Mercedes CLK 63 AMG Black Series Review

Jay Shoemaker
by Jay Shoemaker
mercedes clk 63 amg black series review

My co-pilot sat motionless, stupefied from the previous night's revelry. Strangely, this poor fellow thought I could be trusted not to challenge Alka-Seltzer's restorative powers. I allowed him the luxury of this delusion all the way from the hotel to the highway. And then I floored it. The CLK Black Series' engine bellowed WAKE UP FOOL! The uber-bad Benz' back end quivered from side to side. The traction control light sent a steady stream of Morse code through first, second and third gear. The ten second wake-up call placed us well north of 100 mph. The jobbing journo groaned his disapproval. God I love this work!

Of course, any pistonhead who's ever inhaled the smell of burning brakes in the morning and identified it as "victory" knows that AMG on a Benz' butt guarantees straight-line firepower. To that end, the CLK Black Series boasts a near-as-dammit 6.3-liter V8, modded to produce 500 horsepower and 465 ft.-lbs. of torque. But this time, the boys from Affalterbach have wrought something a little different: "a track car adapted for use over the road." Stimmt?

Stimmt. The carbon-covered cabin's cornering bias is immediately identifiable by its miniaturized seats, steering wheel and transmission stalk. Despite its diminutive diameter, the leather-clad, square-bottomed helm is a superb addition to the AMG canon (cannon?). The CLK BS' racing-derived chairs are less successful. Even this 140-pound test pilot found the hard shell seat incredibly confining; the side bolsters are ended right around my armpit, resulting in non-stop elbows akimbo. My 200-pound compadre moaned about his back throughout our journey.

Those of you who say shaddup– adding lightness is the best way to get a sedan to sprint from rest to sixty in 4.1 seconds– don't speak AMG. Yes, AMG's Black arts artists fitted lightweight forged alloy wheels, removed the back seat and carbon-fibered the brake cooling ducts, rear spoiler and rear apron. But the CLK BS is 228 lbs. heavier than a CLK500.

All that extra heft is deployed in pursuit of handling. We're spreching three transverse chassis reinforcements and a new multi-plate limited slip differential. There's also a trick adjustable suspension that allows changes to the CLK's ride height, camber, toe-in and shock dampers' compression and rebound. Provided you're a mechanic in a tuning shop, AMG says "you" can transform the CLK AMG 63 Black Series from a road-compliant commuter to a track-ready monster in an hour or less.

The out-of-the-box, on-the-road solution is insane. Anyone who wants, needs or thinks he could use more lateral grip on a public road should have their license revoked on general principle. The steering is a shout-out to Porsche: "we could match your helm feel on all our cars; we simply choose not to." And the brakes– including 360mm ceramic front discs with six-piston calipers– could stop an evangelical preacher mid-syllable.

I saved my comments about the tranny for last because I liked it the least. No doubt the 7G-Tronic's stubby lever looks cool, but since it is made of aluminum, looks can be deceiving, especially on a hot day. Worse, it feels flimsy. The first time I waggled it sideways to shift the gears, it felt like I was giving the car a prostate exam. Fortunately, the paddles behind the steering wheel are beefy and loads of fun to press. The seven-speed even blips the throttle for downshifts, DSG-style.

Driving the CLK Black Series over serpentine mountain back roads near Half Moon Bay, I hereby solemnly swear that Mercedes can build a car that is not solemn and will make you swear. If nothing else, the CLK BS sounds like the unholy off-spring of a Mercedes – NASCAR union, complete with popping backfires during engine braking. But there's plenty else, and all of it makes this car weapons-grade ammunition for drivers determined to murder corners and terminate straights (with extreme prejudice).

In fact, the CLK Black Series is a slap in the face of BMW's new M3– albeit at a daunting price.

Yes, there is that. At $130k, the CLK Black Series asks for a 150 percent premium over the CLK 350, and demands $40k more of your hard-earned money than the CLK 63 Cabriolet, which packs a "detuned" version of the same engine. Mercedes has sold all 350 U.S.-bound CLK BS– ensuring that your "investment" will seem cheap compared to the resale market. But the onset of AMG's traditional cliff-face depreciation curve can not be forever delayed.

There are now 15 models in the AMG line. Die-hards (literally) will be glad to hear that more Black Series AMG cars are on their way. While the CLK 63 AMG Black Series is a very special car, it's worth waiting for these details to be applied to a more interesting chassis, like the SL-class, before making the jump to hyperspace.

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2 of 35 comments
  • Amgforums Amgforums on Apr 21, 2008

    Expensive? Yes Amazing? Without a doubt! For the lucky few who can afford such cars, this offers something that many cars in this price range doesn't. Exclusivity. Sure there are Porsche Turbos and Astons, etc. but in most parts of the country where these cars roam, they are considered "dime a dozen". The Black Series is something that you don't see everyday no matter where you are Check out this nice walkaround video of the CLK63 AMG Black Series.

  • Adkx Adkx on Jun 04, 2011

    Just to correct this article. The correct number of Mercedes CLK 63 Black Series ever built is only 300 worldwide. Mercedes built only 300 pieces worldwide. You can also read Jeremy Clarkson’s (tall guy from Top Gear) article on New Times (see link below). He too notes: “of which only 300 were built”. How does he know? Jeremy owns one; as he also states on his article. So, the part on this article about the "350 sold to the U.S." is incorrect. Since 300 CLK Black series were built worldwide, I would be surprised if more than 100 pieces of these made it to the States. Realistically, I would probably say much less than 100 in the States. After all, Mercedes has to sell to Europe, Arab Emirates, Australia, Asian Continents/Countries. There are a lot of people in the rest of the world that Mercedes would like to satisfy, along with us here in the States. Even 100 of those in the States, it would be 33% of the total produced, which is more than great! Cheers! Here is Jeremy Clarkson’s link from his article on New Times:

  • SPPPP The little boosters work way better than you would expect. I am a little nervous about carrying one more lithium battery around in the car (because of fire risk). But I have used the booster more than once on trips, and it has done the job. Also, it seems to hold charge for a very long time - months at least - when you don't use it. (I guess I could start packing it for trips, but leaving it out of the car on normal days, to minimize the fire risk.)
  • Bader Hi I want the driver side lights including the bazl and signal
  • Theflyersfan One positive: doesn't appear to have a sunroof. So you won't need to keep paper towels in the car.But there's a serious question to ask this seller - he has less than 40,000 miles on some major engine work, and the transmission and clutch work and mods are less than 2 months old...why are you selling? That's some serious money in upgrades and repairs, knowing that the odds of getting it back at the time of sale is going to be close to nil. This applies to most cars and it needs to be broadcasted - these kinds of upgrades and mods are really just for the current owner. At the time of sale, a lot of buyers will hit pause or just won't pay for the work you've done. Something just doesn't sit well with me and this car. It could be a snowbelt beast and help save the manuals and all that, but a six year old VW with over 100,000 miles normally equals gremlins and electrical issues too numerous to list. Plus rust in New England. I like it, but I'd have to look for a crack pipe somewhere if the seller thinks he's selling at that price.
  • 2ACL I can't help feeling that baby is a gross misnomer for a vehicle which the owner's use necessitated a (manual!) transmission rebuild at 80,000 miles. An expensive lesson in diminishing returns I wouldn't recommend to anyone I know.
  • El scotto Rumbling through my pantry and looking for the box of sheets of aluminum foil. More alt right comments than actual comments on international trade policy. Also a great deal of ignorance about the global oil industry. I'm a geophysicist and I pay attention such things. Best of all we got to watch Tassos go FULL BOT on us.