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2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG – Quick Take

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author photo by Autotrader June 2011

It almost seems wrong to hear such a thrilling exhaust growl from a high-class car like a Mercedes-Benz CLS. But this split personality has always been the appeal behind the company's AMG efforts, and it's a kind of wrong that feels deliciously right. Welcome to the 2012 CLS63 AMG, the bad-boy version of the new-generation CLS sedan (or "four-door coupe" as Benz likes to call it).

In its conventional form, the CLS550, this car is a stylish and highly capable machine. After going through the AMG tuning process, a wide streak of wickedness muscles its way in.

The actual muscle comes from a 5.5-liter V8, where two turbochargers help generate 518 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque. If that generous helping still doesn't seem like enough, there's an optional performance package that boosts output to 550 hp and 590 lb-ft.

Devilish acceleration is the result. It takes a lot of restraint to not floor the throttle whenever there's a stretch of clear road ahead, revel in that exhaust note and gasp at how quickly the speedometer's needle can hit the big numbers. Zero to 60 mph is accomplished in 4.3 seconds, using the launch control function that comes with the performance package, while top speed is 186 mph.

Along the way from standstill to maximum velocity is a driver's playground. There's more than enough power to set the traction control off, while the seven-speed transmission employs shift paddles for super-quick manual gear changes, or will do the work itself with a supreme, serene efficiency.

The flat-bottomed steering wheel looks sporty with leather trim and Alcantara (a man-made suede-like fabric used in many proper racing cars) where the hands usually grip, and the re-worked adjustable suspension – air springs at the rear for comfort, coil springs at the front for extra crispness when negotiating a corner – can go from forgiving to fierce. Actually, the firmest setting can become wearing after an extended spell on rough roads; the softest setting still does a more than acceptable job of keeping body roll in check.

As an indication of just how confidence-inspiring the brakes are, it's almost as much fun to step on that pedal as it is to hit the gas. The car comes to a stable, controlled stop every time, never feeling "grabby" but always able contain the remarkable speed.

Where most luxury cars have the option of wood trim around the cabin, this one offers carbon fiber, which seems far more appropriate for a performance machine like this. Drivers may also choose the active seat bolsters. These are odd but great. Whenever a corner is taken at some speed – a right-hander, say – the side cushion on the left side inflates and hold its occupant more firmly in place.

Like the standard CLS, though, the front seats don't generally seem to have the comfort levels befitting a high-end luxury brand. But elsewhere in the cabin, the materials and interior design all work well together, with only the drivetrain's occasional bark or roar to disturb the hush.

This new generation of CLS sports a new exterior design. Where its predecessor was elegant, this one has more attitude; if CLS version 1.0 skewed to the feminine, version 2.0 is more masculine. A little extra testosterone is added by aerodynamic appendages unique to the AMG version, like the carbon fiber spoiler on the trunk lid and the deeper lip of the front fascia. Despite all the changes in look, the CLS retains that unashamedly sloping roof that gives the side glass area a crescent shape and renders the back seats less useful for adults. Sometimes style requires sacrifice.

It also requires $95,775 (including destination) to drive one away, which is $4,150 less than the outgoing model. The performance package costs $6,990. But the inventory of standard equipment still includes voice-activated navigation and a Harmon/Kardon surround-sound audio system.

There's one last trick up this car's sleeve: a stop/start function. With the transmission in comfort mode, coming to a halt at a set of lights or a traffic jam will stop the engine automatically, saving gas. Get back on the throttle and the engine fires itself up again. In conjunction with other efficiencies like direct fuel injection, the 2012 CLS63 AMG is able to achieve 15 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway. Which means there's no need to pay a gas-guzzler tax.

With the style to look right at home in front of the classiest hotel, the capability to clock in some very quick lap times, and the space to take four people plus luggage, there's really nothing else quite like the 2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG.

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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 CLS63 AMG – Quick Take - Autotrader