We don't know how many times we've said of a luxury or performance car: It's nice, but we wouldn't pay what they're asking for it — even if we had the money. It's easy to get jaded when you drive a lot of cars. That brings us to the Mercedes-Benz CLS63. We won't be saying that about this car.
Appearance: The CLS63 has been redesigned for 2012, with the result being a more chiseled look. It's still a coupe masquerading as a sedan, however, with curvy lines and a sharply sloped roof that make it easy for the eye to overlook its four doors. The creased hood culminates in a large but minimalist grille dominated by Mercedes' three-point star badge. The upswept headlamps are LED, as are the running lights. Sharp. The car rides on 19-inch, five-spoke forged-alloy wheels that really set off the Diamond White paint. There is a subtle carbon-fiber spoiler on the trunk.
Performance: Simply exhilarating. Our tester had the performance package from AMG (Mercedes' tuner division) with the new 5.5-liter "Biturbo" V-8 that produces 550 horsepower, a 4.3-second 0-to-60 time and a subtle exhaust rumble through the dual chrome twin exhaust. The Speedshift multi-clutch transmission clicks off all seven speeds with rapid-fire precision. There are driving settings for comfort and performance, as well as a manual mode (using aluminum paddle shifters). We liked the thick steering wheel, and the electrically assisted steering gives just enough assistance and feedback. Peter was impressed with how quickly the AMG carbon-ceramic brakes can stop the 4,200-pound car from even a high speed. By now you're thinking the carbon footprint of the CLS63 is as big as Sasquatch's. Well, pleasant surprise: There's an ECO start/stop system to save fuel: The engine shuts down at stops and rumbles back on when you take your foot off the brakes. Mercedes also says its Biturbo twin-turbocharged engines deliver 20 percent better fuel economy than the conventional V-8s in previous models.
Interior: In need of a hug? The 14-way power adjustable seat has dynamic bolstering for the driver, which grips you in turns. The cabin is ultra quiet, with premium leather and warm burl walnut trim. Too quiet? The 14-speaker Harman/Kardon surround-sound system delivers a bright, crisp sound. We're fishing for things to criticize, so here you go: The cup holders are positioned right in front of the center console and cups and bottles block the AC controls. There are only two backseats and the headroom can be a bit of a squeeze because of the coupelike sloping roof.
Our 3 favorites
Instruments: The three-gauge metallic-trimmed panel is handsome, with red needles.
Seat controls: On the door, so the driver doesn't have to reach down.
AMG engines: They're signed by the builder.
Dynamic bolstering: Gives you support when cornering.
Gentle reminders: Driver assistance warnings are vibrations in the steering wheel, not annoying beeps.
0-60: Pin-you-to-your-seat quick.
The bottom line: The Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG may be the best car we've driven this year. It's simply the total package of luxury, high performance and style. Even at more than a hundred grand, it's a lot of car for the money.