Just like people and animals, cars have body language. When a CLK63 Black Series comes around the corner (not necessarily at great speed), the stance it takes speaks volumes on how it feels to drive. It looks athletic, supremely capable, and doesn't lean at all. Forget almost everything that's common knowledge about the Mercedes-Benz CLK, other than it's a pretty, compact coupe. What AMG has done is to transform it into a supercar. No exaggeration.
The 63 part relates to the 6.3-liter V8, designed and built in-house, and found in several new AMG models. These all-aluminum units are hand-built according to AMG's 'one man, one engine' philosophy. There's a signed plaque on every engine to prove it. Here it generates 500 hp and 464 lb-ft of torque. Crazy numbers, right? But no one at AMG is completely crazy. This is a German operation, there has to be control. But that must come later, there's more driveline stuff to drool over.
True to form, the engine is far from stressed when dishing out this kind of power. And that's discernible-it feels unburstable. It can rev up to the 7200-rpm redline time after time after time, without ever feeling a premature demise is just a delayed upshift away. Which is fortunate, because the high-rev induction and exhaust notes just beg to be sounded at every opportunity.
Made by Mercedes-Benz to AMG's exacting specifications is the seven-speed 7G-Tronic automatic transmission. Oh great, a 'supercar' with an auto 'box, how convincing is that? Damn convincing. Even without clicking into manual mode and using the steering column-mounted paddle shifters, the transmission is there to do the right foot's bidding. It would be nice to say it puts the kick into kick-down. But this is much more subtle. Shifts are detected by changes in engine note, and the sensation of engine braking where appropriate. Certainly not by any driveline shunt-such a thing doesn't exist on Planet AMG. Oh, and the final drive ratio is shorter than the standard CLK63.
Mash the throttle and the car starts to wail, the world races toward the screen, but the ratio stays put until the tach needle hits the red zone. The way it does just what the driver wants is almost psychic. On a fast drive through a series of bends, it's one less thing to think about, but also one more thing to be grateful for. Add the chassis to that comprehensive list. It's been completely reworked by AMG, using proprietary coilovers (adjustable) and what might be magic dust. Mundane physical laws state that a comfortable ride and agile handling are mutually exclusive.
There's nothing mundane about this car. It really does have the best of both worlds. The ride height has been lowered from the standard CLK by about a foot, the track widened by around the same amount (OK, that's an exaggeration, but it feels that way). Compared to AMG's standard CLK63, the Black's track is widened by three inches at the front and 2.6 inches at the rear. Both ends have serious strut tower braces for greater rigidity.
Wearing wide 265 Pirelli P Zero rubber, the front wheels excel at both changing direction and sticking to a line. They provide feedback too. A car this good belongs on a track.
With the exception of German Touring Cars (DTM) or the safety and medical cars in Formula One, a Merc on a track is a rare sight. Not even AMG owners buck that trend too often. A CLK63 Black Series owner owes it to his or her self to change the status quo. This is a great car to get to know a track, find the braking points, choose the right racing line. It's easy to place and, being rear-wheel-drive, has a great balance.
The brakes are AMG's own, deploying huge 14-inch composite rotors at the front and, like the engine, the whole system never feels overstressed. Hitting the anchors from 147 mph is as drama-free as from plain old 47 mph. Setting the transmission to manual mode speeds up shift times and sends a signal to the traction control systems to relax a little, but the tail breaks away so progressively-and it also has a limited-slip diff-that it's easy to catch. It can make anyone feel like a great driver. Short of an SLR, it's probably the most involving Mercedes there is.
The signs are there right from opening the door for the first time. There are no back seats. The front seats are heavily bolstered, clasping their occupants tightly. The leather-covered steering wheel is sculpted so hands fall naturally into the quarter-to-three position and fingers come to rest on the paddle shifters. The dash is elegant, materials (obviously) are high-quality. And just to make the track a little more tempting, it has a lap timer.
The exterior wears its fender flares and various aerodynamic appendages well. It also sports details in carbon fiber, including a trunk lid spoiler-deliberately left unpainted, so everyone can tell what it is. This is possibly questionable from an aesthetic standpoint and could swing a lot of buyers' color choices to black.
The CLK63 Black Series (which also comes in white, red and silver) will be available by the time you read this, at a cost of around $136,000. For this kind of money, there's a tempting array of choices. But the AMG buyer has probably been there, bought that and got the baseball cap. The fact that only 350 will make it over to the US adds a little more exclusivity. Either way, it's a fabulous machine. No exaggeration.
2008 AMG CLK63 Black Series
Longitudinal front engine, rear-wheel drive
6.2-liter V8, dohc, 32-valve
MacPherson strut w/adjustable coil springs (f), multi-link w/adjustable coil springs (r)
Vented and perforated composite rotors (f), vented and perforated steel rotors (r)
*Wheels and tires
9x18 (f), 9.5x18 (r)Pirelli P Zero, 265/30 (f), 285/30 (r)
Length x width x height (in.): 183.3 x 72.2 x 53.7
Wheelbase: 107 in.
Curb Weight: 3880 lb
Peak Power: 500 hp @ 6800 rpm
Peak Torque: 464 lb-ft @ 5250 rpm
0-62 mph: 4.3 sec
Top Speed: 186 mph
*Why we love it:
High level of driver involvement
*Why we don't:
This is Porsche 911 Turbo money
The Price Tag: $136,000 (est.)