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2011 Mercedes-Benz CL63 AMG

posted by on 24 August 2011 in Passing Lane

At the risk of sounding like an amnesiac, have we told you how much we love the sound of a Mercedes-Benz V8? That booming voice that rumbles at idle, then bellows up to its 6,500-rpm redline. Unfortunately, like any addictive substance, to get that aural fix comes at a heavy cost. Try as we did to convince the local law enforcement that the urge to hear that basso profundo bark was an addiction — nay, a disease — from which we were suffering and needed help, it still resulted in a stern warning to keep our impulses in check.

This was our first real outing in the new CL63 AMG since our introduction to the redesigned-for-2011 CL lineup last fall and, to paraphrase this writer’s distant relative, the 536-horsepower, hand-built 5.5-liter twin-turbo V8 had already corrupted us absolutely with its power. The seven-speed MCT transmission’s standard paddle shifters may be just a sporty concession to the race car driver that Mercedes wants its CL buyer to feel lurks within, but we found ourselves using it just so we could wind out second gear and listen to the burbling overrun from the quad-tipped AMG mufflers when we lifted the throttle. This may have been the impetus for that talking-to from Officer Friendly.

The CL63 isn’t just a Herculean engine stuffed into a standard coupe. Twin four-piston calipers clamp onto each composite 15.4-inch front brake disc with alarming and incredibly linear force inside 20-inch wheels, while wider and lower front and rear bumpers and straked side skirts give the AMG a more aggressive-looking stance. From the heavily-bolstered driver’s seat, a 200-mph speedometer and subtle AMG badges let on that you’re not in an ordinary CL. Forged wheels, illuminated door sills, and the AMG performance package (perhaps the most useful option, as it boosts power and torque) were the only option boxes left un-ticked on our $157,985 car.

Inside, the CL is as quiet as a mausoleum with its double-paned glass and big doors that are so heavy and solid we had to double-check the window sticker to see if our Merc was an armor-plated model. Thankfully, the sound insulation merely limits outside annoyances while still allowing the driver to experience the mighty roar ahead of the firewall. We found that disabling the Active Body Control system — designed to stiffen up the suspension during aggressive riding — and setting the engine mode to “comfort” resulted in the softest ride. Add to that heated and air-conditioned massaging seats and the CL ends up being a sporty coupe that’s every bit as luxurious as the S-Class sedan on which it’s based.

Our tester also came equipped with more assists than John Stockton. There’s Night View Assist for when it gets dark, Active Lane Keeping Assist for when you get distracted, Active Blind Spot Assist for when you get lazy, and Attention Assist for when you get sleepy, and they’re bundled in two packages: the $2,200 Premium Package and the $2,950 Driver Assistance Package. Adding another $710 for the Splitview screen allows you to see the navigation screen for when you get lost, while your passenger watches a DVD, listening to it through wireless headphones after getting bored of listening to your rev-matched downshifts.

The ECO mode with stop/start is a hilariously futile attempt to make the most out of the 15 mp city/21 mpg highway fuel numbers. We only managed a paltry 16 mpg combined during our test, probably from constantly cruising in a lower gear to enhance the enjoyment of (you guessed it) the engine note, and we were annoyed that the system was part of the default engine mode every time we started the car. The parallel park assist only did half of its job, and gave us just two instructions (one hard right turn, then one left) before it read “complete” and left the end of the CL’s incredibly long hood stuck out into the street.

But none of that matters because the CL will never (and should never) make apologies for what it is: a six-figure land-yacht that harkens back to the time when every luxury manufacturer made big coupes with thundering V8s. Like Marlon Brando in The Godfather, the AMG is a big-shouldered monster in a tuxedo. Most of the kilometer staff have fond memories of an era when a Lincoln Mark VIII, a Cadillac Coupe de Ville, or even a BMW 840i could often be seen and heard rumbling by, and thus cars like the V8-engined CLs will always hold a special place in our hearts. Now, with the only competition for the CL coming from Bentley’s Continental GT while the 6-series BMW and Jaguar XK hunt for a middle ground between sports coupe and grand tourer, the CL63 AMG represents the last of the comfortably smooth, yet raucously loud, grand touring cars for four very lucky occupants.

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