July 30, 2007

Photo Gallery: 2008 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG Coupe

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Los Angeles, California – I’m guessing that 40 years ago, when Hans Werner Aufrecht and Erhard Melcher formed their small AMG racing enterprise in an old mill house in Grossaspach, Germany, they never imagined their fledgling operation would some day be absorbed by the company who’s cars they modified, and go on to become a name synonymous worldwide with highly-tuned and exclusive Mercedes-Benz automobiles.

And they certainly couldn’t have, in their wildest dreams, visualized the 2008 603-hp twin-turbo V12 CL65 AMG – a coupe so opulent, so techno-laden and so drunk with power that the term “over the top” is a gross understatement of biblical proportions.

Certainly the garden-variety turbo V12-powered CL600, with a mere 510 horses and 612 lb.-ft. of torque could be considered over the top. Or even the 382 hp V8 CL550. But this AMG version, which generates 738 lb.-ft. of tectonic-shifting twist from 2000 to 4000 r.p.m., is just plain silly.

Why on earth would anyone need, or even want a car with this much power?

This, and a few other questions, bounced around my cranium as I piloted this pillarless wonder during an LA press event celebrating AMG’s 40th birthday.

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The CL65 is based on the new-for-2007 Mercedes-Benz CL – a very fetching 2+2 coupe version of the S-Class sedan. It successfully melds the latter’s elegant and organic lines with a sweeping coupe roofline, creating a sensuous and oh-so imperial presence: perfect for parting the proletariat masses as you motor to the club.

In AMG guise, the CL sits closer to the road, gets an aggressive snout, lower body cladding, quad tailpipes and 20-inch five-spoke alloys.

Southern California may be the car-culture capitol of the U S of A, but most everyone here has a “been there, bought the key-chain” attitude when it comes to fancy rolling stock. Unless you’re driving the Munster Mobile with baby Suri riding shotgun and Brangelina in the back waving some adoption papers, it’s pretty hard to get noticed. That said, this Obsidian Black CL65 did manage to draw more than a few curious stares.

Once out of the confines of LA and into the winding and hilly roads north of the city, the big coupe got to stretch its legs. If there is a more elegant and effortless way to gobble up great stretches of blacktop, I have yet to experience it.

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At 2240 kg (4938 lb), the CL65 is no lightweight, but the AMG engineers have done a wondrous job in bending the laws of physics enough to make this coupe feel a few sizes smaller than it really is. The term agile might be a stretch, but with 20-inch performance tires (255/35 ZR front and 275/35 ZR rear) and AMG-tuned Active Body Control (ABC), the coupe exhibited quite lively turn-in and carved an accurate and level path over the sinuous roads.

Ah, yes…and then there’s the engine. Mated to a five-speed paddle-shiftable auto-box, the hand-built 5980-cc twin-turbo V12 bestows upon this big coupe astounding forward thrust. But it is not just of the hooligan variety – sure you can squeal the tires on launch, but what this car is really all about is “waftability” and the ability to blow past lesser vehicles with just a whiff of throttle. Never thought I’d say this, but here it is: the insane output of the AMG V12 actually feels correct in this uber coupe.

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The interior, like in the S Class, is exquisitely crafted and opulently appointed. The bolstered and infinitely adjustable sports seats are some of the most comfortable I’ve ever experienced. The two back seats, however, are best reserved for children and people you don’t like.

Powerful braking is a big part of the AMG equation, and here, the large composite vented discs with front twin-sliding eight-piston calipers felt strong and linear as we flew from bend to bend. If Sir Isaac Newton had been along for this mountainous ride, he’d surely have been scratching out a few revisions on the back of his barf bag.

Starting at $236,500, the CL65 AMG is priced more than a hundred thousand dollars more than the base CL550 Coupe – putting into a very exclusive club of two-door luxury coupes.

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From it humble origins in 1967, AMG now has 750 employees, builds 18 models (13 for Canada), and produces around 20,000 vehicles annually. The Performance Studio, set up in 2006 as an arm within this Mercedes subset, is now producing Signature Series cars with special packages, limited edition vehicles, and will build a complete bespoke one-off models for the discriminating customer: with the right financial commitment, of course.

AMG showed us a 40th Anniversary CL65 with a lovely two-tone chocolate interior and unique aluminum paint that gave the car a liquid look in the bright sunlight. No, they didn’t give us a price, and no, you can’t have one because the run of forty is sold.

In Canada, I suspect the regular CL65 will be exclusive enough.

Manufacturer’s web site


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