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2012 Mercedes-Benz CL63 AMG: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Basem Wasef June 2012

Pros: Comfy enough for a cross-country drive, yet quick enough to race; unassuming body cloaks stealthy speed; luxury and performance blend seamlessly

Cons: Elevated MSRP; even pricier with $7,300 Performance Pack option; hefty curb weight hampers athleticism on twisty roads; back seat is difficult to access

Mercedes-Benz's AMG division is responsible for a broad spectrum of sporty luxury cars and SUVs, including attention getters like the gullwinged SLS, the imposing S63 sedan and the open-air SL63. But one of the more outwardly subtle offerings in AMG's 15-car lineup is the CL63, a premium coupe capable of battling some seriously focused sports cars.

Quicker to 60 mph than a base Porsche 911, yet plush enough to compete with Mercedes-Benz's living room-like S-Class sedan in all-day driving comfort, the CL63 is a rare bird in the coupe segment: a large-footprint vehicle that exceeds performance expectations while outwardly projecting a mild persona.

With a starting price of $151,500, the CL63 is positioned between its non-AMG counterpart, the CL550 ($114,100), and the uber-powerful CL65 AMG ($211,000).

Comfort & Utility

An ultra-luxurious four-seat coupe, the Mercedes-Benz CL63 AMG is high on comfort but low on utility. Although it boasts a long wheelbase and a spacious front seating area, this German hot rod is more of a high-speed autobahn stormer than a practical people hauler.

There's no B-pillar (the supporting beam usually found just aft of the front doors), and lowering all four windows creates a pleasant open space that promotes a feeling of airiness. But those back seats aren't easy to occupy; the front seats tilt and move forward, but it takes a bit of contortion to get past them and into the rear of the cabin. Even with the front seat maximally scooched forward and the windows open, it's still tricky to maneuver a car seat back there.

Counteracting this big coupe's downsides are some remarkable accommodations. Front-seat occupants can be treated to an optional massage feature with four settings (ranging from Slow and Gentle to Fast and Vigorous), and the seats can be cooled or heated-and if you're feeling conflicted, you can select both at the same time. Though the AMG sport seats are biased toward support, they're also comfortable enough for marathon driving sessions.

Most vehicle settings can be managed through the CL63's eight-inch LCD screen, but an analog IWC timepiece positioned between the two central air conditioning vents adds an old world touch to an otherwise sleek interior.

Technology

The Mercedes-Benz CL63 AMG comes equipped with a lengthy list of standard amenities, but several optional items bolster its technological offerings.

Priced at $710 is a Splitview feature that allows the eight-inch LCD screen to display DVD video to the passenger while the driver sees the screen's other functions including GPS. Included with the system are wireless headphones and a remote.

The Premium 2 package adds $2,200 to the MSRP. It includes a rear-view camera and a night view system that transforms the digital speedometer into an infrared screen that helps spot people, animals and heat-emitting objects in dim lighting situations. For $2,950, the Driver Assistance Package includes the Distronic Plus adaptive cruise control system, active blind spot assist and active lane keeping assist, which maintains the vehicle's intended path by selectively applying the brakes to steer the car.

Performance & Fuel Economy

The CL63 AMG offers performance that puts many dedicated sports cars to shame, thanks to its twin-turbocharged 5.5-liter V8. In its standard form, the mill produces 536 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque; a $7,300 AMG performance package boosts those figures to 563 hp and 664 lb-ft. Top speed is also raised from 155 mph to 186 mph.

The CL63 is capable of reaching 60 mph in 4.4 seconds, aided by a seven-speed transmission; with the performance package, it drops to 4.3 seconds. In its sport setting, the multi-clutch gearbox is capable of 100-millisecond shifts.

Dual-circuit ABS-equipped brakes help bring the CL63 to a stop with massive 15.4-inch front and 14.4-inch rear rotors. Handling is enhanced by the Mercedes Active Body Control suspension system that automatically adjusts each shock individually to adjust ride height, counteract crosswinds and keep the car flat during cornering.

