Mass, what mass? As I hurled 4500 lbs. of rippled and flared German steel through a long, sweeping, belt-cinching corner, I felt like I was playing a driving simulation. Thanks to its improved active body controls, the Mercedes Benz CL63 AMG remained absurdly unaffected by the enormous lateral g-forces generated by its gyrations. Lacking suitable anti-gravity aids, my passenger and I were thrown towards the outer radius of the turn, welded to the CL63’s seat bolsters. Now that’s what I call fun.
The CL63 reminds me of the rockets I designed as a kid; the Merc's a massive, sleek shape punctuated by slits and evil looking slashes. Whereas the chop top CLS-Class seems more than a little forced, the CL63 makes perfect sense. Its athletic stance, gigantic wheel arches and aggressive surface effects combine to create a coupe that looks like it eats continents— and Porsches— for breakfast.
The CL63’s rear is especially effective. Framed by a Batmobile-esque rippled valence, its quad pipes give the car’s rear the kind of purposefulness denied BMW’s overwrought 6-Series. While both cars have so much “flame surfacing” they could put Burger King out of business, it’s the big Merc that let’s me have it my way.
The CL63’s interior is a bit too staid for my taste/money. That said, Affalterbach’s artisans add the requisite luxury touches, including rich, soft and dense leather and a sweet smelling Alcantara roof lining. The aforementioned seat bolsters provide an unwelcome awakening for first time users, before they learn to guide their bottom’s trajectory with appropriate care and precision.
Mercedes’ COMAND system remains the most intuitive of Germany’s multi-media controllers— which is a bit like saying Rocky III isn’t quite as terrible as Rocky V. Tweaking the seat massage functions and adjusting the air flow from the HVAC from diffuse to focused is no great challenge. Not so the eight window controls; choosing the correct button to raise or lower one of the four windows is an ergonomic lottery.
I’m no great fan of the massive pods enclosing the CL63’s speedometer and navigation systems. While I appreciate the aeronautic theme, there’s too much dash for those of us who prefer visual flight rules. AMG’s 200 mph speedometer is a suitably wicked touch (that violates the spirit of Germany’s “gentlemen’s agreements”), but I find it hard to read. And despite exalted specifications, the CL63’s stereo sounds disappointing flat and dull.
The AMG steering wheel is neither. Its organic shape immediately attracts your hands to the correct 10 and 2 positions. The perforated leather’s a bit hard to the touch, and I wish the wheel itself would adjust lower (my elbows couldn’t find a suitable perch). But the obligatory paddles, crafted from thick lumps of aluminum, tell you the tiller’s hooked-up to some serious stones. Yes indeed.
Igniting the CL63’s 6.2-liter, 518 horsepower, hand built AMG engine is an orgasmic experience. The four pipes spit out a guttural roar that vibrates your soul, resonating flesh and bone like the deep registers of gigantic church organ. Revving the CL63’s engine nearly breaks the sound barrier, sending children and small dogs scurrying in terror, and condemning BMW’s “bag of bolts” V10-powered M5 to eternal sonic shame.
AMG has installed this remarkable engine across virtually the entire Mercedes line. While it has transformed every chassis it has touched, it has transmogrified only two. The E63 is remarkable for its balance and, dare I say it, affordability. In the CL63, the mega-V8’s acceleration turns a boulevardier into a stealth fighter, capable of cruising serenely at speeds that other vehicles struggle to achieve.
More to the point, the CL63’s acceleration is exactly as you’d imagine: endlessly effortless and totally telepathic. Accompanied by a Wagnerian soundtrack, the naturally aspirated powerplant does a damn fine imitation of a big-bore V12– only without the hushed progress and nose-heavy nature. In fact, at speed, I’d swear the CL63 AMG was no bigger than a 911.
The CL63’s steering is firm but fair, communicating just enough surface information to make cornering worthwhile. The brakes are slightly stiff but unflappable, lending confidence to aggressive driving. The CL63’s ride quality is firm (there’s that word again) yet compliant. Road imperfections intrude very little on the luxury experience, despite standard 20” five-spoke AMG wheels.
In short, I’d trade my left arm for a Mercedes Benz CL63 AMG. Trouble is, the German automaker wants an arm AND a leg. The price of admission to AMG’s leather-lined roller coaster ride: 140 large. The monthly lease cost exceeds $3k. Even in California, a mortgage payment of this magnitude still affords a pretty nice house.
Still, it’s only money. If you ever wanted to fire-up a Merc that sounds like a muscle car, if you fancy leaping entire Western states in a single bound, there’s nothing to touch the CL63 for class, comfort, pace and grace.