By on June 3, 2013

2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes
My statement “BMW is the new Mercedes” may have ruffled the most feathers, but the second thing that gets thrown in my face is: “what then has Mercedes become?” I’m sorry if the forum fanboys can’t adjust to the new normal that is a softer, more civilized, more luxurious BMW that puts comfort over balls-out performance. Sometimes you just have to let the ostrich keep its head in the hole. If you think the M6 is the best thing since sliced bread, read no further. This isn’t about BMW, this is about the German luxury company. What of them?  To find out we were tossed the keys to a six-figure beast for a week.

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Exterior

The first generation CLS wasn’t my cup of tea. Perhaps it’s because I like the traditional profile of the E-Class with the high greenhouse and excellent rear headroom. Perhaps it’s because I’m a stickler and in my world a “coupé” can’t have four seats. Perhaps it’s that the first generation CLS looked like it had been laid, and I’m not referring to an egg. That’s probably it.

But that was then, this is now. Up front we get one of the more attractive and aggressive grilles I have seen lately. The side profile has ditched the “half-moon” character line that I disliked for one that I would call “American muscle,” especially those rear haunches. Out back we have a more traditionally shaped trunk lid which finally puts an end to any CLS vs suppository comparisons. Whew. That’s not to say the CLS has become more upright, quite the opposite, it just isn’t trying as hard as it used to.

Mercedes’ naming scheme needs to be explained. If you take an S and remove two doors, you get a CL. Yet the CLS is not created by adding two doors back. Instead you take an E, delete the fifth seat, squash the profile, remove the window sashes and add a whopping $20,200 to the price tag (base E vs base CLS). By having the CLS, Mercedes has been able to keep the E-Class’s upright profile while increasing profits by charging huge sums for a more stylish four-seat version. When it comes to the high performance models, the CLS is a slightly better value. Starting at $109,150 it is “only” $19,350 more than the E63 AMG. It’s good to be king.

2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Interior

There is a common problem with performance models: all the cash goes to making the car go faster, handle better and stop shorter. While there are some interior tweaks to the CLS’ interior for AMG duty, they boil down to AMG badging, a flat-bottomed steering wheel and unique AMG controls in the center console. There is another problem for the CLS in general; it shares a large portion of its design and components with the $51,900 E350. It’s not that the E-Class and CLS-Class parts are low rent by any stretch of the imagination, it’s just that they are a bit too popular. This doesn’t apply only to the Mercedes, the Audi A7, S7 and RS7 have the same thing going in inside with parts from the A6. The BMW 6 on the other hand has a much steeper base price of $74,900 (640i coupé) so your $113,000 M6 Gran Coupé won’t be sharing dash parts with the $599 lease special. Based on my personal likes and dislikes, the M6 Gran Coupé is the interior winner, but with a decently larger price tag, it should be.

Front seat comfort in the CLS63 is excellent thanks to a large range of motion in the seat bottom cushion, and a tilt/telescoping steering wheel that will practically telescope into the back of the seat if you wanted it to. As part of the $3,690 “Premium Package,” our CLS included MB’s “active multicontour” driver’s seat. This is what separates the CLS from the truly expensive Benz models which can have the same system applied to the passenger’s seat. The active throne massages your back, offers more adjustibility to the seat contour and has dynamic bolsters that inflate and deflate to keep you in your seat on winding roads. The active bolsters feel like someone is slowly groping you from behind as you drive, something I missed after the car left us.

2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

No coupé, even a four-door model, is about rear seat comfort. They are about looking good while carrying a pair of people to the opera and masses of luggage to your vacation chateau. This point was proved when I repeated my role as “prom chauffeur” for my godson. I suggested that his 6’4 frame would fit better in my ginormous long wheelbase and decidedly upright Jaguar Super V8, but the angry face and demonic burble of the CLS stole his heart, so he and his date jammed themselves in the back. Legroom isn’t the problem, it’s headroom. The CLS isn’t alone here, headroom is a precious commodity in the A7 and 6 Gran Coupe as well. The 15.3 cubic foot trunk doesn’t sound terribly large at first, but when you consider it’s a trunk for two, and the rear seats fold the CLS turns into a fairly practical vehicle (oddly enough). The A7 sports more cargo room and the hatchback lid means you can jam a barbecue in there should you need to, but it also means more road noise coming from the rear. The BMW Gran Coupe has a hair more trunk space but the rear seats don’t fold as flat as those in the CLS and the integrated headrests made front-seat room a bit tighter when the seats were folded.

