EXECUTIVE EDITOR ROGER HART: This 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL63 AMG is a wolf in sheep's clothing. From the outside, it looks like your standard, everyday luxury ride. Nice wheels, big tires, sleek appearance. Under the hood lies the wolf, ready to pounce and eat anything it wants along the highway. Having this much horsepower underfoot is truly addicting, and I only need a short period of time to fully drink the Kool-Aid. The seven-speed gearbox makes sure you are always in the sweet spot. And it has all the goodies you could desire, with terrific seats, distronic cruise and a rockin' sound system, along with the electronic stuff like lane-departure control and night vision.
If there's a negative with this car, it would be the weight. Having just driven the C63, which is 1,000 pounds lighter, the CL63 feels a bit sluggish. And that is despite the fact that the C63 has 100 hp less than the CL63. Lighter is better.
As a side note, it would be wonderful if Mercedes could figure out exactly what "63" means in its nomenclature. Here, the 63 stands for a 5.5-liter biturbo. In the C63, it stands for a 6.2-liter naturally aspirated V8. So, go figure.
EXECUTIVE EDITOR--AUTOWEEK.COM BOB GRITZINGER: Wolf indeed. This car glides along quietly and unnoticed, until you grab a paddle, downshift and put your foot into the throttle. Then the exhaust roars to life, the engine pours it on and the car positively launches into space, regardless of whether you're driving 7 mph or 70 mph. It is highly advisable to be holding the wheel and paying close attention because things start happening fast. Really fast.
I haven't mastered all of the car's various systems, but punching up sport for the powertrain and sport for the active body control provides a noticeable upgrade in the car's responses and reactions. The ride stiffens, and even the notoriously dull Mercedes steering seems to perk up and provide much better road feel. It's all good.
At the other extreme, the car can be surprisingly docile, motoring along quietly in comfort mode where its fuel-saving, hybridlike engine stop-start function kicks in at full stops. I'm not sure someone spending this kind of money on a performance coupe is that worried about fuel economy. But if it makes everyone, including Mercedes, feel better and allows it to keep producing these AMG extreme machines, I'm all for it. Green can be good. In this case, green can be great.
ART DIRECTOR CHERYL L. BLAHNIK: I jumped out of a Kia into this 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL63 AMG, and what a difference! This car looks incredible with its long, sleek look, sporty and large, five-star wheels and four exhaust tips out back.
The interior offers living-room comfort with quality materials and perfect fit and finish throughout. The Command system was intuitive enough to control all of the entertainment and navigation functions.
As with anything with an AMG badge, this CL63 is fast. I love the power off the line, and the active bolsters in corners surprised me at first, but they do a great job keeping you in place. Another surprise was the active lane-keeping assist with the slight vibration through the steering wheel.
After my one night, it's hard not to want to drive this car. It's comfortable, packs good performance chops, looks good and is a blast to drive.
EDITORIAL INTERN BRAD CONSTANT: Bob is right about having to pay attention when you decide to step on the gas. I spent an afternoon in the CL63 AMG and the first thing that caught my attention was how easily the car approached triple digits on the speedometer. I put the hammer down getting onto the expressway expecting a pleasant push back into the seat. But instead I was brutally introduced to car's 536 hp. Before I knew it, I was flying by cars while joyfully laughing like a little kid who got his dream gift on Christmas morning.
After that surprise, I quickly backed off to a reasonable cruising speed and enjoyed the comfortable ride, awesome interior and, as Roger put it, rockin' sound system. But I still longed to hear the magnificent sound from the CL63's exhaust.
On the inside, the CL63 AMG doesn't disappoint. The seats are comfortable, the materials are high-quality and the goodies are entertaining. This is what I expected in a car that cost $157,985.
But the CL63 AMG does not seem practical to me. It has a bunch of power that can't legally be used and a price tag that rivals the cost of many suburban homes in the Detroit area.
With that said, I don't think that anyone buying this car would care about the practicality of the CL63 AMG. In most cases, a person buys this car because it's capable, looks good and is a blast to drive.
If you're in love with Mercedes, can afford the price and are looking to buy a great piece of machinery, then this is the car for you.
EDITOR WES RAYNAL: I pulled into the lot this morning in this 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL63 AMG and someone says to me, "That's all you." And you know what? They couldn't be more right. This car is all me.
This is like having your own private jet--one you fly yourself. A seamlessly fast enjoyable hot rod is what this is--exactly what a performance coupe should be, with the V8 growl to match. AMG's version of active body control offers agility and supreme luxury-car comfort. I do still think the steering is a bit lifeless, though.
It would be hard to find another car this fast and this refined.
NEWS EDITOR GREG MIGLIORE: After driving this Mercedes rocket, I fully buy into the myth and magic behind the letters AMG. Everything about this car says and feels luxurious. It's also one of the most powerful, all-conquering automobiles I've ever driven. As others note above, it's almost easy to be lulled by the plush finishings, gorgeous wood-colored accents and generally opulent cabin. But this 5.5-liter V8 is omnipresent, packing a smooth, effortless punch during acceleration and hard launches. Because the driver is so comfortable, the entire experience is addicting.
