Some cars achieve ‘presence’ with striking shapes and dazzling paint jobs, but perhaps the truest expression of the notion is simply size. This is something the latest edition of the Mercedes CL63 has a lot of. It has a lot of front (subtly re-styled with new headlights and a more sculpted bonnet and bumpers). A lot of side and back, too. You can’t help noticing it for the same reason you can’t help noticing a BMW X6. It seems to belong on a planet where everything is slightly larger than it is here, a place where two-door coupes are the size of limos. And, being based on the S-class, the CL’s 17ft length and 6ft width is perhaps no great surprise.
Trouble is, on a planet where, increasingly, four-door limos look like swoopy coupes and rear-seat passengers can walk rather than clamber in, the CL seems like an indulgent anachronism. But it makes no apology for that. The market for the heroically absurd may be niche, but it exists all the same. Which is why this supersized coupe has always seemed more likeable when AMG gets its mitts on it. Excess all areas and all that.
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The refreshed CL63 gets AMG’s new-generation twin-turbo 5.5-litre V8. It also has the option of a Performance Pack that tweaks the boost pressure and raises peak power and torque to 563bhp and 664lb ft from the standard engine’s 536bhp and 590lb ft – itself 18bhp and 126lb ft clear of the outgoing naturally aspirated 6.2-litre V8.
Marshalling all this brute force to the rear wheels is AMG’s own seven-speed MCT (multi-clutch transmission), which sharpens up shift times compared with the old 63’s seven-speed torque-converter auto. AMG claims the new CL63 hits 62mph from rest in just 4.5sec, with top speed limited to 155mph. With the Performance Pack, the limiter is reset at 186mph and 0-62mph drops to 4.4sec.
It isn’t all blood and thunder, of course. Features such as stop-start and an improved energy regeneration system that automatically decouples the alternator under full acceleration ensure better economy and lower emissions (26.9mpg combined cycle and 244g/km CO2 versus 19.5mpg and 346g/km).
The slightly animalistic character of the 6.2 V8 didn’t always seem a comfortable fit in a car with such a knack of obliterating large distances with serene disdain. The new motor feels much more at home, retaining the response and bellowing sountrack of the 6.2 – subjectively there’s no turbo lag at all – with a broader, more linear powerband and even greater mechanical smoothness. The bi-turbo V8 doesn’t have quite the top-end freedom and bite of the 6.2, but it more than makes up for it with oodles of low-down and mid-range wallop that meshes seamlessly with the rapid-shifting MCT to provide instant on-demand thrust and stunning overtaking ability.
The CL’s ABC (Merc’s active body control system) seems much more aggressively implemented than it is on the S-class, so while it helps the CL deftly disguise its 2060kg bulk – it turns-in more alertly, if with a slightly more artificial-feeling helm – secondary ride comfort suffers. The impression is more sporting, but the S63 feels more fluent and poised.
The hottest CLs have seldom been eclipsed for raw pace or sheer all-round competence, but neither have they won any beauty contests or been able to match the charisma, excitement and sense of involvement conjured up by their best rivals. The recently refreshed Aston DB9 and Bentley Continental GT won’t make life easier for the CL63, but the big Merc does now feel more comfortable in its own skin and, arguably, has the best engine of the lot.
|Engine||V8, 5461cc, twin-turbo|
|Max power||536bhp @ 5500rpm|
|Max torque||590lb ft @ 2000-4500rpm|
|Top speed||155mph (limited)|