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Model Driven: Mercedes-Benz CL 63 AMG, 5461cc, 8-cylinder, 400 kW, 800 Nm: $423,300 (MLP)
Mercedes-Benz CL 500 BlueEFFICIENCY: 4663cc, 8-cylinder, 320 kW, 700 Nm: $337,000 (MLP)
It wouldn’t matter whether you were Prince William of Wales or the local butcher in Alice Springs, any car that produces 400 kW and 800 Nm will induce the same reaction in most blokes – the need for speed.
Of course, this isn’t just any car. The Mercedes-Benz CL 63 AMG is a fearsome bit of hardware. It might well be considered the automotive equivalent of a small-scale nuclear power station; such is its potential to cover ground whenever you decide that it’s time up the pace.
I can only imagine what it would be like to open up this AMG flagship on a clear stretch of derestricted German Autobahn - Utopia comes to mind. What I do know is that under full throttle in the CL 63 AMG, the exhaust note sounds ominously like a Leopard 2 Main Battle Tank. This is a seriously imposing vehicle, in every respect.
It’s an odd feeling really, to be sitting behind the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz in absolute opulence, while at the same time, possessing enough firepower to outrun all but the world’s fastest cars.
Owners of this German-built powerhouse can rest easy too in the knowledge that they are piloting one very ‘green’ car. Green, as in the big CL 63 AMG emits substantially less CO2 (247g/km) than the current model Holden Commodore SS V8 (288g/km), which develops just 270kW and 530Nm from its 6.0-litre powerplant.
The AMG 5.5-litre V8 biturbo mill under the bonnet of this tuned-up CL is worthy of a PhD thesis in its own right. It is truly an extraordinary piece of engineering that not only develops weapons grade levels of power and torque, but also consumes 25 percent less fuel (10.6-L/100km) than the 6.3-litre naturally aspirated V8 powerplant from the previous generation car.
Quantum-leap technology such as spray-guided direct injection, Biturbocharging with air/water intercooling, Controlled Efficiency start/stop function and an aluminium crankcase with ventilation holes to reduce friction are just a sample of the suite of advanced engineering systems that AMG has employed in the flagship coupe.
Punch the big CL 63 AMG from a standing start, and within an instant, you will feel all 800 Newton-metres at work between 2000-4500 rpm. Mercedes-Benz quote a 0-100km/h sprint time of 4.5 seconds, but it feels at least three-tenths of a second quicker than that from behind the wheel. Top speed is limited to 250km/h, but I have no doubt that with the limiter removed, this monster could break the 300km/h barrier with consummate ease.
We also drove the CL 500 BlueEFFICIENCY, which gets a V8 biturbo engine with a 4.7-litre displacement, but with 320 kW and 700 Nm. That’s a significant increase in power and torque over the previous model, and the reason why 0-100km/h will take just 4.9 seconds as opposed to 5.4 seconds.
It might be efficient car as far as managing fuel consumption goes, but unless you have reason drill the throttle to the firewall for a sustained period, the stock CL 500 feels mighty quick on the tarmac.
From a handling perspective, it isn’t as sharp as its AMG sibling when pushed hard through the bends, but at the same time, it offers a more supple ride. That said, the CL 500 is no slouch when it comes to cornering, and offers a brilliant balance between sports car performance and luxury cruising.
Naturally it’s more fuel-efficient too, up to 20 percent better (11.1-litres/100km) again than the superseded model. Amazingly though, the AMG version is more efficient still, despite the significant extra grunt it packs.
For such a large and heavy car (2135kg) the CL 63 AMG is extraordinarily agile through the twisty bits, with superbly accurate and nicely weighted steering, allowing for confident high-speed driving.
The AMG-designed front pews are superb. They offer a unique combination of sumptuous luxury and deceptively good support and side bolster. You need it too, as this thing is capable of carrying huge speed through sweeping bends, while remaining rock solid in the stability department.
That said, with the 7-speed AMG SPEEDSHIFT transmission left in the fuel-efficient 'C' mode, moving off at the lights or crawling along in peak hour is both an effortless and serene experience, due to the 'soft' accelerator response. Switch over to the 'S' calibration though once you have some clear tarmac, and the CL 63 AMG goes through a Jekyll and Hyde transition. Gear ratios are held longer and shifts are 25 percent faster than in the default 'C' mode. Braking into a corner with either 'S' or 'M' mode selected, produces that wonderful note of an automatic double-declutching downshift.
