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Car reviews - Mercedes-Benz - CLS-class - CLS63 AMG 4-dr coupe

Our Opinion

We like
6.2-litre AMG 63 V8 is a blast
Room for improvement
But it doesn’t quite turn the CLS into a BMW M5

24 Oct 2006

IF you’ve ever read The Hobbit, your might recall Beorn, a mysterious and sometimes ruthless bear-like creature who, after befriending and accommodating the journeying Bilbo Baggins and his gay band of Hobbits, secretly shadows them through a fearful forest, to safety.

That’s what it is like travelling in the new Mercedes-Benz CLS 63 AMG – a little formidable at first but actually quite friendly, which turns out to be an awesome ally against the tyranny of distance when you need to get there soundly.

Drinking in the CLS AMG’s appearance, you could also say that there’s more than a bit of Elton John-like showmanship in its outrageously camp styling.

By the way, only those pint-sized Hobbits are likely to be happiest couped up in the Benz’s cosy back seat, behind a serious set of sports seats, redesigned steering wheel and bespoke AMG instrumentation that really set a sportier ambience for the driver.

And adding even more flamboyance to this BMW M5-rivalling CLS are incredibly fat rear wheels, a redesigned front spoiler and a dubious set of ‘6.3’ AMG badges.

Yet it is the engine behind the (inaccurate – it should read ‘6.2’) badge that is the real showstopper here, for its performance is quite simply a grand spectacle.

The hand-built is an unbelievably well mannered machine, whisking you about town with a muffled mechanical mumble that you might imagine a Jetson’s style personal hovercraft may make.

All it takes is a flex of a foot muscle, though, and the powerplant instantly becomes exponentially measured in its mammoth response capability, scooping up speed with an effortless forcefulness that recalls the graceful upswings of a row of Texan Nodding Donkeys.

In other words, the CLS feels like it is capable of Galaxy Class Warp Speed, and gets you from point A to Cell Block H more quickly than you can say ‘seven-speed 7G-Tronic automatic sequential transmission’.

Which much credit must go to, since this multi-faceted gearbox transmits the towering 630Nm of torque to the rear wheels with the expertise of a conductor controlling a state orchestra: every gear ratio is delivered effortlessly, imperceptibly, and with superb synchronicity.

But, much like most long straight roads, our dishing out of superlatives for the CLS 63 AMG runs out when there is a bend that must be negotiated.

Have no doubt that this Mercedes-Benz is amazingly adept in its handling and roadholding capabilities that the geniuses behind the ESP stability and traction control nannies have mastered the nuance of virtually imperceptible intervention.

But the CLS’ steering does not feel M5-alive when hustling around a corner. It doesn’t goad you to go and find squiggly roads in the way that a sports car – or BMW – would.

Instead, you get the feeling this monstrous Mercedes is happiest slinging you across the landscape like an automotive bullet train.

You are never in any doubt that this is a large luxury sedan and not something smaller and lighter – throwing the M5 around, it is possible to forget that it is the size of a big family car.

Excellent brakes, and an outstanding ride quality for rubber this wide, sampled over admittedly good Victorian country roads, are other CLS AMG 63 achievements.

So the old AMG’s raw sledgehammer performance is gone, replaced by an incredibly powerful V8 that has what it takes to keep up with the likes of an M5 in a straight line without overwhelming the fine chassis underneath.

A gentle giant of a grizzly bear then, but one still with that killer instinct inside, it is the V8 engine in the AMG 63 that you will most love about the fastest CLS.

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