2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS Class Photo

2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS Class - Review


2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG first drive

Claimed acceleration of 4.3 seconds to 60 mph (or 4.4 without the performance pack) is entirely believable, and probably a bit conservative under the right circumstances. Limiting top speed to 155 mph is a good idea once you start working out the kinetic energy of a 4,200-pound sedan at speed.

Power is what makes such feats possible, of course, and the 525 stock or 557 upgraded galloping equines motivating the CLS63 are certainly up to the job.

Dancing With Greatness
Looking at the big four-door coupe, the ostensible progenitor of the renascent segment, you might think it's a straight-line wonder with little turny-bit thunder, but you'd be wrong.

Sure, it has a 30mm stagger between the 255-wide front and 285-wide rear ContiSport Contacts. Yes, it's rear-wheel drive and unavailable with a real manual transmission. Of course, it's filled with enough leather to denude an entire ranch of its fauna. But tip the wheel toward a gravel-strewn apex, kissing the brake pedal with your left foot as your right rolls forward and down, and the rush of balanced, almost completely neutral handling paired with the brilliant feedback from the wheel and the wall of sound and torque pushing you forward erases all concerns over its material excess or imbalance. This is a true sports sedan.

The tail will wag if you encourage it, even with the stability control engaged, as the Sport and Sport+ modes allow you enough room to play--but only to play nice.

Under The 10-Gallon Hat
So far I've sung loud praise of the newest CLS63 AMG, and it deserves it. But it does have a few quirks that not everyone will love.

The suspension is a bit too firm, for instance, even on the most relaxed settings, jostling passengers and cabin contents out of their proper homes over even rather small imperfections in the road surface. The engine noise is a bit less pronounced and meaty than you'd expect for a 500-plus horsepower mill at full song, yet it can intrude into the cabin at odd times depending on what the seven-speed gearbox decides it needs to do; a sudden leap from 1,700 to 3,500 rpm can interrupt a conversation. The cup holders, too, fall short of American desires, allowing 20-ounce bottles to topple out of their boundaries at the slightest lateral acceleration, ending up beneath the driver's or passenger's feet.

But all of these complaints fall into two categories: NVH, and creature comforts. The NVH score is one AMG consciously compromises with any of its cars, taking the original Mercedes donor and balancing added performance with added noise, vibration, and harshness. For the enthusiast, the CLS63 AMG will likely present no issues. For the extreme performance luxury sedan buyer with an eye a bit more centered on brisk, stylish transport, the new four-door coupe's mix may be too strong for daily consumption.

Creature comforts, on the other hand, abound in the cabin, making the NVH issues a serious, but not determining, factor in considering ownership of the car. Dynamically self-adjusting bolsters, massaging seats, supple high-end leather, satin burlwood trim (or carbon fiber in Performance Package models), and a massively detailed and slightly too-intricate infotainment/multimedia system operated through the center console--the CLS 63 AMG is, in every case, a thoroughly luxurious and meticulously well-executed sedan.

On a comparative scale, the CLS63 AMG looks as if AMG's engineers took a standard CLS, built in Cadillac CTS-V rivalling performance (and superior steering feel) then took the extra $40,000 beyond the Caddy's cost and dumped it all into the interior. After riding back to the airport in a new S400 Hybrid sedan, the comparison is surprising: the AMG's cabin is nearly as roomy and an order of magnitude more plush than the S-Class's. Nearly every material or surface just looks and feels nicer.

Bringing It Home
So would I park the 2012 CLS63 in my own driveway? Were I an executive banker or a Walton, definitely, though there are a few good reasons why you might not.

The expected $100,000 price tag--right around the current CLS AMG's price--is a bit steep if you're looking for pure performance, as that's knocking on true supercar territory with the Corvette ZR-1. But you wouldn't be looking at four doors if you wanted pure performance, so you have to factor in four-seater luxury--where the NVH issues might weigh in, and where competitors like the Porsche Panamera Turbo, Cadillac CTS-V, or even AMG's own E63 might step in to offer a more Goldilocks solution for a given driver.

At the end of a brisk 36 hours with the car, we are sure of this: the 2012 CLS63 is a fun, fast, rewarding car for the true enthusiast, regardless of the price.

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