Infotainment

Dogs may be man’s best friend, but I’d take a snazzy infotainment system any day, so would many luxury shoppers by all accounts. This is where the sharp dressed CLS looses in a big way. Mercedes hasn’t rested on their laurels as some would suggest, COMAND has been updated continuously, you’d just be hard pressed to notice. COMAND still uses a 7-inch LCD set high in the dashboard surrounded by a plastic bezel seemingly designed to accentuate the small dimensions of the screen. Audi uses a large 8-inch screen that pops out of the dash and screams “look at ME!” while BMW has gone for a ginormous 10.2-inch wide screen system. While I find Audi’s MMI system frustrating to use and overly complicated, BMW’s iDrive has evolved into a relatively intuitive system that I have been able to get anyone off the street to figure out. COMAND lands somewhere in the middle being fairly simple to use but looking a little old school. Part of Mercede’s modernization efforts have gone into integrating smartphone apps and internet connectivity into COMAND, but the system’s processor seems to slow to take full advantage of the improvements. Voice commands are one thing this system has always done well and Mercedes has expanded the system to now offer SYNC-like voice control of your USB/iDevice. Notably, the system lacks the annoying “talk now” beep that most systems use making it more natural to interact with. For in-depth infotainment commentary, check out the video.

M157 EngineDrivetrain

Ah, the section we’ve all been waiting for. For RS7 duty, Audi took the existing turbo V8 and punched up the boost. For M6 Gran Coupe duty BMW did the same thing to their 4.4L V8. (Yes, I know that there were a few other changes but my point is they are the same basic engine.) Based on the competition, AMG could have very easily done the same thing to their twin-turbo 4.6L “M278″ V8 engine. Instead the AMG built a larger 5.5L V8 off the M278′s design and dubbed it the M157. No, I don’t know why they didn’t call it the M279 or just Thor’s Hammer. The RS7′s 560 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque and the M6′s 560 ponies and 500 twists sound impressive as do the CLS63′s base 518 horsepower and 516 lb-ft. But for $7,300 Mercedes will toss in a re-tuned (read: stiffer) suspension, sportier steering wheel, 186MPH top-speed limiter and bump the engine to 550 horses and 590 lb-ft of diesel-like pull. Still not enough? (Why should it be?) The engine puts down 664 lb-ft in a variant of the CL63 AMG and there are tuners that will happily flash your ride to get you there too. Why the big difference in torque? It’s all about displacement.

The difference in the way the Audi/BMW and the Mercedes engines behave is also quite different. Thanks to the large displacement, low end torque is much more pronounced than the smaller V8s. While there is still a bit of turbo lag, you’d be hard pressed to notice on your way to a 12 second 1/4 mile at 123 MPH. In a 4,300lb sedan. While burning unbelievable amounts of rubber. For the record, that’s the same speed we clocked in the M6 drop-top. With this much power, traction is the CLS’ Achilles heel, something Mercedes is planning to rectify in 2014 with the addition of AWD to the performance pack CLS63. I’d like to compare the Panamera to the CLS, but since Porsche won’t return my calls I have to rule the CLS superior.

2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Engine, 5.5L twin-turbo V8, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Since every silver-lining is wrapped in a cloud, we need to talk about the AMG Speedshift MCT transmission. If you take a look at the cut-away above, you’ll notice something. What Mercedes calls a “multi-clutch” transmission isn’t the same as a “dual-clutch” unit. BMW’s M-DCT transmission is two robotically shifted manual transmissions inside the same casing. One does the odd gears, the other handles the even gears. The Mercedes unit is a variant of their regular 7-speed slushbox with a wet clutch replacing the torque converter. The MCT acronym refers to the multiple clutches and bands used in the planetary gearsets.

