2014 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG 4MATIC Review: Introduction
It's a tale as old as Dr. Frankenstein: sometimes, technology creates monsters. The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG 4MATIC is one such beast, a behemoth called forth from the darkness of the AMG skunk works to terrorize the world with excessive amounts of horsepower. Thinly disguised as a mid-size luxury four-door, the Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG 4MATIC delivers acceleration only a few short years ago would have been reserved for the likes of the Porsche 911 Turbo.
Of course, not many Americans get to enjoy a highway infrastructure that is conducive to cruising along at 155-mph, nor are there any legal jurisdictions where one could get away with testing out the terminal velocity of this Mercedes-Benz AMG sled. Thankfully, the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG 4MATIC provides enough of a reality distortion field to disguise its excessive amounts of horsepower when you're simply trying to get to work without setting a Nurburgring record in the process. It's an impressive trick - though an expensive one - and it hints at the new normal amongst overpowered premium models.
2014 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG 4MATIC Review: Models and Prices
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG 4MATIC is based on the same bones as the standard CLS-Class, albeit with a radically different engine tune and a number of chassis and styling upgrades. The 'base' CLS63 AMG 4MATIC starts at an MSRP of $99,500, and for that princely sum you are awarded nearly all of the equipment that you get with the CLS550: namely, dual automatic climate control, a navigation system paired with the COMAND vehicle interface, the mbrace 2 telematics system, Bluetooth connectivity, a surround sound audio system, heated seats with power adjustment up front, LED running lights, and satellite radio. The AMG model adds 19-inch rims wrapped in stickier rubber, a unique steering wheel, nicer leather upholstery than you would find in the CLS550, a folding rear seat, a rear sunshade, and an adaptive air suspension with an aggressive tune.
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG 4MATIC that I drove for a week was outfitted with the Premium package (ventilated front seats with adaptive bolsters for the driver, rearview camera, advanced keyless entry and ignition), as well as the Driver Assistance package (adaptive cruise control, blind spot and lane departure assistance) and the Night View Assist PLUS feature (night vision camera). In total, my tester stickered for $107,920.
2014 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG 4MATIC Review: Design
- The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG 4MATIC doesn't introduce any new styling cues for the current model year.
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG 4MATIC's exterior and interior design can be thought of almost entirely as a styling exercise, in the sense that the car shares almost every aspect of its mechanicals and chassis (and much of its cabin switchgear) with the E-Class (or in this case, the E63 AMG). Someone at Mercedes-Benz decided several years ago that what the world needed was a four-door car that looked like a 'coupe' instead of a traditional sedan, which lead to the CLS63 AMG's swept roofline. The AMG model takes things quite a bit farther, with body-color trim, an in-your-face front fascia, quad exhaust tips, and, in the case of my tester, the kind of all-black palette that the kids call 'murdered out.' This is not a car that blends in - this is the kind of car that mothers and fathers warn their children about. You will be stared at.
Inside the car it's status quo for Mercedes-Benz, which means lots of black leather and a more conservative approach than the CLS63 AMG's exterior would suggest. Everything about the car's cabin felt sufficiently upscale - save perhaps for the low-rent graphics of the COMAND feature - and the passenger compartment triggers no buyer's remorse relative to the vehicle's sticker price.
2014 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG 4MATIC Review: Comfort and Cargo
- The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG 4MATIC introduces no new comfort or cargo features for the current model year.
Remember that sloping roof I just mentioned? It's the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG 4MATIC's single greatest weakness. To wit: I am not a tall man, standing well under six feet, but my head rubs up against the ceiling in the rear of the CLS63 AMG due to the plunging nature of its exterior sheet metal. Even the front seat feels claustrophobic up top, as spaciousness has been sacrificed in the name of style. Neither of these impressions are helped by the full-length center console that bisects the rear seat into two slot-like positions. This style-for-practicality trade-off is not one I would personally make in a four-door car, but Mercedes-Benz does offer the E-Class sedan for anyone seeking to get the same AMG fix in a different sheet metal package.
