When you drive the 2009 Mercedes-Benz CLS 63 AMG high performance coupe, you need an escort, a passport or any other reliable radar detector.
This machine flies.
A colleague and I were testing the new Mercedes for what we thought would be a long haul to Joliet, Ill. But somewhere along the trip, we either broke through some time-space continuum or we were accidently speeding. By the time the iPod rambled through the second play list, we were nearly there.
It's easy to do in this racing-enhanced Mercedes that has four doors but Germans insist on calling a coupe.
They could call it weiner schnitzel, that wouldn't change how great it is.
The outside world is muffled away. The bounce of concrete seams along Interstate 94 are smoothed out by a setting the Airmatic suspension on comfort. Only the cackle of the Escort radar detector announcing another possible Ka-band encroachment or POP by "The Man" ruffled our feathers.
But it's tough to get riled when sitting in such plush leather bucket seats. While we never saw a flashing red light in our rear view mirror, if we needed to stay cool, we could have turned on the ventilated seats for some fresh backside air.
This car, which starts at $94,550, turns the fast lane into slow motion. While heavy (just over 4,200 pounds), the CLS 63 AMG feels well weighted on the road. The steering is firm but not twitchy. The 6.2-liter V-8 rumbles but never roars, though it packs more than 500 horses under its hood. It's refined in every way. Even the seven-speed automatic transmission is silky smooth as it clicks through the gears to hit 60 mph from a standstill in 4.3 seconds.
But all of that power is hidden under curvy sheet metal and a sloping roof that is as graceful as a marble sculpture.
Parked at a gas station outside of Paw Paw, the CLS 63 AMG looked out of place as 20-year-old pickups cruised past. This vehicle is sleek and sophisticated. It carries spies to embassy parties, not a couple of reporters to Joliet. The CLS 63 AMG is ferocity in a tuxedo.
And really, it does most of the driving. Hop in, set the radar-based adaptive cruise control and enjoy the ride. The cruise control system, known as Distronic Plus, does everything but steer. It tracks cars around you, maintains your speed and distance from other vehicles and applies the brakes or accelerator as needed. It's as close to auto pilot as you can get in a vehicle without hiring a chauffer. If you follow a car off the highway onto the exit ramp, the CLS 63 AMG will bring you to a full stop and never ask you to touch the brake pedal. I've used these kinds of cruise controls before, and it's unnerving and exhilarating at the same time.
With most of the driving done by the vehicle, I found extra time to figure out how to use the iPod connector in the glove box. In the past, some car makers put the auxiliary jack in the glove box, which didn't make much sense because you needed the music player to select songs. Now, Mercedes lets you control your iPod on the push button screen in the center of the leather-covered dash. While connected to the car, the iPod also recharges. The only function I couldn't do was select a shuffle mode on the iPod, but other than that every thing else worked fine.
The Harman/Kardon Logic 7 digital surround sound system used all 480 watts and 12 speakers to play songs with distinct clarity. You could hear every raspy vibrato of Mark Knopfler singing about the demise of "Telegraph Road" -- a fantastic cruising song. The stereo turns the cabin into a sound stage; a very comfortable one at that.
By creating a four-door coupe (which I think is like having a two-wheel unicycle), Mercedes is trying to give you all of the performance of a coupe and the comfort of a sedan. The company's press materials even say the CLS 63 AMG is a "coupe-like car that boasts the comfort and convenience of four doors." Maybe they should just call it a saloon.
Either way, the second row, which resembles two more bucket seats with a nicely laid out center console, is generous with space.
Another thing I liked was driving this Mercedes at night. The instrument panel is easy on your eyes so you can stay alert on the road. The blue and white lighting never distracts you. Every person, no matter what car you're considering, should test drive the vehicle at night before buying it. A car can transform into an unfamiliar place under the moon.
The best part of driving the CLS 63 AMG is when you look around the highway, you know you have the fastest car. It doesn't mean you have to flex your muscle, but if you wanted to, you could. Mercedes even offers an option package that raises the electronically limited top speed from 155 mph to 186 mph. So, if you see another CLS 63 AMG, you'll have a faster one.
The only thing you won't be able to out run is a state trooper's radio, unless, of course, you have an escort.
Scott Burgess is the auto critic for The Detroit News. He can be reached at (313) 223-3217 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
2009 Mercedes Benz CLS 63 AMG
Price: $94,550 Type: Four-door, four-passenger coupe
Engine: 6.2-liter V-8
Horsepower: 502 @ 6,800 rpm
Torque: 465-pound-feet @ 5,200
EPA Mileage: 12 city / 18 highway
Redline: 7,200 rpm
Suspension: Airmatic: Computerized springs (optimized by AMG) and gas shocks
Front: Double control arms and stabilizer bar
Rear: Five link, stabilizer bar
Steering: Rack-and-pinion, speed sensitive power assist
Turning radius: 36.7 feet
Front: 19 x 8.5
Rear: 19 x 9.5
Front: 14.2-inch vented discs with six-piston caliper
Rear: 13-inch vented discs with four-piston caliper
Ground clearance: 4.5
Curb weight: 4,210 pounds
Coefficient of drag: .3
Interior dimensions (inches):
Shoulder room: 56.3/56
Cargo volume: 15.9 cubic feet
Fuel: 21.1 gallons
0 -- 60: 4.3 seconds
Top speed: 155 mpg (electronically limited)