Any skilled driver will deeply appreciate the car’s integrity and finely honed performance

Our Verdict

Mercedes-AMG CLS 63
Can this new hard-hitting AMG variant both entertain and cosset?

Can the Mercedes-Benz CLS 63 AMG provide sensationally entertaining, as well as civilised, executive transport?

  • First Drive

    Mercedes-AMG CLS 63

    Any skilled driver will deeply appreciate the car’s integrity and finely honed performance
  • First Drive

    Mercedes-Benz CLS 63 AMG

    The CLS 63 has undergone the same transition as the E 63 - a new engine that doesn't provide the thumping torque of the CLS 55, but whose characteristics m
12 January 2011

What is it?

‘Performance derivative’ is a much-abused automotive term. Which is probably why BMW’s M division, Audi’s Quattro and Mercedes’s AMG arm are all listed as independent companies, underling their collective seriousness of purpose.

The new CLS 63 AMG is a case in point. It receives a bespoke engine and transmission, a new front axle, substantially modified suspension and steering systems as well a unique damping system.

The extensive styling changes inside and out are literally the icing on a seriously re-engineered cake. And AMG engineers have put over one million test kilometres into both the engine and the finished car.

It gets the company’s new M157 5.5-litre bi-turbo V8 engine which replaces AMG’s old 6.3-litre naturally-aspirated V8. The M157 (like all AMG motors, assembled by a single engineer) is more powerful, torquier and an amazing 32 per cent more economical than the outgoing engine. AMG has also developed its own ‘Speedshift MCT’ 7-speed transmission, which ditches a conventional - and laggy - torque convertor for a much more direct-feeling ‘wet start-up clutch’ which runs in a oil bath.

One of the most important aspects of the CLS’s development lies in the huge efforts that the company has put into the new electromechanical steering system. The 14:1 ratio is 22 percent quicker than the standard CLS, its is said to be extremely rigidly mounted and its control unit takes information from a wide range of sensors (including lateral acceleration and under and oversteer characteristics) to calculate the forces it feeds back to the wheel rim.

What’s it like?

And it’s the CLS 63’s steering response that strikes the driver as the car creeps away from standstill. At low speeds there’s a sense of uncanny, sharp-edged, precision humming through the wheel’s rim.

It’s most unexpected, but a sensation that I’ve only associated with mid-engined supercars. (I’ve not gone mad, by the way. AMG boss Olla Källenius told me that Mercedes engineers who tried the 63 AMG, said the same thing.)

That extraordinary sensation continues as you drive along. While not uncomfortable, the AMG’s chassis telegraphs an amazing amount of information about the road surface to the seat and wheel. There’s a strong feeling of an almost unbushed connection with the road, but this mix doesn’t seem to be especially nervous or wearing over distances.

But it was on the winding mountain roads on the US/Mexican border that the CLS 63 really revealed its talents as a scalpel-sharp tool. Firstly, it is quite ridiculously easy place the front inside wheel on the very ragged edge of the road, allowing more confidence in swift progress. The driver gets a super-accurate sense of the position of the front wheels and the amazingly rigid front end means the AMG is exceptionally keen on turn-in. It pulls itself into and around corners with a surprising degree of aggression, creating very high lateral forces very quickly, which can be hard on your passenger.

The wide open spaces also allowed a little exploration of the 63’s huge, bombastic, performance, with its matching bombastic exhaust note. The engine’s delivery still has some of the flavour of natural aspiration, with the wallop building up across the rev range.

On the Mexican border one section of the road opened out into a huge, double width, racetrack-like downhill curve. As it bit into the bend, it was clear the CLS 63 AMG is the real deal.

Should I buy one?

This is a remarkable hybrid machine. At first glance it looks like it would be most at home outside the Beverley Wiltshire Hotel. In fact, it’s more than capable of enthusiastic track use. Even if you’re not a hot lap enthusiast, any skilled driver will deeply appreciate the car’s sheer engineering integrity and million-kilometer honed performance.

Mercedes-AMG CLS 63

Top speed: 155mph (limited); 0-62mph: 4.4sec; Economy: 28.5mpg (combined); Co2: 231g/km; Kerbweight: 1870kg; Engine: V8, 5461cc, twin turbo petrol; Installation: Front longitudinal, RWD; Power: 518bhp at 5250rpm; Torque: 516 Ibft, from 1750rpm; Gearbox: AMG 7-speed multi-clutch

Join the debate

Comments
18

14 January 2011

if this review is anything to go by, we can put the audi RS6 and jag XFR out of contention for the current super saloon great, and wait for the impending M5 to see which comes out king!

14 January 2011

Lets hope that if the steering really is that good then it filters down to the rest of the AMG range, and ultimately all of the Mercedes Benz passenger cars.

14 January 2011

Curse you Autocar!

I have a current CLS63, which has been an utterly magnificent car to own. It is due for replacement in September, and I had just about justified to myself the idea that I should get something more sensisble next time, what with the recession and everything.

And then you go and write this...

14 January 2011

personally i think most MB cars lately have been rather ugly

14 January 2011

I'm confused by the word "hybrid". Presumably the reference is not in a petrol / electric sense, more to do with the fact that the car is a collaborative venture between MB and AMG? Or is it to do with the fact that this is both a luxury car and one with substantial performance? Or is it just me that's confused?

14 January 2011

[quote LP in Brighton]Or is it to do with the fact that this is both a luxury car and one with substantial performance?[/quote] Yep, that's what I meant.

14 January 2011

I drive a mecedes A180cdi during the week and a Jaguar XKR at the weekends and I have to say there are times when I think the merc's steering is better. It is very obviously an artificial sensation but the weighting and accuracy are incredible allowing you to flow down the road (even in london). Theres actually a modicum of feel too, just enough actually whereas you can feel the weight of the jag through as a slight lack of crispness from the steering feedback. My point is that going by my experiences Mercedes have been at the forefront of electric steering systems development and a review like this has probably been a long time coming.

14 January 2011

[quote LP in Brighton]I'm confused by the word "hybrid". Presumably the reference is not in a petrol / electric sense, more to do with the fact that the car is a collaborative venture between MB and AMG? Or is it to do with the fact that this is both a luxury car and one with substantial performance? Or is it just me that's confused?[/quote]

It burns rubber and gas

14 January 2011

"... underling their collective seriousness of purpose."

Love that typo!

15 January 2011

[quote jonboy4969]personally i think most MB cars lately have been rather ugly[/quote]

The side mirrors

The side mirrors

The side mirrors

When will MB learn that the doors are not for side mirrors

They seem to ruin many new models SLK CLS SL with mirrors on doors

Stop it MB Stop it NOW

Pages

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • 2016 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron UK review
    First Drive
    29 September 2016
    First UK drive finds the facelifted A3 Sportback e-tron remains a first-rate plug-in hybrid that is packed with tech if a little short on driver appeal
  • Citroen C11.2 Puretech 82 Furio
    First Drive
    29 September 2016
    Citroën's city car gets a new sporty-looking trim level, adding visual adornments, but no premium for the 1.2-litre Puretech triple we're driving
  • Mercedes C350e Sport
    First Drive
    28 September 2016
    Petrol-electric C-Class is a surprisingly well-priced alternative to a diesel but not the greatest example of the new ‘PHEV’ breed
  • Car review
    23 September 2016
    Aston kicks off its ‘second century plan’ with an all-new turbo V12 grand tourer
  • Ford Ka+ 1.2 Ti-VCT 85
    First Drive
    22 September 2016
    A rounded, refined and well-sorted bargain supermini – once you’re used to the confusing role redefinition imposed on the once-cheeky Ka