If you’re a bona fide enthusiast, things get a lot more urgent when you select 'M' for manual shift mode, and engage the paddle shifters. At full throttle, gearshifts will take just 100 milliseconds or 50 percent less than in 'C' mode. You will need to be on your game though, as in 'M' there’s no automatic upshift when the needle hits the rev limit, just a red 'up' symbol displayed as a driver alert to shift up.
As the flagship Coupe in the Mercedes-Benz stable, the CL-Class is a veritable high tech platform for all the latest electronic wizardry that you could possibly cram into a car. The Direct-steer systems, Torque Vectoring Brake and Crosswind Stabilisation are just three such systems that significantly enhance the driving experience and the coupe’s on-road performance.
Take the Torque Vectoring Brake for example, which is standard kit in this AMG car. “If the Electronic Stability Program (ESP) detects the onset of understeer, short one-sided braking intervention on the vehicle’s inside rear wheel generates a specific yawing movement around the vehicle’s vertical axis within a fraction of a second.”
For a car of these rather dimensions, controlling or eliminating understeer is incredibly reassuring, but it’s just one of many active systems employed on board the CL-Class that enhance the car’s driving dynamics.
I particularly like Mercedes-Benz's active Blind Spot Assist technology, which Volvo first introduced with their Blind Spot Information System, known as BLISS. The system offered on the CL-Class is more sophisticated and includes multi-stage warnings. Once the radar sensors detect a car in the blind spot on either side of your vehicle, a red triangle appears in the side mirror (it’s very noticeable) to warn you not to change lanes. If you ignore the warning and activate the turn signal, then an audible warning is added. If you are distracted and still intent on changing lanes, then corrective braking intervention via ESP will brake the wheels on the opposite side, which brings the car back in line or will in fact, brake the car with greater force to minimise the extent of an impending collision, if all previous warnings are ignored.
Ride quality in the CL 63 AMG is remarkably good, with a level of compliance and steadfast stability that is unrivaled in this class. It didn’t seem to matter how bad the road surface was (and it wasn’t good in some parts of regional Victoria) the big coupe offered nothing less than a comfortable, if not, luxurious ride while attacking bends like a well sorted hot-hatch.
It’s a combination of the AMG sports suspension and Active Body Control that accounts for the almost total absence of body roll through corners. Traveling at speeds between 65 and 100km/h, the ABC lowers the body by 15 millimetres for reduced wind resistance.
Design wise, the latest edition of the CL-Class is more aggressive in the front end than the previous version. There's more presence in the grille and bonnet area and the new taillight design is a prettier look in my opinion, while the quad pipe exhaust tips are now rectangular, rather than circular.
One of the best views of this AMG juggernaut is from side-on, where you get a good look at the huge double-floating brake calipers up front, which provide bullet-proof stopping power and complete and utter resistance to brake fade under prolonged and heavy load.
Mercedes-Benz does some very nice interiors and the CL-Class gets some extra special treatment, especially if it happens to be the AMG version of the model.
Inside, it feels exclusive, like a 5-star plus boutique Euro hotel that only the A-List knows about. Gone is the lacquered wood trim from the CL 500, which is replaced by a combination of proper carbon-fibre and metal switchgear. It’s a perfect match for the high-performance pedigree of this car.
Instrumentation is clean and simplistic in its presentation in the CL-Class, although there are a tonne of information and infotainment systems to access via the COMAND control unit.
If you’re into your watches then you’ll probably do a back flip when you notice the featured 'IWC – Schaffhausen' clock face on the dash. The last time I looked at one of these Swiss timepieces on eBay, they were well over ten thousand dollars and quite the sought after item.
With only a few hours behind the wheel of the CL-Class cars, there was never going to be enough time for a proper evaluation of the Harman Kardon surround sound system with Discrete Logic7, but on past performance of this brand, you can bet that the audio quality is top shelf.
There’s also plenty of room in the rear seats for passengers with easy access via a large chrome lever on the top of the front seats.
While it might be portrayed as beautiful luxury sports coupe in the sales brochures, take it from me; the CL 63 AMG is without doubt, one of the world’s most accomplished grand tourers.