Mercedes-Benz coupes are for intelligent and successful, but conservative, balanced individuals, not so? Well, historically that has certainly been the trend, but the memo appears to have gotten lost on the way to the AMG offices in Affalterbach, Germany, because judged by the hardcore character of its latest offering, the CLK63 AMG, Mercedes-Benz appears set to give us a rare glimpse of its darker, evil side.
Hear it before you see itWith the slinky, seductive shape of the CLK coupe as a basis, this AMG version gains a lot of extra visual muscle primarily through the adoption of AMG 18-inch wheels that fill those subtly flared wheelarches oh so perfectly, giving it a really hunkered stance. But there’s more… The front airdam is particularly aggressive, with hard-to-miss gills in front of the wheels. And at the rear there is a quartet of very big, very shiny chrome exhaust tips.
As handsome as the Mercedes-Benz CLK63 AMG is in the metal, the reality is that you’re likely to hear it before you see it. Those exhausts emit an almighty roar at even small throttle openings, and the kind of thunderous sound at full bore that one would’ve thought illegal by now. Happily, this is clearly not the case, as the CLK63 AMG emits easily one of the most addictive soundtracks known to modern petrolheads.
The source of the thunder is a 6.2-litre, naturally aspirated V8 that develops a whopping 354 kW and 630 Nm of torque. In this day and age an un-blown, large-capacity engine of this nature may seem odd, but don’t let it fool you into thinking of it as being unsophisticated. This all-alloy, quad-cam beauty features a variable intake manifold, continuously variable inlet and exhaust timing and low-friction cylinder bores, among other items. Consequently, it pulls strongly from low engine speeds, but also doesn’t mind chasing the red line and revs smoothly (and quickly) to the power peak, set at a heady 6 800 r/min.
Wild ponyMercedes-Benz claims a 0-100 km/h time of 4.6 seconds, which is certainly impressive, but rather difficult to match. You see, even the 255/35 R18 Pirellis struggle to put all that power on the ground, and consequently wheelspin is almost inevitable under full-bore starts. The throttle pedal is very sensitive, and perhaps too sharp initially with little “progression” in the power coming through.
As a result you’re likely to see that traction control light flickering an awful lot, and also to experience short rear tyre life. The transmission is a seven-speed automatic with two driving modes as well as manual shifting. While this ‘box flicks through the gears with impressive smoothness, it has to be said that it lacks the sharpness of some other transmissions. You therefore tend to leave it in auto-mode and influence the shift points through the position of the right foot.
Also somewhat out of sync with the nature of the power delivery is the steering, which lacks the linearity of, for example, a high-performance BMW or Porsche. One senses that with some additional sharpening of the steering, as well as giving the throttle a more progressive character, the CLK63 AMG could’ve been a significantly more balanced performance car.
In fact, the suspension set-up also suggests that AMG’s designers were in two minds about the nature of this particular beast – although the ride has been noticeably firmed up, there remains considerable body movement under hard cornering, and a definite tendency towards understeer.
However, if all of this sounds unimpressive thus far, keep in mind that no matter what position you find yourself in with this car, you simply have to squash the throttle to alter its cornering “pose”. Switch off the traction and stability control systems and the CLK63 turns into one of the few modern cars that has oversteer available on demand.
Big valueConsidering the CLK63 AMG’s performance potential and standard specification, the price is quite a surprise. At under R800 000 there aren’t really any serious challengers that are similar in character. For the money you are also getting a surprising practical and luxuriously equipped coupe – the CLK’s rear seats are actually quite usable and the boot is of a decent size. It’s a fully-loaded package, with no fewer than eight airbags and an interior trimmed with all the usual Mercedes luxuries. Really smart AMG detailing to specifically the instrumentation lend a distinguishing touch.
VerdictThose who are looking for a hot Mercedes-Benz coupe with the performance and dynamic sharpness to rival a BMW M3 will be disappointed by the CLK63 AMG. It is clear that such a vehicle was not AMG’s intention with this incredibly charming machine. No, instead it is a delightful throwback to the muscle-car era, with the emphasis being tar-rippling acceleration and a thunderous soundtrack.
On the other hand, the interior remains a classy, luxurious place to be, and all the mod-cons are there, too. In the end it has a duality of character that resembles Frankenstein and his monster, but it takes very little provocation to unleash the latter…
We don’t like:
Throttle tricky to modulate
Could be sharper
Engine: 6.2-litre, V8, petrol
Power: 354 kW @ 6 800 rpm
Torque: 630 Nm @ 5 000 rpm
Transmission: seven-speed automatic
Wheels: 18-inch alloy
Top speed: 250 km/h
0-100 km/h: 4.6 seconds
Fuel economy: 14.2 litres/100 km
Not nearly as hardcore as the Mercedes, but also a performance-oriented premium coupe with usable space. With “only” 270 kW on tap, it’s not as fast and loud, and is a subtler, more sophisticated daily driver with a good deal of go.
One of the best Jaguars in ages looks good and feels like a premium product. Dynamically also impresses with a fine ride/handling balance but it lacks the ultimate performance of the Mercedes and its rear seats are practically useless.
Not quite the same type of car, but if you want sizzling performance and a sharper driving experience, and don’t mind sacrificing some practicality, then the Porsche is without equal.