I haven’t been a huge fan of this transmission since it launched, because in some ways the MCT combines the “slow” shifts of an automatic and unrefined feel of clutches in one unit. Thankfully the 2013 software has made the transmission much more liveable but the way the transmission shifts is an issue for me. My complaint is simply software, Mercedes chose to not allow the car to “queue” shifts. So two pulls on the steering wheel paddle does not take you down/up two gears. You have to wait until the transmission shifts before commanding the next gear. Holding the “down” paddle will get the transmission to scoot to the lowest gear possible (except for first), but going down 5 gears takes an eternity compared to the BMW M-DCT. When the high-rev fun is over, you’ll find there is no command for going “up” to the highest gear possible. Mercedes has improved the speeds of the shifts which now come in around 170ms in “Comfort” and 100ms in “Manual” with Sport and Sport+ slotting in-between those times but the 20-80ms shifts of the BMW/Getrag DCT are lightning fast in comparison.

2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Exterior, Brakes, Wheel, Caliper, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drive

When you get the CLS on the road, complaints about the MCT fade thanks to a positively devilish V8 burble that is 100% authentic rather than computer generated like in recent BMWs. The steering comparison is somewhat similar, with the CLS feeling light, but more accurate and transmitting more feel than the M6. The Audi on the other hand has that Quattro system to interfere with steering feel, something I notice many reviews fail to notice. I’m very torn about AWD in a high performance car. AWD’s ability to put power down more effectively is usually worth the steering feel penalty as long as it doesn’t change the car’s neutral handling characteristics. Next year you will be able to have this debate as 2014 brings standard 4MATIC to the CLS AMG. At 150lbs, 4MATIC adds less weight than Quattro and will have a nearly 70% rear bias. If however RWD shenanigans are more important than grip, snag a 2013 while you can/

When it comes to driving dynamics this becomes a two-way fight between the BMW and the Mercedes. Aside from the fact that the RS7 isn’t officially out yet so few have driven it, we have to keep Audi’s platform designs in mind. The A6/A7 platform was designed with FWD base models in mind and that cause some inherent compromises most namely the weight balance. Although Audi has not officially said, I doubt the RS7 has improved much upon the S7′s 54.5/45.5 percent weight distribution. I recently had the opportunity to drive the S6 and a number of BMW and Mercedes models on Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and the impact that Audi’s engine layout has on handling is obvious on a track. The S6 felt nose heavy and less willing to change direction than the other Germans. Some of that has to do with the AWD system but more has to do with where the weight is located. (And remember, Porsche wouldn’t lend us a Panamera which means it looses by default.) Weight balance is important with performance cars because big engines usually equal a heavy nose. This is the case with the 6-Series Gran Coupe in which the 640i model is a near perfect 50/50 but the M6 version bumps the numbers to 52.3/47.7 % and in the CLS as well with the CLS63 having a 52/48% distribution. You might think “there’s little difference between the S7 and CLS in distribution” which is true, but the difference combined with tire choices and suspension dynamics made the S6/S7 feel decidedly front heavy in comparison.

2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Exterior, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Our tester had the performance package suspension which turns the CLS63 into the best handling and the best feeling four door coupé. With precise steering, tenacious grip and excellent feel, the CLS is quite simply a willing dance partner. The M6 on the other hand comes off as a little artificial at times and a little less connected the rest of the time. That being said, I prefer the ride in the M6 because it’s not as punishing as the CLS63 with the stiffer springs. If you don’t get that $7,300 performance package, then the softer CLS63 gives a little away in performance to the M6 Gran Coupé, but has a ride more fitting of a Mercedes in my opinion. The performance package is without a doubt breathtaking, but in my mind it is at odds with the “mission” of a Mercedes-Benz.

