I recently had the chance to drive a 2008 Mercedes-Benz CLK63 AMG Black Series, which is a car I’ve wanted to drive pretty much since it came out a decade ago. I remember seeing a few of them on the road back then, when I lived in Atlanta, and I remember gawking at them as if they were a Ferrari Enzo or a Carrera GT. And I remember people thinking I was crazy. See the 2008 Mercedes-AMG CLK 63 models for sale near you
I say this because the CLK63 AMG Black Series goes an entirely different direction in terms of styling than virtually every other modern, rare, exotic, high-performance car. While all the other models are getting visually crazier, and more exciting, and more attention-grabbing, the CLK63 AMG Black Series was subtle. It took the base of the standard CLK — which was a beautiful car in its own right — and it added touring race-car-style flared fenders, which really was the perfect look. So when I freaked out upon seeing one of these things, I knew what I was looking at, and everyone else thought it was just some regular Mercedes.
But the CLK63 AMG Black Series is no regular Mercedes. In addition to the subtle design upgrades, the Black Series also had an upgrade under the hood: There was no CLK63 AMG Coupe, but the standard CLK63 AMG Cabriolet used a 6.2-liter V8 with 475 horsepower; the Black Series bumped that up to 500 horses. That’s a huge number coming from a car the size of the CLK; the result was a 186-mph top speed and zero to 60 in something like 4.1 seconds. It was the king of the CLK lineup.
Well, sort of. The CLK lineup also included the raucous CLK DTM (582 hp) and the insane CLK GTR (720 horsepower), but there are fewer than 200 DTMs and fewer than 50 GTRs, and neither one was ever sold in the United States. The Black Series was the ultimate version of the "normal" CLK, but its production numbers were pretty limited, too: Mercedes supposedly sold fewer than 350 of these in the United States and less than 700 in the world.
So the stage is set: This thing is gorgeous, it’s cool and it’s ultra-rare. I was tremendously excited to get behind the wheel. Normally, when I’m really excited about a car, it doesn’t live up to my expectations, because how can it? I drive everything, and childhood fantasies rarely equal excellent driving experiences; usually, it’s the cars where I have low expectations that surprise me and turn out to be the most thrilling ones to drive.
This time was different.
The CLK63 AMG Black Series is, on every level, an absolute hoot. You turn it on and you’re greeted by an excellent exhaust note, maybe not quite as good as modern AMG cars, but still raucous and throaty. You turn the oddly square steering wheel and you’re thrilled to discover oddly heavy steering, like an old-school sports car, not overassisted crap like the modern stuff. And then the real fun begins.
Here’s something I was surprised to discover: Unlike virtually every other AMG car, it appears the CLK63 Black Series wasn’t tuned by someone who wanted to create a serious car with a serious driving experience. Instead, it seems the Black Series is designed to put a smile on your face and keep it there, with a rear end that feels like it’s going to kick out at any time, and massively quick acceleration from any speed, thanks to that torquey, naturally-aspirated 6.2-liter V8. At one point, making a turn at just 40 miles per hour with just a little too much throttle, the rear end got loose and I got some oversteer — and I burst out laughing.
To be clear, I’m not calling the car dangerous, as it can be easily moderated if you’re careful. But more than any other car I’ve ever driven, with the CLK63 AMG Black Series I wanted to rent a runway and spend the afternoon doing burnouts, and donuts, and drifting around, laughing and giggling the whole time, because it seems that’s what this car was meant for. That and flooring the throttle and feeling the acceleration catapult you forward and hearing the AMG V8 exhaust note as it happens.
Indeed, the CLK63 Black Series is the opposite of most exotic cars I’ve driven: The styling is subdued, but the driving experience is wild. Usually, especially in newer exotics, the driving experience is becoming more and more controlled to prevent major accidents caused by low-talent drivers who buy these cars as status symbols. But the CLK63 AMG Black Series feels like precisely the tool to cause one of those accidents, even though it doesn’t look it. It’s a car you have to monitor, carefully, to make sure it doesn’t do anything stupid.
You also have to monitor yourself carefully when you’re driving the Black Series to make sure you don’t do anything stupid, because the car is constantly goading you into being reckless and crazy; it wants you to have more and more fun with each passing stab at the throttle. It did indeed live up to the dreams I had when I saw it as a kid — and, in fact, it exceeded them. I want one of these now, more than virtually any other car I’ve reviewed in recent memory. Find a 2008 Mercedes-AMG CLK 63 for sale
Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.