2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS 63 AMG Review

For those who only want the best luxury sedan, with a spirited drive, there is nowhere else to look.
For those who only want the best luxury sedan, with a spirited drive, there is nowhere else to look.
For those who only want the best luxury sedan, with a spirited drive, there is nowhere else to look.


  • Massively powerful V8
  • Truly luxurious and well-rounded
  • Tech suite is deep and effective


  • Six-figure price tag
  • Did we mention the price?

For anyone who follows tech innovations, the 2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS 63 AMG is like the iPhone 4S of automobiles. There’s a sleek exterior, but on the inside, the tech advancements take well-known concepts – like adaptive cruise control and blind spot detectors – and push them even further.

For alpha techies, driving the CLS 63 is just a notch more fun than cruising around in the Lexus CT 200h, another car that has a bevy of tech advancements. The fact that the CLS 63 is the AMG version means you are getting the raw horsepower of an SLS combined with the sleek styling of a C-Class luxury car.

The CLS 63 is striking at first glance. There’s a slight bubble curve to the vehicle from front to aft, as though Mercedes decided to squish down the normal C-Class look for a bit more aerodynamics. Our CLS 63, a sleek gray silver with chrome accents, came equipped with racing rims and tires. The rims, which reveal the same exposed brake pads as the SLS, got most of the attention from gathering crowds.2012-Mercedes-Benz-CLS-63-AMG-Angle-Head-Lights

That’s right, this is the second Mercedes-Benz test where crowds gathered around the car in droves. People just seemed to be drawn to the racing stance. A few commented on the front hood emblem that looks like a medallion, and the unusually low profile. Inside, the C63 provides seating for four. There’s a pleasant cocooning feel that is not as tight as an Infinity M56x or as spacious as a BMW 7. Our C63 had no rear television system, which is something even a Hyundai Equus has these days. The trunk is spacious, not cavernous. Rear headroom, at 36.1 inches, is plenty for most passengers.

On the open road, the CLS 63 AMG has no equal in the luxury sedan category. There are so many refinements to the driving mechanics that it takes a week to discover them all.

One is that the adaptive cruise control, which adjusts the speed of the car based on the vehicles in front of you, is more refined. Some cars, like the 2012 Acura RL, do not ease you into a slower speed but can sense other cars rather suddenly. Not so with the CLS 63, which slows down so gradually that you barely notice the change. On corners, the vehicle also slowed just a bit, more due to the shift in the suspension than any false positives about other cars. You can nudge the Distronic Plus lever to increase speed one MPH or, with a heftier tug, raise or lower in 5MPH increments.2012-Mercedes-Benz-CLS-63-AMG-Gauges

When you make a turn at night, the CLS 63 emits an extra light to the side of the car so you can see the road easier. When the blind spot indicator flashes in a side mirror, but you decide to push the turn signal anyway, the CLS 63 emits a warning chime. Over time, if you drive too long, vary your speed too much, or waver on the road, a warning chime sounds and you see an “attention” icon that looks like a coffee cup. The car is suggesting that you take a break for a while.

The CLS 63 goes a few steps further than this even. Many cars, like the Cadillac Escalade, have auto high beams that dim when another car approaches. On the CLS 63, the lights dim, but they do so gradually, as though you are using a dimmer switch. The lights wait longer for the car to pass and then resume. Another finding: if you jog down too fast on the adaptive cruise, the brake lights turn on – something we have not noticed in other luxury cars that sometimes only let you lower the speed gradually. There’s even a “hold” mode where you can set the car in park on a hill, then press gas to go.

With all of these safety features, you might wonder where the “AMG” moniker comes into play. Like the SLS we tested recently, the CLS 63 is amazingly fast. We clocked a 0-to-60 time of about 4.5 seconds. Also like the SLS, there’s an RS mode where you hold down the brake, switch the dial, confirm with a paddle shifter, press the accelerator, wait for the car to rev to about 3,000 RPMs, and then “launch” for a faster start. There are two sport modes (S and S+) that tune the shifting through gears for faster starts. You can also adjust suspension for a comfortable, easy ride at all times, or a stiffer, road-hugging feel for tighter control. There’s also an all-manual mode where you always have to paddle-shift.