While we’re talking options, if you plan on exercising your CLS63 on a regular basis, the $12,625 carbon ceramic brakes are a must. The stock brakes do a fine job keeping up under normal circumstances, but with this much power and 4,300lbs it is possible to overreach the ability of the stock stoppers. Also, the $2,030 limited slip differential is an absolute must have if you’re serious about applying this much power from a stop. That jacks up the price of the CLS63 to $127,247. If that price shocks you, just stick with the CLS550 since the RS7 and M6 are more expensive.

2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

The CLS63 that Mercedes lent us is a serious performance machine, but it’s more than that, it’s the first AMG product I have driven lately that’s a better performance machine than BMW’s M line. I have long preferred AMGs to Ms because they were slightly softer, slightly more luxurious and easier to live with on a daily basis, but the CLS63 isn’t that Mercedes. While the 2014 AWD model might tame the beast, this 2013 model hustles with the M6 coupé, handles with greater precision than an M5 and the sense of urgency that 590lb-ft of torque bring to the party must be experienced to be believed. Is this the new Mercedes?

 

Hit it or Quit It?

Hit it

  • Endless torque.
  • Did I mention the torque? Yea, it’s that good.
  • Impeccable road manners and the last stand against numb steering.

Quit it

  • Mercedes needs to snag someone’s dual-clutch transmission or swallow their pride and buy ZF’s 8-speed.
  • COMAND needs to be replaced, stat.

 

Mercedes-Benz provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.0 Seconds

0-60: 4.1 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 12 Seconds @ 123 MPH

Average Observed Fuel Economy over 740 miles: 19MPG

 

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45 Comments on “Review: 2013 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG (Video)...”


  • avatar
    PenguinBoy

    I know nobody is going to cross shop them, but how does this compare to the 300C SRT-8 you tested recently?

    On paper, it doesn’t seem to offer twice the bang for twice the bucks – except for the badge.

    • 0 avatar
      jkross22

      The infotainment system in the 300 SRT is really good. If COMAND hasn’t evolved significantly since 2007, the comparison is valid.

      • 0 avatar
        DubVBenz

        Oh I promise it has evolved from 2007. I have an 07 W211 that has the same COMAND that the old CLS and W211 had, and even by 2007 the other models that were introduced more recently were way better. This has the COMAND derived from the 2010 W212, and is likely NTG4 or NTG5. I think mine was NTG1.

    • 0 avatar
      tjh8402

      @ PenguinBoy – This car has 100 more horsepower and 120 more lb-ft of torque so its in another class performance wise. I’d say the 300C SRT8 makes a more compelling case for itself when compared to a CLS550.

      • 0 avatar
        PenguinBoy

        @tjh8402 –
        Even though it is a somewhat ridiculous comparison, I’m wondering how both cars compare overall. If you were to compare a 1970 300 SEL 6.3 with a 1970 Chrysler 300 Hurst, I expect it would be easy to see where the money went on the much more expensive Mercedes Benz. My sense is that the modern cars are much closer together – and in some areas such as infotainment, the cheaper car has the edge.

        Understood that there is a fair bit of a power bump with the CLS63 as compared to the SRT8. Despite this, it looks like both cars are pretty much identical off the line – probably traction limited. Once the tires hook up, it the CLS63 pulls ahead, but I’m not sure the difference is enough to put it into “another class performance wise”.

        Both sets of numbers below are from Alex’ recent reviews.

        CLS63:
        0-30: 2.0 Seconds
        0-60: 4.1 Seconds
        1/4 Mile: 12 Seconds @ 123 MPH
        Average Observed Fuel Economy over 740 miles: 19MPG

        SRT8:
        0-30: 2.08 Seconds
        0-60: 4.5 Seconds
        1/4 Mile: 12.87 Seconds @ 113 MPH
        Average fuel economy: 17.8 over 566 miles

        • 0 avatar
          Alex L. Dykes

          The 0-30 times are quite close and it’s all down to traction. The 300C SRT has fairly narrow rear tires which can’t fully apply the engine’s power. I suspect that the SRT’s number will also drop when the 8-speef ZF is jammed under the hood. The CLS63 is all about traction as well, there is so much more power going on that 2WD is just not enough to apply it. Supposedly 2014 may share up to a full half second off t he CLS63′s run putting it in the 3.6 second range which is considerably faster than the SRT8. I suspect that the SRT8 with AWD would not improve much beyond the 4.3-4.4 second range, there’s just not enough power in comparison.

