Test Drive: 2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS 63 AMG Sedan

“One Bad-to-the-Bone Benz?

The 2012 CLS 63 AMG sedan represents a continuation of the CLS 55 AMG and CLS 63 AMG before it – models that have turned fantasies into reality on a global basis since 2004.

This latest iteration is a very unique and highly desirable high-performance sedan that establishes benchmark standards in design appeal, performance capability and operational efficiency. As in the case of the S 63 AMG and CL 63 AMG, the CLS 63 AMG benefits from a powerful V8, which is internally designated as the M 157. It is a 5.5-liter, DOHC, 32-valve V8 biturbo engine with 18.8 lbs. of boost that provides a blend of innovative high-tech componentry, spray-guided direct fuel injection with piezo injectors, a full aluminum crankcase, four-valve technology with camshaft adjustment, air/water intercooling, generator management and an ECO stop/start system, similar to what one would experience in a hybrid vehicle. Its predecessor drew its motive force from a 6.3-liter naturally aspirated V8. The new, smaller displacement engine is some 4.6-liters, or 32 percent more efficient.

The engine when equipped with the optional AMG Performance Package, makes 550 horsepower at 5,500 rpm while also cranking out 590 pound feet of torque in a range between 2,000 ? 4,500 rpm. Output figures for base CLS 63 AMG models are somewhat less ? 518 horsepower and 516 pound feet of torque – still pretty darned healthy. Power from the longitudinally, front mounted engine drives the rear wheels through AMG?s SPEEDSHIFT PLUS seven-speed automatic transmission with AMG Multi-Clutch and Touch Shift manual shift controls and steering wheel mounted shift paddles. Operational modes for the transmission include: ?C? for Controlled efficiency; Sport; Sport Plus; and ?M?.

The AMG Performance Package adds features and equipment to the base model consisting of: Red finished brake calipers; AMG Performance steering wheel; the horsepower and torque increase; elevated top speed capability (from 155 mph to 186 mph); Sport suspension; Carbon fiber engine cover; and Carbon fiber decklid spoiler.

AMG, by the way stands for Hans-Werner Aufrecht (A) and his partner Erhard Melcher (M), who founded AMG in 1967, and Aufrecht?s birthplace of Grossaspach (G).? Both had been employees of Mercedes-Benz and officially described themselves as ?engineering, design and testing specialists in the development of racing engines.?? The fledgling firm initially based itself in an old mill in Burgstall (near Affalterbach), and from its beginnings as an independent?racing and tuning firm of Mercedes cars. Mercedes-AMG then grew into a supplier of exclusive high-performance cars, and has since become an integral part of the Mercedes-Benz organization. Mercedes-AMG is now synonymous with factory-developed high-performance vehicles.

The design form of the CLS 63 AMG draws heavily from that of the SLS AMG, particularly up front, beginning with the grille styling. The CLS 63 AMG is distinguishable from other CLS variants by its distinctive hood, wider mudguards with the ?V8 BITURBO? logo and specific AMG front apron and black-painted cross member. In the rear, the diffuser insert, AMG spoiler lip on the decklid, AMG sports exhaust system with dual twin, rectangular chrome tailpipes and AMG intergrated rear foglamp. The overall proportions are long and elegant, with a lateral, descending character line and athletic sports car-like shoulder line at the rear axle.

The interior is no less elegant in its layout and visual appeal, featuring a wrap-around cockpit effect and high quality trim accents and elements. The sport seats are highly supportive, if not a tad on the firm side of the equation.

My ?Bad to the Bone Benz? headline reference was intended in a ?good? way. The 2012 CLS 63 AMG is not only stunning in its appearance inside and out, it is a seriously incredible performer. Generally speaking, it is normally possible to note flaws of one sort or another when testing and reviewing a vehicle. In the case of the CLS 63 AMG, I could find nothing that rated as a negative issue. Okay, there were some colleagues that nit-picked points such as non-sliding visors, and forward cupholders that didn?t firmly grip water bottles during spirited maneuvers. Hey, this car is about driving ? particularly spirited driving at that, with no time to sip beverages, and there is always the option of wearing sunglasses. ?Nuff said.

My driving partner and I chose a fully equipped vehicle to put through its paces during the international press launch held in San Diego, CA. Official pricing has yet to be finalized, but the base price is anticipated to be roughly $100,000. Our tester CLS 63 AMG was also outfitted with $12,000 ceramic brakes, the $12,000 custom Alubeam Titanium metallic exterior paint finish, the $8,500 AMG Performance Package, a $5,000 carbon fiber trim package (inside and out), and an $875 Destination and Handling charge, which all served to elevate the final estimated cost to $126,387 prior to the application of any taxes or license fees.

SUMMARY: The 2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS 63 AMG is as enjoyable to drive, as it is to behold. It displays phenomenal performance capabilities in combination with awesome handling characteristics. Steering is spot on with delightful feedback and road-holding stability that borders on slot car efficiency and preciseness. The ride quality is necessarily firm to allow for such solid structural rigidity and maneuverability during high speed runs over challenging, twisty mountain roads.

The V8 engine rumble is present even at idle, where the engine doesn?t shut off unless in the ?C? operational mode. Nail the throttle and the exhaust produces a near ?orgasmic? note that smacks of authority and superiority over lesser vehicles. Acceleration is instantaneous with virtually no turbo lag whatsoever.? Cruise along at 80 mph or better, hammer the accelerator pedal to the floorboard and be prepared to be pressed to the seat back. Check the speedometer reading and note that you?ve reached nearly 125 mph in merely a nano-second.

The CLS 63 AMG may be reined in just as effectively and rapidly as it is may be launched off the line. In addition to all of the car?s performance oriented attributes, it features a host of both active and passive safety equipment and systems to enhance the driver?s control ? not enough to overcome the laws of physics, mind you, but more than enough to assist in keeping one on the straight and narrow, or for that matter on the curvy and twisty, without mishap. The AMG Ride Control sports suspension with its electrically controlled damping system, new front axle and newly developed electromechanical AMG sports parameter steering work together in concert to enhance vehicle safety and control.

The 2012 CLS 63 AMG is truly a stylish and athletic sport sedan, and it is certainly more than worthy of displaying the AMG badging. It?s not at all inexpensive, but the feature and equipment content more than justify the expenditure. AMG engines are still built on the ?one man, one engine? hand-built philosophy, signified by the characteristic and traditional, signed-by-the-builder, AMG engine plate.

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