The Mercedes-Benz CL63 AMG is EPA rated at 16 mpg city and 22 mpg highway, aided by an auto stop/start system that can be disabled. Despite its outstanding performance and a 4,599-pound curb weight, the CL63 dodges gas guzzler tax.

Safety

Mercedes-Benz's CL63 AMG comes equipped with a generous array of standard safety items and a few unique features. Structurally, the steel-reinforced cabin utilizes generous front and rear crumple zones, while adaptive dual stage front airbags incorporate a knee unit for the driver, assisted by front and rear side airbags. Active Neck-Pro head restraints reduce the risk of whiplash injury, while seatbelts incorporate pre-tensioners and force limiters.

Electronic aids include a two-stage stability control system, Pre-Safe (a predictive occupant protection system), a rollover sensor, and Mercedes-Benz's mbrace system, which provides automatic collision notification to emergency services in the case of an accident.

Other safety features include Attention Assist, which detects drowsiness by tracking eye movements and driving patterns reflecting fatigue, adaptive high-beams, and the aforementioned optional night vision system.

Driving Impressions

The CL63's driver door is a weighty slab that seals shut with hydraulic assistance, but when the twin-turbocharged V8 comes to life and the stalk-mounted shifter is tapped down for Drive, this big coupe scoots forward with disarming ease. Credit the smooth-shifting seven-speed transmission and the engine's massive torque, which begins its lengthy plateau at a mere 2,000 rpm and carries all the way to 4,500 rpm.

There's a vague but deep exhaust hum evident in the otherwise quiet cabin, and the front thrones are both grippy and comfortable, especially when the massage function is switched on. A Dynamic setting purports to aid canyon-carving drives with active bolsters that keep you snug in your seat.

Heavy throttle off the line tends to trigger traction control easily, but the system only intervenes for milliseconds, allowing the engine to pull ahead with minimal interruption. And while low-speed acceleration is suitably quick, the CL63 hits its stride at higher speeds; bury the throttle at 40 mph, for instance, and the coupe lurches forward with incredible force. The transmission tends to cooperate most in automatic mode, offering quick and almost imperceptible gear changes. When set to Manual, the aluminum steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters instigate cog swaps with a slight delay, making Sport the best choice for performance-minded driving.

Thanks to the CL63's adaptive suspension system, handling tends to feel flat and stable, especially when the dashboard-mounted button is set to Sport. In fact, mechanical tire grip is the biggest limiting factor, as the ABC system eliminates all but the last few percentage points of body roll.

Diehard performance enthusiasts might not feel the chemistry with the CL63's heavy curb weight and large footprint, but for captain-of-industry types seeking a fleet, comfortable 2+2, this AMG should be high on their short list of supercoupes.

Other Cars to Consider

Aston Martin V12 Vantage - This finely finished British hot rod is an even rarer proposition than the CL63 AMG and, at $180,535, more dearly priced. But considering a well-equipped CL63 can easily reach that sum, the Aston Martin puts itself on equal economic footing while offering more sumptuous interior details. The Vantage beats the Benz to 60 mph with an under-4.2-second sprint, but the Mercedes boasts more vaultlike solidity and engineering prowess.

Bentley Continental GT - Bentley has sold quite a few Continental GTs over the years, and this latest V12-powered version now has a twin-turbocharged V8 option that offers a still-quick 0-to-60-mph time of 4.6 seconds while improving fuel economy by 40 percent. More richly appointed than the Benz and offering similarly techy features thanks to corporate parent Volkswagen, this 500-hp sled's only shortcomings are its heavier curb weight and more ostentatious image.

Maserati GranTurismo Sport - This Italian coupe is an outlier in the segment, offering more of a niche alternative with its curvaceous styling and growling 460-hp V8. The Granturismo is a more sensual, lifestyle-oriented coupe, but it lags in performance and innovation. No MSRP has been announced yet, but expect the GranTurismo Sport's price to undercut the CL63's.

AutoTrader Recommends

We'd load up our CL63 AMG with both the Premium 2 tech package and the AMG performance package. Since we're spending north of $150,000 anyway, why not?

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2012 Mercedes-Benz CL63 AMG: New Car Review - Autotrader