          • 0 avatar
            PenguinBoy

            Thanks Alex. Other than performance how do the two cars compare?

            At one time, it would have been ridiculous to compare a mass market American car to a Mercedes Benz. The American car would have offered good value for money, but would have been crudely thrown together using cheap materials, and there would be no comparison with the quality of design and build of the Mercedes.

            My sense is that now there is a lot less difference between these cars then there would have been a few years ago. It would be interesting to see how the recently improved 300 stacks up against a “legitimate” premium car.

            I have to admit having a bit of a soft spot for the SRT8. I see it as a worthy successor to the Letter Series cars of the 50s and 60s, plus I like rooting for the underdog and seeing a good turnaround story.

          • 0 avatar
            DubVBenz

            I think the new W212 AMG with AWD is getting close to 3.6-7, so it’s not a stretch to assume this thing will be similar.

        • 0 avatar
          burgersandbeer

          First, I think the difference in the numbers are more significant than they look on paper. The 0.4 second difference to 60 is probably at least 1 car length. A 0.87 second advantage in the 1/4 mile is also not trivial.

          Second, these numbers show how much power it takes to further reduce 0-60 and 1/4 mile times once you are around the 5sec to 60 and somewhere in the 13s 1/4 mile range. Diminishing returns. The SRT8′s 4.5 second run is already ridiculously fast for public roads. Who cares about another 0.4.

          Third, any chance we can get times for more meaningful metrics, like 30-80 or 60-80? Something that shows acceleration from an on ramp or passing power. Especially in this power range, as I have no idea what else that much power is good for off a track.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        The performance out of the box isn’t THAT big as it is, and the CLS63 is a twin turbo. Bolt on a supercharger kit or turbo on the SRT and it would easily match or exceed that 100hp gap. And a triple black SRT8 just looks completely bad-ass. The CLS is just ugly.

  • avatar

    Nice review thanks. About the styling, ditto for the side profile lines. I too hate the half moon thing and hope others take Mercedes tip and do away with it. This is something long overdue in my opinion.

    Now the front, too aggressive possibly for a Mercedes. I also see some Cadillac Science-thingy there. I think it’ll tire soon. From the back it’s possibly better in person, but the white surrounded by red, and the shape, gives it a very alien-insect theme. I think most modern shoppers will like it as it is modernly ugly, but somehow I think a Mercedes, even an AMG, should be more classy.

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      Funny you say that, I also think “Art and Science” and Mercedes’ styling are brothers from another mother. Although, I do like both.

      • 0 avatar

        I do too, specially for the Cadillac. You know what you said, about preferring Mercedes over BMW ’cause it’s more comfortable? Well, it’s kind of the same for me in the design aspect. Maybe ’cause I don’t have such a strong mental image of Cadillac, in my mind the cars accept that kind of design language better. Mercedes should be more dowdy :)!

        But I can see it’s an attractive car, though I still think it’s ugly in that it’s too much (possibly). I just seem to think sometimes that modern design is made intentionally “ugly”. I however may be confusing ugly with aggressive.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      I’ve always thought that BMW had the most attractive and consistent styling (5-Series GT models notwithstanding), and I especially like those L-shapes that are echoed in the tail-lamps of recent models…

    • 0 avatar
      TonyJZX

      I prefer AMG out of the lot in as far as stupid clownshoes cars goes and this is a clown of car make no mistake

      you want people to know you’re coming AND going

      no fan out Audi’s stuff and except for the M3, dont care for BMW

      but I like the old 6.2 v8… this turbo stuff is… hmmm

      http://images.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/2013-Mercedes-Benz-CLS63-AMG-Instrument-Cluster.jpg

      nice selection btw. – sums up Mercedes in a pinch (we have one btw.)

  • avatar
    oldowl

    I think that it is horrifically ugly. So that saved me $125,000. Thanks, MB.

