CLS63 AMG offers a slightly different experience from the E63, but AMG engineers let slip that within the next 12 months the E will lose its 6.2-litre V8 for the new 5.5 turbo’d V8. It’s the future, and the CLS63 has shown there’s nowt wrong with downsizing and forced induction.
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