During the past decade, our favourite Mercedes-AMG model to drive has been, by far, the CLK 63 Black Series, and that was a limited-run, hardcore special. It’s to the CLS’s eternal credit, then, that the CLS 63 runs it close for driver engagement while retaining the rest of the traditional Mercedes-Benz and AMG package.
Granted, the CLS 63’s ride is a tad fidgety over broken asphalt at low speeds, notably so compared with, say, a Jaguar XFR. But you can forgive it because of the way body movements are controlled at high speeds (the dampers are three-stage adjustable, but you won’t need to go near the stiffer two settings on the road).
That fidget gives the car a slightly different, slightly more focused demeanour than the last generation E 63 AMG, but the CLS is more or less happy doing the things at which the E 63 excels, too: being a straight-line, 300-miles-in-three-hours autobahn specialist.
What sets the CLS apart is a much greater sense of agility. At 1910kg, the CLS 63 is no lightweight, with the Shooting Brake weighing in at 45kg more than the coupé. Yet AMG has tuned the electrically assisted steering to make it feel like it has fewer kilos to its mass. It’s a relatively light rack, with 2.5 turns lock to lock and instant response that gives it a sharp turn-in. It’s a neat trick but not without a couple of downsides: it’s easy to over-correct the onset of a slide and there’s precious little feel.
It’s not as direct and flighty as that of the SLS AMG supercar, but it makes this near-two-tonne saloon feel a lot like a sports car rather than, like some AMG saloons, a straightforward, old-fashioned hotrod.
All of which would be pointless were the CLS’s chassis not as capable as it turns out to be. There’s excellent chassis control at higher speeds, well judged ESP settings and enough grip and capability to make it a rapid point-to-point machine; an involving and engaging one, too.