    • 0 avatar
      cirats

      Couldn’t agree more. I think the prior version is still one of the best looking cars on the road and will prove to be a timeless desing. This one is trying way too hard.

  • avatar
    TybeeJim

    My two cents… This car is more than anyone will ever need in the way do performance, but I would wager a Panamera Turbo will top it in almost any respect except perhaps styling. The M6 Grand Coupe is a blant copy of the CLS concept which, like it or not, was created by Mercedes. BMW when faced with the need to compete simply chose to over-style their effort in an effort to differentiate their car from the CLS, S7 and Panamera. OK. All that said, I have an original CLS 500, an ’06 purchased in May ’05. It has become my wife’s ride with a total of 33k miles to date, mostly road trip miles. It hasn’t missed nary a beat save for replacing both batteries last year (7 Years). It still does 0-60 in about 5.5 sec. And returns a decent 23 mpg on the highway at 70-80 mph. In short, it’s been an excellent car and it set the standard for all the newcomers. The only car I’ve owned that comes close was my Cayman S.

    • 0 avatar
      genuineleather

      Even Porsche’s biggest V8s are substantially down on torque compared to the AMG. Good for racing, but in everyday driving an AMG will have more grunt.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I wonder if they’ve got a BRABUS edition of this yet…

  • avatar
    wmba

    When I was younger road tests of outlandishly fast and super high priced cars would fuel fantasies of all kinds in my feverish brain.

    Such cars would turn perhaps 14 second quarter miles if you were lucky, compared to the 16 through 18 second times of mundane machinery. I helped a guy get a Z28 Camaro to turn 12.6 second quarters back in ’69, and it required all sorts of tricks, from modifying the transmission’s synchros to get quick shifts, carefully balancing pistons and rods, polishing all ports, using a 5.11 axle ratio, 7200rpm, ditching the interior and special slicks. Fun.

    Now any twit with excess money and the A/C on high while surfing the internet can demolish that time with ease, and not even have to contend with lurid loss of traction slides at full wick in a straight line.

    Not much interested in these new expensive sleds that perhaps 15 or 20 people who read TTAC could or would actually buy. Of course that’s 10 or 15 more than would actually purchase new a brown diesel 6 speed manual station wagon. The people who actually buy these wagons like my former boss just go out and buy them at the VW dealer sans the agony expressed here, and have never been on a car website.

    Must say, I’m more interested in reading a test on a new V6 Accord. Saw 3 on Saturday in two supermarket parking lots, here in the middle of nowhere. You say that’s not the engine you want, but popular choice begs to differ.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      Between 5 and 6 seconds, 0-60 (depending on which 6-speed transmission is motivating things), yet will pull low-to-mid 30s at a steady 80mph highway cruise WITHOUT using the “ECO” mode, which alters the throttle mapping, A/C power and cruise control in addition to more aggressive use of the 3-cylinder deactivation in order to achieve better MPGs. My 2013 Touring Sedan (automatic, all EX-V6 NAVI goodies plus LED headlights and Adaptive Cruise Control) will likely bark the tires in the first three gears in traction/stability-control whilst pulling to 60 in aforesaid time like an F-18 going off the deck on full military power with afterburner, yet will pull down some damn good MPGs, within a couple “real-world” MPGs of the 4-banger Accords. It’s a great ride! Couple of things for Honda to take care of in subsequent years, but no major “first-year” glitches on these vehicles! :-)

      As for this car, pretty damn nice! I could do without the two-color interior, but this seems to be less compromised than the previous CLS. An AMG Merc of some type would find its way into my “fantasy garage” (the one where I have unlimited garage spaces, and unlimited fund$ with which to fill said spaces!) Hmmm..maybe an E63 (or equivalent) wagon..just to be different! It’d smoke my Accord for sure!

