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Mercedes-Benz CLS AMG engines, drive and performance

2011 - 2018 (change model)
Performance rating: 5 out of 55.0

Written by Graeme Lambert Published: 6 June 2019 Updated: 6 June 2019

Hand-built by a single worker at AMG’s Affalterbach facility in Southern Germany, it’s no surprise that Mercedes CLS 63 AMG performance is core to its appeal.

It’s a fantastic piece of kit, the 5.5-litre twin-turbo V8 petrol engine producing 518bhp and 700Nm, and almost justifies this car’s gargantuan costs entirely. Lifting the bonnet to find the engraved plaque bearing the signature of the person who painstakingly built the engine from the ground-up will always put a smile on your face.

Not as much as pushing the right pedal into the floor though; the performance available on this practical Coupe or Shooting Brake is wild enough to shame some supercars.

The 0-62mph sprint takes just a shade over 4.3 seconds and feels every bit as fast as the figures suggest, thanks mostly to the massive shove of 700Nm of torque. Coupled with the seven-speed automatic transmission, it makes for a ferocious behind-the-wheel experience – and the rumbling V8 makes a fantastic noise when approaching the top of its rev-range too.

Drivers can select from Controlled Efficiency (automatic), Sport, Sport + and Manual modes for the gearbox, the latter allowing for manual control via the steering wheel paddles. They feel great to use, made of real metal, but in Manual you have to change gear early as otherwise the delay in swapping cogs can see the engine run into the limiter leaving you pogoing down the road under full-throttle up-shifts.

For those that desire even more performance from their CLS 63 AMG there’s the optional Performance Package Plus, which adds another 32bhp and – more importantly – another 100Nm of torque to the final figures. That makes for 549bhp and a massive 800Nm of torque, though if you order the Shooting Brake it comes at this level of tune as standard.

Not that it’s necessary in Britain, but you can also add the optional AMG Driver’s Package (£2,760) which increases the electronically-limited top speed from 155mph to 186mph.

Whether you select the Coupe or the Shooting Brake the CLS is a big car, and without any additional options it boasts a kerbweight worryingly close to two tonnes. Get liberal with the accessories list and you’ll easy surpass that 2,000Kg mark.

Despite its size (the Shooting Brake is also bang on five metres long) and heft, the CLS 63 AMG is surprisingly nimble. The steering is light, but sharp and direct, and – in the dry – there’s plenty of grip available.

There’s very little body roll to be felt either, thanks in part to the AMG Ride Control sports suspension and its adaptable damping. We’d steer clear of the two firmer modes (from three in total) though unless on a silky-smooth ribbon of tarmac as overall the ride quality on this car errs on the firm side.

The pay-off of course is that taut bodycontrol and stature-defying agility. You do need to be precise and measured with your inputs though, as while taking the car by the scruff of its neck can be spectacular, it’s not the way to get the best from it. Threading it accurately between bends before squeezing the throttle progressively deeper into the carpet brings about a sensational turn of never-ending acceleration and speed.

Be in absolutely no doubt the Mercedes CLS 63 AMG is a stupendously quick car around corners as well as along straight-lines.

If you’re talented you’ll be able to lay down some lines along the tarmac too, as with the ESP systems fully relaxed the CLS 63 AMG has more than enough torque to trouble the rear tyres. Aggressive throttle inputs when cornering will see the rear end swing wide, and quick steering inputs are required to keep the car under control. The halfway house ESP Sport setting will allow just enough movement from the rear to remain on the safe side of spectacular before reining it all back in again for you.