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2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG First Drive

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author photo by Autotrader February 2011

When the arc-shaped Mercedes-Benz CLS debuted in 2005, the “four-door coupé” was a novel design concept; Volkswagen’s style-savvy CC was years away, as were pricier options like the Aston Martin Rapide and Porsche Panamera. It’s easy to see how the trail-blazing CLS was a nichey experiment for the German automaker in the mid-2000s, one that could have culminated in a genetic dead-end.

63,160 units later (as of December, 2010), the surprise hit first-gen Mercedes-Benz CLS gets the makeover it so richly deserves. But how do you improve upon a design so pure, it could have been sculpted using a handful of French curves and flush surfaces? To re-invent the new 2012 CLS63 AMG–the pumped-up, hot-rodded version of the stylish sedan–Mercedes has re-drawn the car’s restrained lines with a more expansive, lavish pen. The CLS’s nose now comes to a point, meaner headlights are loaded with 71 LEDs, and haunches flare over the rear wheels, melding into a sensuous tail section.

The CLS’s raised beltline hides a cockpit trimmed with piano black details and burl walnut wood, but AMG enthusiasts will be more drawn to the ferocious V8 hiding under that long hood. The hand-built powerplant shrinks to 5,461cc from its predecessor’s 6,208cc displacement, and this direct-injected engine adds twin turbochargers to produce 518 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque, directed through a seven-speed Speedshift transmission. Tick the “Performance Package” box, and your CLS gets an output bump to 550 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque, good for 60 mph in a mere 4.3 seconds, a tenth quicker than the standard CLS63. The enhancement is accompanied by a carbon fiber engine cover, sport suspension, a carbon spoiler, red brake calipers, a meatier Alcantara-lined steering wheel, and a top speed bump from 155 mph to 186 mph.

The aggressiveness of the throttle response, the 7-speed transmission’s shift patterns, and the air suspension’s stiffness can be adjusted via a dial near the shifter that selects one of four modes: “C” (comfort), “S” (sport), “S+,” and “M” (manual.) A nearby “AMG” button cranks everything to a metaphoric “11,” offering a shortcut to the most hardcore driving characteristics.

Impressively, the new CLS63 AMG’s powerplant produces more horsepower and torque than the model it replaces, while also squeezing out a 32% gain in fuel economy, for estimated EPA figures of 16 mpg city, 21 mpg highway. While the new mill’s smaller displacement is mostly responsible for the gains, its efficiency is also aided by stop/start technology, which shuts off the engine when the car is stationary and automatically restarts it when the brake pedal is released. Despite its blistering performance, the CLS63 manages to avoid the federal government’s $3,000 gas guzzler tax.

With an estimated price of $100,000, the 2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG is one of the pricier so-called four-door coupes on the market. But as a cutting edge exercise in performance and efficiency, it’s also one of the most advanced, making it a rare example of a car that combines striking design with forward-thinking technology.

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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 First Drive - Autotrader