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    The handling criticisms of Audis are warranted, but I find their interiors much more attractive. The S7 has a real back seat too, and I’ll only do without one if I don’t have extra doors to remind me what a ridiculous car I’m driving. The urge to combine the weight and dimensions of a limousine with the utility of a coupe is not felt by me. When the first CLS came out, some people I know that care a little about cars commented on how nice looking it was and asked about it. I haven’t heard a kind word about the styling of this one. In Mercedes’ favor, they don’t use the ZF 8-speed automatic. I’m not a fan of that transmission. The larger displacement engine is nice too, compared to the 4 liter in high performance Audis. What I’d really like is the old 6.2 liter naturally aspirated V8. At this sort of price level, the engine shouldn’t just be about generating numbers.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    Fantastic amounts of power. I’d never buy one, but I’m glad they make it.

  • avatar

    I’m glad to see I’m not the only person who recognizes the 300c SRT8′s performance competitiveness with the CLS.

    #1 The CLS550 already has far more power than you’d need in everyday driving. In fact, it already runs neck and neck with the half-as-expensive 300cSRT8 while giving you just about every amenity you could expect from the CLSAMG.

    #2 Adding so much power to a RWD car without having ridiculously wide production tires – like the VIPER SRT – means you sit & spin longer than you apply power to the ground. The CLSAMG has more than 100 HP advantage over the cheaper SRT8, yet gets through the quarter mile in the same damn time.

    My 300cSRT8 could run lower than 12.8 back when it was stock.

  • avatar
    Signal11

    I feel COMAND is much less intuitive and a pain in the rear to use than MMi. The one in the E350 I had was constantly crashing. I never went more than a week without having to pull over somewhere to turn the ignition off and on again to bring COMAND back up.

    Agreed on BMW’s iDrive being the best of the bunch. MMi is somewhere inbetween. Too many buttons but still better than the idiot COMAND in the Merc.

    • 0 avatar

      COMAND in the S550 was extremely good. Considering the S550 was released before touchscreens became mainstream, you’d be hard pressed to find any other infotainment system that integrated HVAC, NAV, RADIO, Vehicle functions and seat controls – including massage and climate controls.

      HOWEVER, since the S550, Mercedes completely RUINED Comand by taking out the multicontour seat controls and not adding a simple Volume/seek button to the center stack. The E-class, CLS and C class are plagued with an upgraded- yet- even more obsolete edition of Comand.

      iPhone5 didn’t work in the E550 I tested and the system is too “internationally focused” to feel just right for the American market.

      I do not like MMI. I feel the gesture pad is superfluous and Audi, BMW and Mercedes should back up their systems with a touch screen.

  • avatar
    carrya1911

    Not too bad in the looks department. That Merc is almost as good looking as the Mazda 6.

  • avatar
    carguy

    I would have to agree with this review. The E-class is a great car but it really needs a new transmission. Even in normal spec it is slow and confused. I got a chance to drive an E550 and it never really felt anywhere near as quick as the specs might suggest thanks to a transmission that always managed to be in the wrong gear.

    Also a kudos for pointing out what may car reviewers don’t: Even sporty Audis have chronic under-steer. Audi assures us that every new generation of car that they have conquered the under-steer problems – yet they persist in every vehicle they make except for the R8.

    Now if only MB made an E63 AMG…

  • avatar
    duffman13

    Alex,

    Not to be a stickler, but the A6, while having a FWD base model, is built around a longitudinal powertrain layout, the traditional RWD configuration. The only Audi’s I can think of that are transverse are the A3 and Q3, which use the inferior Haldex AWD system.

    The issue Audis have with weight distribution is that their longitudinal powertrain layout, much like Subarus (ever hear complaints about underteering STis?) basically has the motor hanging out mostly ahead of the front axle, causing the forward weight distribution.

    Audis use a strange 90-degree transaxle in their A4 and larger FWD base models that hasn’t had common usage since the disappearance of the Saab 900 and the Acura Vigor.

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      I wasn’t suggesting that the engine layout is the result of FWD roots, but the platform certainly is. Because the platform is designed to have the front diff inside the transmission housing so that they can have a FWD only model with the transverse layout, it pushes the engine forward. When they build an S/RS model, they are building off the same basic chassis that was designed with this in mind and thereby retain the same engine location. Even is the S/RS was RWD, without substantial platform modifications the vehicle would still have the engine farther forward than in comparable BMW/Mercedes models just because of the firewall and floor stamping.