The steering is direct and responsive, offering true feel and feedback for nearly all maneuvers. The brakes offer a strong bite early in the pedal travel, and the chassis is tight though still plenty accommodating in most instances. I encountered just one time when the sporty nature washed out comfort, and that was when hitting a rut in the road and there was little give to the front suspension. It's a foible I could more than live with for the bearing and composure this chassis exudes in all other situations.
The looks are swoopy and sleek. I love the quads in back and the aggressive fascia up front. Open the roof wide, push down all the windows and the driver gets a truly energetic feel with the wind whipping through hair and skin and the radio cranked.
I did find the controls to be slightly confusing, simply because there is so much going on. I was able to switch off eco mode, which seems pointless for a car like this, and punch up the sport setting easily. The start/stop feature did work smartly at a light, too, for whatever that's worth.
But all that really matters here is the engine. Again, it's a rocket. Power comes on low in the band, and it's easily and adeptly distributed as the driver lays on the throttle. It's almost surreal how fast one can make this car go with less than 3,000 rpm. Of course, you must dial up more to fully experience this road-going jet. This is truly the millionaire's commuter car.
ASSOCIATE EDITOR JONATHAN WONG: The exhaust note on this CL63 AMG sounds absolutely mad. So is the thrust from this twin-turbocharged V8 engine and that's with the base 536 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque figures. If you really had a lot of disposable income, you could drop another $7,300 for the optional AMG performance package to bump those figures to 563 hp and 664 lb-ft of torque. Oh, and the electronically limited top speed would move up to 186 mph from 155 mph.
For a car weighing this much, it offers good stick in turns. The AMG-specific suspension on this big boy does a respectable job here. Roll is still evident, but that's to be expected in a 4,800-pound vehicle. The upshot here is that the CL63 still rides luxury-liner smooth over broken roads and would be a great for long hauls while riding on the wide 20-inch tires. Steering feels light but offers decent responsive to inputs (for a Mercedes). The two-piece, high-performance brakes delivered all the stopping power I wanted with a solid brake pedal feel, too.
From the outside, the car looks imposing with the quad-exhaust outlets and big AMG wheels. The interior is a luxury cockpit with soft leathers, beautiful wood trims and a Command interface that I've become good at navigating through. Let's not forget about the massaging front seats with active bolsters to keep you from flying all over the place.
What's not to like? The start/stop is always default at startup, which I found annoying, but I'm sure it's required for fuel-economy-rating purposes. I do wonder how much gasoline it really does save. Then there was the active lane-keeping assist which would vibrate the steering wheel slightly before fully taking over and magically guiding you back the lane if you didn't get the message and correct your trajectory yourself--a little scary, if you ask me. There's also a slight hesitation at throttle tip that I didn't like. I'm guessing it comes down to the transmission engagement, but once you get going, the gearbox whips off quick and smooth shifts.
In all, this is a one heck of a GT car. Pricey for sure, but if you compare it with something like a Bentley Continental GT, the as-tested price of this CL63 AMG is nearly $35,000 less than the Bentley's base price. Yeah, the CL65 AMG would be a more direct competitor based on the number of cylinders and price, but I sure wouldn't have a problem settling for the force-induced V8 with 536 hp in the CL63. But that's just me.
SENIOR MOTORSPORTS EDITOR MAC MORRISON: Automotive overkill personified. And if I don't perhaps love it, I sure as hell like the 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL63 AMG. A lot.
The new wave of Mercedes-Benz products has caused me to raise an eyebrow more than once, and in a good way. Certainly AMG's new C63 is more my style, but the CL makes a strong sales pitch in a "yes I'm ridiculous, and I don't give a damn," middle-finger-waving fashion.
There's just so much here--so much power, torque and, obviously, ungodly weight at the curb. Throw in style, flash, panache, cachet and a beautiful interior.
The engine deactivation feature? Pretty funny. I'd like to have enough time to attempt to log just how much fuel you actually save if you run a tank with this function on compared with it switched off. The restarts are not what I would call smooth, and it's the one aspect of this car that perhaps doesn't meet M-B/AMG refinement expectations.
I have mixed feelings about the "lane-keeping assist." The little vibrations you feel through the wheel to alert you that you are wandering onto a solid line on the road are one thing, the self-correcting steering another. The purist in me finds it an affront to driving responsibility to have a car do anything remotely resembling "driving itself," but I'm sure this system is going to save a few people from repair bills, or worse. It's certainly a novel feature, however, and I wonder what the drivers behind me thought as I drove down the freeway letting the car wander purposely a few times just to see how the technology reacted.
There again, there's just no shortage of "stuff" available to ogle, marvel at and experiment with on this nasty terror of the modern road. No doubt Mercedes figures that it will gain far more sales than it loses. After all, if you ask "why?" here, the answer can be nothing other than, "because we did."
2011 Mercedes-Benz CL63 AMG
Base Price: $152,125
As-Tested Price: $157,985
Drivetrain: 5.5-liter twin-turbocharged V8; RWD, seven-speed dual-clutch sequential manual
Output: 536 hp @ 5,500 rpm, 590 lb-ft @ 2,000-4,500 rpm
Curb Weight: 4,806 lb
Fuel Economy (EPA/AW): 17/15.1 mpg
Options: 266 driver-assistance package including distronic plus adaptive cruise control, active blind-spot assist, active lane -keeping assist ($2,950); P02 premium package including rearview camera, night-view assist plus with pedestrian detection ($2,200) 867 Splitview ($710)