When it comes to man versus machine, Mercedes-Benz has pretty much every configuration covered. Whether it’s a doctor and his S-Class, a young mother and her GLK, a pro athlete and his CL-Class, a famous Hollywood actress with her SL or Jay Leno and his SLS, possibilities are nearly limitless due to the German automaker’s massive reach in each market segment. Two prominent vehicles in particular currently hold top rank because Mercedes was so far ahead of time when they manifested these creations that no other maker was able to catch up. I’m referring to the retractable hardtop SL convertible and the big-body CL Coupe. There is not one sporty, luxurious 2-door talent that can handle the CL in size, comfort and technology. Ferrari just recently joined the hardtop convertible world with its California. Another segment first for the automotive consumer market was the four-door coupe. And who do you think ushered in this new era?
Yes, in 2004 the CLS had many transfixed on its stunning design, stylistic appeal and of course a new term to throw about. “Hey, did you see that new four-door coupe from Benz?” People were so excited over the unknown German that they didn’t even know its name. Where would you fit a 3-letter body style in the typical 2-letter naming convention for Mercedes? For the record, the CLS slots above the E-Class and below the S-Class. And for the record there is no such thing as a four-door coupe, just as there is no 50 Cent, only Curtis Jackson. So there you go — nothing is constant except time. Add another exclusive name to the CLS four-door and now we’re playing with fire. AMG; you either love them or hate them. Team Automotive Rhythms loves them. Especially when you turn off ESP and other systems and let fire burn from the 19” Continentals. If I had more street to smoke out San Diego’s local fire department would have been after me! And please don’t think I’m riding Benz’s coattail since I drove a vehicle that won’t be out until June, because I also like the other three Germans – BMW, Porsche, and Audi. A Panamera, M5 and R8 would certainly be sitting in my driveway if money were no object. But again, neither has a large coupe that caters like its touring sedan sister, and neither has a hardtop, top-of-the-line convertible.
In addition to the onslaught of new exciting products from Mercedes-Benz, the company is also commemorating their 125th anniversary. That’s right, it was 1886 when Karl Benz invented his own rendition of the horseless carriage and help change the future of mobility. He certainly would be proud of the strides his company has made. With this profound and historic anniversary for M-B comes new vehicles to celebrate like the all-new C-Class which resembles a smaller S-Class and of course the new CLS-Class.
I was recently able to address the new features and technologies in the CLS 63 AMG during a media drive in San Diego. My prohibitive favorite would be the Diamond White body with the AMG Performance Package which adds an AMG performance steering wheel, sport suspension, red calipers, carbon fiber spoiler and engine cover and increased horsepower to 550 from 518 and max speed limit to 186 mph from 155 mph. As well, additional torque jumps from 516 to 590 to slash a second off of the base model’s 4.4 second 0-60 time. These power numbers and times are simply for bragging rights since it’s idiotic to attempt to exploit them any other place than a racetrack.
Yet, the CLS 63 AMG without the added performance is stellar. That’s because AMG hand builds every engine from the ground up. The “one man, one engine” philosophy gives AMG owners something to be proud of. And if you so choose you can meet your maker since each engine is badged with the builder’s John Hancock. Builders are like rock stars in Germany! The 5.5-liter biturbo V8 is enhanced with direction injection and functions in conjunction with the impressive AMG SPEEDSHIFT MCT 7-speed sports transmission. The MCT is exclusive to AMG vehicles and utilizes a wet start-up clutch which bathes in oil and in turn produces quicker shifts and efficient power management. The multi-talented, double-clutch transmission also has four drive modes including Comfort, Sport, Sport plus and Manual to allow the driver to treat the CLS 63 either like Jimmie Johnson or Miss Daisy. Johnson would take advantage of the vehicle’s race start mode while Miss Daisy would engage Controlled Efficiency mode so the V8 shuts down upon braking to save on fuel. It also accelerates the vehicle in second gear opposed to first. Together, this new engine-transmission combo has achieved 32% better fuel than the prior model. Estimated fuel economy is looking like 16 mpg city and 21 mpg highway.
When you step back and look at the new CLS, you feel its stronger energy and magnetizing presence. The silhouette is chiseled with flaring wheel wells, distinct creases, inverted dual power domes on the hood and a major indentation on the doors. You will find no flat surfaces on this vehicle. Furthermore, AMG designs everything from the A-pillar forward. It’s why you see a larger logo as on the SLS and distinct grille.
But I’m not all that excited about the rear quarter which looks like Mercedes squeezed the S-Class back there. It doesn’t fit. Quad chrome exhausts, starfish themed alloy rims, V8 BITURBO badge and the AMG spoiler lip accent the rest of the CLS 63 AMG.
Inside is typical of Mercedes and AMG. Nappa leather racing seats that hug you in turns, piano black lacquer or carbon fiber trim, aluminum shift paddles, and COMAND multi-media interface. I did find the unique shape of the gear selector a little odd and somewhat confusing as I had to double check quite often if the vehicle was engaged in the proper gear. I didn’t receive a tactile kickback as normal when you shift. I also don’t like the positioning of the rotary dial that controls COMAND. The driver’s position is always the best to be in when experiencing the CLS, but if you find your way in the back, then make it temporary as its not ideal for long trips.
Safety and assistance systems include Attention Assist drowsiness monitor, PARKTRONIC, Night View Assist PLUS w/Pedestrian Detection, rear side airbags, Active Blind Spot Assist and Active Lane Keeping Assist which actually self-brakes to pull the vehicle back into its lane.
Expect to see the 2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS 63 AMG on sale in June with pricing close to the outgoing model ($100,000). It’s 21st century true grit!