      • 0 avatar
        oldfatandrich

        Boy racer reviews silly car for benefit of a readership who typically wax lyrical about diesel powered cars with manual transmissions. Irrelevance on all counts: the review, the car itself and diesel powered cars with manual transmissions.

  • avatar
    genuineleather

    My biggest complaint with the M/AMG/RS cars is their prices; an M5 is nice, but $100k nice? All of these upgraded midrange cars are priced against their flagship siblings, which are more luxurious, hardly any slower, and bereft of the “four-banger lease special” stigma.

    $127k for a CLS, nee E-class? For that much money, I’d take the CL550 every time.

  • avatar
    MBsam

    Weird interior assessment in my opinion. The 6 GC very obviously shares much of it’s interior with the 5-Series and costs a TON more. I too find the Audi to have the more attractive interior and I find MMI dead simple to use as do I find COMMAND dead simple to use. iDrive STILL has a learning curve for me…the odd split screen arrangements you can get yourself into are confusing and seem to be constantly displaying an excess of information that is not pertinent to the task you’re trying to accomplish. It’s also far less graphics based than either MMI or COMMAND and has a rather muddy color scheme.

  • avatar
    tralls

    AMG cars are a total hoot. Please review the 2014 E63 AMG Wagon. I know that the previous version had the rear facing third row seat and I’m hoping they haven’t messed with that formula. I used to be a big Volvo guy, but they aren’t true wagons without a rear facing third row seat. My first car was a cherry red Volvo 740 Turbo Wagon with a factory turbo + kit and a third row seat. I’ve had wagons on the brain ever since….

  • avatar
    roadscholar

    As always, great video Alex. This is what comes up when I google a definition of coupe:
    A car with a fixed roof, two doors, and a sloping rear.
    A shallow glass or glass dish, typically with a stem, in which desserts or champagne are served.

    Can we get Congress to pass a law outlawing the use of the word “coupe” on a 4-door vehicle? I cringe every time I see the word applied to a 4-door. I must be too old.

    PS: All new Mercedes are brutally ugly.

    • 0 avatar
      Signal11

      Why? Coupe has meant different things to different people throughout the history of motorized transportation. Why does it have to applied only in the way you define the word when yours isn’t the only definition?

  • avatar
    ZCD2.7T

    Beauty is certainly in the eye of the beholder.

    That truth has rarely been more evident than when viewed in the context of this review. Alex is the first person I’ve encountered that prefers the styling of the new CLS to the old.

  • avatar
    mvoss

    Wonderful review. Probably one of the most well-written reviews I’ve ever read to be honest. I don’t typically read whole reviews either!

    I used to be an MB salesman, and I never got why AMG insisted on MCT. If the tech has been out there for a while and it’s proven that you cannot simulate DCT with a straight automatic, then why the hell try?

    The only thing I can think of is this: AMG is by far the MOST proud of any of the German high performance lines. It has its own factory and abhors using anything but their own performance parts (incl. MB). They stamp the one engineer in charge of building the engine on the engine itself for Pete’s sake. If they are going to make a transmission, it’ll be AMG. So, here’s to hoping they are developing some ridiculous mass production DCT to put into all their vehicles.

    Also, COMAND sucks and we all know it. I think since the 2014 S-class is getting a bigger screen, we can expect the CLS to follow suit. The one thing COMAND has going for it is that it’s really simple to use. BMW and Audi are sort of mind-boggling by comparison.

  • avatar

    I agree with the statement about the AMG performance suspension upgrade completely ruining a Mercede’s ride quality. It’s funny that someone pays more for a luxury grocery-getter with an added badge, only to drive around continually receiving nut-punches by the harsh suspension that will never see a day on a track. May as well be driving a Fit, they certainly aren’t driving a luxury Benz.

  • avatar
    CarnotCycle

    I once read a book that claimed an egg-shaped UFO abducted people for mechanized anal rape sessions.

    This Benz was that UFO.


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