Quick Drive: 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL63 AMG

By Winding Road Staff

July 22, 2011

As modernly amazing as this car is, I can’t help feeling a little bit old fashioned behind the wheel of it. Driving the CL63 AMG gives me a sense of what it might have been like to drive one of the pre-World War II Mercedes products, like the 500K or SSK, with the hood stretching out into the distance and a large, powerful motor burbling at the command of my right foot.

The thing is, I’d imagine that this 2011 model is considerably easier to drive and live with than its almost 80-year-old forbearers. And by considerably easier to drive, I mean it’s a virtually effortless machine. The steering is light and fittingly isolated, and the throttle and brake require little in the way of effort. The ride is utterly lavish, with very little road noise, despite the twenty-inch AMG-spec wheels.

This level of luxury and comfort is hiding a dirty, little secret though. This car is fast. As in, it’ll hit 60 miles per hour in a manufacturer-estimated 4.4 seconds (I sense some sandbagging here), which is roughly equivalent to a Boss 302 Mustang or Porsche 911 Carrera S. With 536 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque on tap, the new, hand-built, biturbocharged 5.5-liter V-8 still sounds like a classic AMG powerplant. A guttural roar accompanies the AMG engine up the rev range, while full-throttle upshifts are greeted with a bark from all four exhaust pipes.

Speaking of that transmission, pop it into manual mode, and the seven-speed AMG transmission executes rapid upshifts, but stumbles just a bit on downshifts. Even on downshifts, though, the throttle blips sound menacing in nature, and seem to be a signal to other cars to make way for royalty.

The CL63 is one of those rare cars that succeeds on both our Involvement Index and our Comfort Index, and for that, it makes it one of my favorite ways of getting around.

—Brandon Turkus, Test Fleet Manager

This car is a work of art. It’s really understated for a machine with a $150K-plus price tag, making it a perfect vehicle for the driver who has the money to spend on a car like this, but isn’t looking to necessarily flaunt their wealth. And you can’t go wrong with that engine, either. This car is fast and smooth. And, while it may look like just another Mercedes to the casual passerby, it’s unforgettable to any person who takes it for a ride.

One feature I love that Mercedes-Benz provides is its Drive Dynamic Multi-contour seat. It supports, it massages, and has active bolstering. When it senses g-forces during a turn, it inflates the side bolster needed to give support to the driver. In any other Mercedes I’ve driven that had this feature, it was only on the driver’s side. The CL63 AMG offered it for both front passengers. The giggling of my wife, Catheryn, every time the bolsters activated would have been enough to justify the car’s price.

I’m surprised Brandon didn’t mention his favorite thing about this car: there’s no pillar between the front and rear windows, so you can put the both down to create one big, unbroken opening.

—John Beltz Snyder, Production Editor

If you’ve read down this far in our Quick Drive, you know that John and Brandon are (rightly) amazed by the power and luxury of the CL63. Let me save time and bandwidth and just say, “I agree.”

For the most part, anyway. I take small issue with the feeling of acceleration in this baller CL, which, for all that torque, doesn’t hit you as viscerally in the guts as you’d expect from a full-throttle start. Instead, there are just a couple heartbeats of hemming and hawing from underneath the prow before the rear tires really bite, and before you start to truly giddy up. (A small point really, as once the giddy up starts the experience is skull-crushingly quick.)

There is a fantastically interesting cross-section of cars available at around $150K, though, when you’re shopping in this flashy-super-performance fantasy realm. Cars like the Audi R8 5.2, Porsche 911 Turbo (or GT3), Corvette ZR1, Aston Martin V8 Vantage, and more, can all be had in this sexy strata of the car-buying land. None of those cars do what the CL63 does—allow for opulent travel with a side of fast-as-hell. (Only the Bentley Continental really comes close.) The rest are truer, sharper driver’s cars, but they are, none of them, half so grand as this M-B.

I do wonder, though, about the longevity of models like this. In days past there were far more in the way of this kind really massive, statement-making, sedan-based coupe. But today the bulk of the two-door market has moved in the direction of smaller sports cars. Are full-sized coupes (don’t forget that the CL is based on the S-Class) something that mainly holds appeal in generations as old or older than the already gray Baby Boomers? Is this a vehicle, and a vehicle type that is going to be of sufficient interest to my own Star Wars generation to merit Mercedes still selling it in another decade or so?

Time will tell.

In the meantime, this Gen Xer is happy to score as much seat time as he can in plutocratic rockets like the CL63. I can’t wait for the Black Series.

—Seyth Miersma, Editor-In-Chief



- Luxury without gaudiness
- AMG motor is deliciously fast and sonic
- Some of the finest, most comfortable sports seats in the game today


- Slightly clumsy downshifts
- Interior design could use an update to better set it apart from the rest of the lineup
- $150K-plus puts you in range of better-handling, true supercars