It’s a V8, it causes the right kind of tremors from the exhaust, it has all the external bits and pieces to indicate a high-performance car, it’s a sinister AMG and, bizarre as it may sound, it’s politically correct too! What the hell is going on here? At the numerous traffic signals in Stuttgart, the Mercedes-Benz CLS 63 AMG that I am piloting shuts off like a well-mannered front-bencher. Hey, I thought AMGs were all about blasting the poor supermini behind with a teeny-weeny tap of the loud pedal and generally making Germany more indebted to Saudi Arabia. Since when did it become Aufrecht Melcher Green?
Horror of horrors, that 63 badge does not even mean a normally aspirated 6.2-litre V8, but a smaller 5.5-litre V8 motor. Welcome to tomorrow, ladies and gentlemen, a day when you can have all the performance you can wish for without drying up the oil wells. Not exactly, but you get what I mean.
And the new CLS 63 AMG is all about performance, and how! It consumes 32 per cent less than its predecessor! Its CO2 emission is only 231 grams per km as compared to the preceding fast-banana’s 345 grams per km! You have an ECO light in the instrument console, making you feel as good as somebody from Greenpeace! Wait a sec... Is this an AMG I am talking about? This is not my kind of performance. Shouldn’t I be saying something like ‘While scrolling through the iPod in search of my favourite song, I wafted past the 911 GT3, as it struggled to stop me from overtaking. Ho hum.’ But there you have it – this is the future of AMGs: mind-numbing performance without the associated guilt complex (not applicable to our super rich – they only have luxury condominium complexes or gilt complexes).
Blasting on the autobahn between Stuttgart and Affalterbach, where AMG is located, I didn’t see that aforementioned 911 GT3, but other cars politely indicated and shifted to the right even when I was enjoying a fraction of its capabilities. Just so that they could be happy that their effort was worth it, sink the pedal further into the carpet and with a ‘double declutch’ rev-matching blip, the CLS downshifts and the exhaust note does a dramatic Wagnerian impression as I leave them far behind. From my side, it’s a thank you note of sorts.
If you’re left scratching your head on why the CLS AMG is an eco warrior and a road warrior at the same time, don’t worry. All is being revealed. The engine is a 5461cc V8 that’s been massaged by twin turbochargers and the resulting output is still well over the previous one. Here you have 517 bhp on tap between 5250 and 5750 rpm and 71.3 kgm of turning force between 1700 and 5000 rpm. And I have only a certain Sascha to thank for allowing me to have a wonderful time; he’s the man who built the engine that’s gone into this particular car. You’d probably know this: AMG follows this ‘one man, one engine’ philosophy, where the engine is handbuilt by one person through and through. According to AMG, even supercar makers don’t do this anymore, though they claim otherwise. Because of Sascha’s brilliant efforts, the CLS AMG is docile in city traffic and absolutely bonkers on the autobahn. Turn the dial to RS (Race Start) function and slam the pedal – and the CLS AMG does standstill to 100 kph in just 4.4 seconds. I of course didn’t do that because there are other humourless Germans on the ’bahn who wouldn’t appreciate such things, so we’ll take AMG’s word for it.
Downsizing, without losing out on the performance, is one aspect. The 7-speed AMG Speedshift MCT7 is another. This multi-clutch transmission does away with the regular torque converter and it is an intelligent being in its own right, especially in the eco-friendly C mode (controlled efficiency, not comfort as I later came to know). It shifts early to conserve fuel. But I come from India, I do this on a daily basis and I don’t expect AMGs to do that for me. So it’s S and S+ mode for me. Every time you accelerate and it drops gears, the soundtrack gets explosive with the kickdowns. And then when you belt out around the corners, it is seriously impressive. And when you do just that, the wings in the brilliant sports seats come alive and support your back – awesome!
The steering wheel looks terribly complicated, but I guess, given time even a Luddite like me will learn how to use it better. What again contributes to its green halo is that the newly developed electromechanical steering setup does not use energy when you’re going straight ahead (the new Audi Q3 also has it). The steering wheel is good to hold and it offers the right kind of precision in a car of this size. Like the C, S and S+ modes for performance, the suspension setup also can be customised based on your mood. If I were on a track, I would have used the S+ but here, the S was good enough, as it did not sap comfort. Which is amazing, isn’t it? Here you have a big fat saloon that offers you supercar-levels of performance without giving you supercar-levels of discomfort (in terms of suspension, being able to reverse and of course price!).
But, and here is a very big BUT, it doesn’t look like a supercar. I could write reams about the new CLS’ looks, but it comes down to a few words – I think it’s trying too hard. What I am saying is that if one comes up in front of you, you will notice it, it’s attractive, but it’s not a flawless form like the original one. This one seems to try to be elegant, sporty, gorgeous, coupe-like, etc, etc all at the same time. But if you give me one free, I won’t say no either. And as a last-gen CLS AMG owner tells me, it does not have adequate headroom at the back. The CLS’ fundamental profile doesn’t allow it anyways, but here it is not even as good it seems. Never mind, I am not going to sit at the back; the driver’s seat is where it’s at. Like with the previous CLS, there is a swathe of carbon fibre on the dash as if Mercedes designers didn’t know what to do with it. But the rest of the insides are so good that those cows really gave their life for a good cause. I know that’s a politically incorrect statement to make, but somebody’s gotta do it these days. Because everybody has become politically correct, even AMG!