Other than its tight confines, the rest of the Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG 4MATIC's interior appointments do an excellent job of coddling driver and passengers. I am a fan of the dynamic bolster system that was outfitted to the car's driver's seat, as it offers good stability in the corners by inflating one side of the seat or the other without forcing you to clamber over a stiff leather wing every time you get into the car. You can also turn it off when cruising.
2014 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG 4MATIC Review: Features and Controls
- The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG 4MATIC introduces no new features or controls for the current model year.
Graphics aren’t the only problem with the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG 4MATIC's COMAND vehicle interface. Aside from offering a relatively small LCD display (even compared to other cars in the Mercedes-Benz lineup), using the rotary controller on the center console to enter an address into the navigation system, for example, is an exercise in frustration. Switching over to the voice controls is even worse, as the car frequently misunderstood my words, or acted as though it didn't hear them at all. Then there's the phone buttons on the steering wheel: pushing them did absolutely nothing, even though I could access my Bluetooth phone via voice or the rotary knob. There are better implementations of COMAND offered by the German brand, but it's time that Mercedes-Benz reconsidered its design direction and moved towards at least the integration of a touchscreen interface for its vehicles.
The advantage of the Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG 4MATIC's center console is that it provides space for a shift knob to replace the automatic transmission apparatus that adorns almost every other Mercedes-Benz model's steering column. While still electronic, with Park button instead of a détente, it's less frustrating to use (although it's still a chore to shift from Park to Reverse and not snag Drive or Neutral on the way). Mechanical shifters worked very well, but they seem to be a thing of the past on transmissions above six speeds.
2014 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG 4MATIC Review: Safety and Ratings
- The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG 4MATIC does not introduce any new safety gear for the current model year.
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG 4MATIC comes standard with dual forward airbags, side impact airbags up front (along with knee airbags for each side), side curtain airbags, and front pelvic airbags. You can't get optional seat-mounted side impact airbags in the AMG like you can in the CLS550, but you do get Attention Assist to warn drivers if they get drowsy, and multi-stage electronic stability control and traction control.
My test car featured optional adaptive cruise control with automatic braking, as well as a lane departure assistance system that used the car's brakes to keep it between the white and yellow lines if it strayed too far to one side or the other. A blind spot monitoring system was also part of the package that brought these advanced safety features. I never had the chance to use the Night Vision system. In fact, I had no idea how to activate it.
2014 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG 4MATIC Crash-Test Ratings: The Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG 4MATIC has yet to be crash tested by either the NHTSA or the IIHS.
2014 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG 4MATIC Review: Engines and Fuel Economy
- The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG 4MATIC now comes with standard all-wheel drive.
- Automatic engine start/stop functionality has also been added to the car.
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG 4MATIC features a hand-built version of the automaker's 5.5-liter bi-turbo V-8. Yes that's right - each AMG engine is assembled by a single technician, and then signed on the engine cover, which is a personalized touch that few other high performance cars can offer.
Of less sentimental interest is the engine's phenomenal output of 550 horsepower and 531 lb-ft of torque, figures that are corralled by a seven-speed 'multi-clutch' automated manual transmission and sent to all four-wheels by a new-for-2014 4MATIC all-wheel drive system. If you're not satisfied with that level of grunt, then you can always opt for the S-Model which delivers 577 ponies and 590 lb-ft of torque. I did my best with the base model CLS63 AMG 4MATIC and managed a timed run of 3.6-seconds from 0-60-mph, and a quarter mile pass of 12.06 @ 119-mph. Those are absolutely ridiculous numbers for a mid-size luxury four-door.
Fuel mileage - which doesn't matter in a car this steroidal - is listed at 16-mpg city and 22-mpg highway. I saw considerably less than either of those ratings in mixed driving, regardless of whether automatic engine start/stop was on or off.
2014 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG 4MATIC Review: Driving Impressions
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG 4MATIC features a dual-personality worthy of its monster heritage. Specifically, it's capable of delivering two different extremes of automotive enjoyment, within specific limitations.
