At a quarter of a million dollars, does the CLS 63 AMG S make much sense?
When it comes to making a grand statement, nothing quite does the job like a big, bad, Mercedes-Benz AMG.
For decades the ultimate sign of a man that wanted performance and luxury was the S-Class AMG line, but the CLS 63 AMG S (regular AMG not sold in Australia) has brought with it a license to drive yourself, something that just doesn’t make all that much sense in an S-Class.
The Mercedes-Benz CLS has been around for more than a decade, but it's only in its latest iteration, just released in Australia, that the German company has finally hit the sweet spot between design, luxury and performance.
From the outside the 2015 CLS 63 AMG S is a monster in monster’s clothing. It looks mean, it sounds mean and there should be no doubt in any passerby’s mind that it’s expensive.
The car itself costs $206,512, you then need to add in $44,369 for luxury car tax and around $10,000 for stamp duty (depending on your residing state) and a little bit for dealer delivery and the drive away price is about $265,000.
It’s certainly not going to do well in a means test, but consider the package both in terms of luxury and performance and the large sums of luxury car tax you pay to Mr Abbott and the CLS 63 AMG S is an expensive yet opulent choice for those lucky enough to be able to afford one.
Underneath the bonnet sits an all-too-familiar 5.5-litre Biturbo V8 that in this performance guise delivers a whopping 430kW of power and 800Nm of torque. Combined with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission driving the real wheels, it’s enough grunt to push you from 0-100km/h in 4.1 seconds. In other markets where an all-wheel drive version is available, that figure drops to an even more impressive 3.6 seconds.
But all that is meaningless if the CLS 63 AMG S is not loved on a daily basis, thankfully then, its monster-like characteristics do not affect its clam and collected demeanour.
There are a few drive modes to pick from, but the only two worth noting are comfort and sport+. Comfort is for when someone other than you is driving or when you’re leaving your street and the jealous neighbours don’t appreciate the mighty roar of a German built V8. The other mode is Sport+ and that’s for everything else.
Apart from the already mentioned examples, there’s never a time when Sport+ isn’t the right mode. It makes the engine come alive, the updated transmission behave in a manner that is rapid in shifts yet without the slightest jerk regardless of speed.
Best of all, you can leave the suspension setting in comfort and the drivetrain in sport+ and then you truly do have the best of both worlds. It’s only when – and likely if – you are on a racetrack that the suspension needs to be altered.
This is perhaps the strongest reason why the CLS 63 AMG S makes sense. It’s a truly nice place to be on a daily basis but comes equipped with a split personality disorder for all the right reasons.
During our test over the holiday period, there was also a BMW M4 and ML 63 AMG in the garage yet there was no doubt that the CLS was the pick of the three, considering it was as comfortable as the SUV but with the performance credentials of a German rocket.
That’s not to say it’s super nimble. Measuring 4937mm in length and weighing a hefty 1885kg, the CLS 63 AMG is incredibly fast but feels its weight when it comes to a shift in momentum.
Around the twisty stuff it’ll double or triple the recommended speed sign (not that we tried it…) but it’s very likely to struggle when up against even the old C 63 AMG 507 edition, let alone the soon to arrive 2015 Mercedes-Benz C 63 AMG with its twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 in anything other than a straight line.
But its brutish nature means it doesn't mind letting the back end get a bit loose. Mercedes lets you turn traction control off, but ultimately the computers will come to the rescue when things go really bad, although considering how controlled the CLS 63 AMG S is, that would require some 'special' effort.
Then again, this is Australia and cars like this make absolutely no sense if your license holds any value, whereby the logical thinker would just buy a CLS 400 and be done with it – which is why it’s so exhilarating to jump inside the AMG every morning. Just knowing that underneath that bonnet lays the means to get in to a whole lot of trouble, very, very quickly. It's for the child in all of us. Alas, when you’re undoubtedly stuck in mind-numbing traffic, you can appreciate the beauty of the CLS’s interior.
This is a proper four-seater after all, so you can indeed fit four large adults inside without the slightest issue. It’s not all that kid-friendly, though the ISOFIX points were easy to use and our three-year old certainly didn’t seem to mind it.
Having opted for the iPad-like free standing 8.3 inch infotainment screen, this Mercedes-Benz CLS looks far more modern than its predecessor and although the COMAND system is also vastly improved, this version doesn’t match the new C-Class for ease of usability and something as simple as going from radio to Bluetooth streaming as the audio source can be cumbersome, though you do get accustomed to it.
There’s also the commonality of parts with plenty of other Mercedes-Benz cars priced significantly below the CLS 63 AMG S. The air con controls and the usual buttons all feel a little outdated and even they are no match for the clean and sophisticated cabin of the C-Class.
In saying that, it’s all but forgiven when you’ve got an IWC watch (movement) to admire.
There are too many features to list with the CLS 63 AMG, just the list of active safety features would double the length of this review, but the one definitely worth mentioning is the multibeam LED headlamps that light up the road well beyond what we would deem excellent.
They also have unique features like being able to turn the headlights in the direction of travel based on the satellite navigation information, so if the CLS knows you’re turning left up ahead, it will turn the lights to point left as you come close to the roundabout.
All that class-leading technology aside, my biggest gripe with the CLS was something simple: the amount of rollback it managed going from reverse to drive on an incline. It can be unnerving and it’s an odd thing even for a dual-clutch transmission to take such a long time to switch driving direction.
These are all minor things for the most part and an attempt on this writer’s behalf to find something he genuinely doesn’t like about the car in fear of sounding too positive, because when it comes down to it, the CLS 63 AMG S is a true original, it imitates no one but intimidates nearly all.
It’s the ideal performance car for the man or woman that leaves nothing to chance, the ultimate expression of contemporary car design at its best mixed in with the best performance wizardry from the crazy folks in Affalterbach.