2012 Mercedes CLS63 AMG: There’s No Hiding

by Peter Dushenski

More pronounced in every way from its slippery predecessor, the new CLS is simply bold to behold. You might even say that it’s the essence of the current Mercedes design language. With a pure and unmistakable curbside presence, it manages to be aspirational without being insecure. Even ignoring the tapered silhouette, the lighting alone, as in so many German cars today, tells much of the design story. The refined lighting and creasy bodywork make the CLS, particularly in buff AMG trim, look like a Mercedes from 2035.

Thanks to an old friend in Vancouver, I had the opportunity to spend 20 minutes behind the wheel of the fastest (4.4 seconds to 60) and most expensive (~CDN$115,000) car I’ve yet piloted. I was only hoping for a passenger ride, but by the time I showed up to his weekend abode at the Four Seasons in Whistler, he’d had a few and was feeling generous. Hell to the yes.

He tossed me the key fob, I nestled into the driver’s throne, adjusted my seat is sixty bajillion ways, and fired up the new Bi-Turbo 5.5L. I twisted a dial by my right hand towards “S” for Sport, thinking this a fine compromise between “C” and “S+”, fumbled with the Atari-inspired gear lever, and gingerly backed out of the dimly-lit parkade stall.

Out on the road amongst the cars of yesterday, the steering was effortless and agile, hiding the 4,100 lbs frame like an alcantara-covered fist. Finding the first open gap, I crushed the gas with my Jack Purcell. Grwoosh-wap-grwoosh! Aaaaand I was going too fast. The 14.2” front and rear rotors anchored me easily and with no apparent effort.

I found a modest right-hander and pin it again, knowing that my opportunities would be limited. The left seat bolster inflated against my side, doing more to distract me than keep my torso rigid. The CLS was utterly unflustered by my piddling attempts. I tried a few more times to elicit an emotional response from AMG sedan but to no avail. Defeated, I relaxed and enjoyed my old pal’s company. We hadn’t seen each other for 3 years so waging further war against his company car didn’t seem polite. Settled, the CLS came into its own.

What I took away was this: the new AMG V8, having eschewed natural aspiration at the Alter Of Emissions, is cheery but not charming. The engine can’t hide its turbo roots, not with the hesitant 7-Speed MCT at least. (A bias disclaimer: turbos and I rarely get along). The size of the engine and its builder’s signature thereon ensure an epic athlete under the hood, but it’s the rapacious winding of the dashboard dials northward that impresses, not the sensation thereof. Bearing the tri-star logo means luxury first and foremost, and the CLS63 AMG isn’t about to spoil 100+ years of heritage.

The CLS63 is still the signature Mercedes to my eye, but after driving it, albeit briefly, I was left with a slightly tarnished image of the design icon. This four-door coupe is best enjoyed from the outside. Lucky for us.

[Photo credit: next to the subject of an upcoming review, author]

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