Around town, the CLS63 AMG 4MATIC is a pussycat, perfectly happy to keep the growl of its bi-turbo V-8 to a minimum as it sidles along from stoplight to stoplight without complaint. Mercedes-Benz still hasn't been able to dial that low-speed hesitance out of its multi-clutch automatic, and you'll occasionally be frustrated by transmission lag off of the line, or when slowly coasting. Still, thanks to the ability of the AIRMATIC system to offer three different levels of responsiveness (including a soft 'comfort' setting) and the MCT's C, S, and S+ operating modes, it's possible to defang the CLS63 AMG 4MATIC to the point where your passengers won't necessarily know that they're riding in a rocket ship. The all-wheel drive system is also sufficiently well-managed to present no problems when the car is operated in a heavy rain storm, as happened during my week with the vehicle.
Press the AMG button on the console, however - it's the last one in a row of three that also includes suspension and traction control buttons, as well as a transmission control dial - and you're suddenly thrust into a world where everything's stiffer and more immediate. Sport+ (my preferred transmission setting) is instantly activated in order to bang off quicker upshifts while also using the gearbox to help slow the vehicle, and the AIRMATIC system flips over to its second-most-responsive set of programming.
At this point, should you hold the accelerator to the floor you're in for an experience that is best described as 'frightening.' Not only is the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG 4MATIC fast from a dig but it gains power as the revs mount, which translates into relentless acceleration that spooked me more than once when attempting a highway passing maneuver. This car provides more muscle than anyone could reasonably use, and I quickly discovered that I have a limit as to how quick I want my 4,170 lbs luxury car to shoot forward in anger. If you really want to freak out passersby, feel free to engage the Race Start launch control feature, which (after you figure out the system's secret handshake) automatically loads up the clutches and then unleashes full boost through the 4MATIC system to the ground more rapidly than any human driver could ever modulate.
3.6 seconds to 60-mph in a car this heavy is absurd. There's no other word for it. The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG 4MATIC's mass might not seem to impact acceleration but it does impede on fun-at-speed, for while the vehicle's suspension system is competent and offers excellent grip the AMG is simply too massive to happily throw around a road course. There's also the fact that its steering-wheel mounted paddle shifters regularly ignore both upshift and downshift requests to the point of frustration. This is a point-and-shoot weapon rather than a guided missile, and on the drag strip it's kind of like the Death Star's planet-destroying laser: you just pull the trigger and destroy everything in your path.
One side note - I very much liked the AIRMATIC suspension's self-adjusting cycle that occurs whenever you approach or leave the car after locking or unlocking. The feature shoots tiny jets of air while settling to the ground that are just loud enough for you to feel like the biggest badass in the world exiting or entering a space ship instead of a car. Which, I suppose, the CLS63 AMG is.
2014 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG 4MATIC Review: Final Thoughts
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG 4MATIC is a car that defies easy categorization. On the one hand it's a high-priced mid-size luxury model that offers far less anonymous styling when compared to its E-Class sibling, albeit at the cost of practicality and passenger comfort. On the other, its mild personality can quickly morph into a cannon-fired projectile that I wouldn't feel comfortable driving on a daily basis, as I simply don't trust in my ability to use its awesome power exclusively for the forces of good. Mercedes-Benz AMG is to be commended for balancing such an explosive character inside a palatable commuter shell, and there's no question that if you're looking for an exclusive luxury thrill ride, this is it.
2014 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG 4MATIC Review: Pros and Cons
- Fast to the point of being ridiculous.
- Excellent exhaust note.
- Draws a crowd wherever it goes.
- Can be driven normally without penalty.
- All-wheel drive grip.
- Extensive active safety features, if you are willing to pay extra for them.
- Advanced safety should be standard at this price point.
- Interior is cramped in the rear, and only 'acceptable' up front.
- Draws a crowd wherever it goes.
- No more smoke shows due to all-wheel drive.
- Fun is largely limited to straight-line shenanigans.
- Fast to the point of making me uncomfortable.
Mercedes-Benz Canada supplied the vehicle for this review.