Many of the features in the CLS 63 go one step or two beyond what you will find in a BMW 7 or an Audi A8. The adaptive suspension eases you smoothly around corners, and you barely even notice that the car is adjusting for you. There’s a pleasing rumble that emanates from the dual exhaust. It’s not as loud as the SLS or a Camaro SS, but this is a luxury sport vehicle, not a sports car. Handling is precise and comfortable, with plenty of power. We have never felt such a rush in any car test as we did when passing another car at about 75MPH. There is just a horrendous amount of power in the 518-horsepower, 5.5-liter V8 engine, which has 520 ft-lbs. of torque, especially for passing. 

We’d be remiss if we did not mention the sound system. We’ve never been huge fans of Harman/Kardon, especially compared to other premium-grade stereo systems. We’re believers now. The main advantage to this system is that it is amazingly distinct. On several songs by Mat Kearney, we noticed slight musical asides and synth touches that we had never noticed before. In a test of the movie Captain America, there is a whooshing theatrical quality to the surround sound. A sub in the backseat made the movie come alive, especially during the most sonically explosive scenes.

The CLS 63 AMG has it all: a smooth ride, fast acceleration, an amazing stereo. No other car, including the Audi A8 (which was not nearly as fast), or the Infiniti M56x (which does not have as many safety features), or even the Mercedes-Benz E-Class (which is not as sporty) impressed us as much. All of this luxury comes at a price, of course. Base price on the CLS 63 AMG starts at $94,900. With all of the extra tech features, racing wheels and rims, and premium sound, the price quickly shoots above $100,000.

For those who only want the best luxury sedan, with a spirited drive, there is nowhere else to look. At least from the luxury sedan and sports mindset, we’ve not found a better car on the road.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Folding canoes and ultra-fast water filters

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

These winter-warrior cars will never leave you out in the cold

Snow can be an absolute pain if your vehicle isn't optimized to handle that sort of terrain. If brutal snowstorms are an annual part of your life, we recommend you pick up one of these winter-ready vehicles.
Product Review

The 2019 Porsche Macan S is a luxurious and quick SUV, but it's no road tripper

The roster of models challenging the Porsche Macan grows annually. The German firm updated its smallest, most affordable SUV with a new engine, more tech features, and subtle design tweaks to keep it looking fresh.
Product Review

Audi built an electric SUV for buyers who want gasoline-free to mean stress-free

We finally got to spend time behind the wheel of the electric 2019 Audi E-Tron bustling cities and arid desert of the United Arab Emirates to see how it compares with Jaguar and Tesla's competitors.

Did that car just wink at you? Daimler previews car-to-pedestrian signals

Eager to show off progress with autonomous cars and perhaps do some consumer softening as well, Daimler and Bosch previewed car-to-pedestrian communications. A sensor-loaded Mercedes S appears to wink to acknowledge a pedestrian's presence.

World’s fastest electric race car to display at Petersen Museum

The Volkswagen I.D. R Pikes Peak race car smashed the all-time record at the hill climb for which it was named. The all-electric VW record-holder will be on display at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles until February 1, 2019.

This freewheeling Army truck-turned-tiny home is a labor of love

Most tiny homes are models of efficiency but one British metal worker has redefined the idea, converting an old Army truck into a mobile tiny home that comes with a bed, a sofa, a shower, and a beer garden.

Take a friend stargazing at 202 mph in the 2019 McLaren 720S Spider

McLaren has introduced the 2019 720S Spider. As its name implies, it's a convertible variant of the 720S coupe. The company promises the Spider retains the coupe's dynamism and agility thanks in part to the widespread use of carbon fiber.

Gateway’s born-again Ford Bronco boasts classic style, 2018 muscle car power

Illinois-based Gateway Bronco has received a license from Ford to make brand-new examples of the first-generation Bronco. Every build starts with a Ford VIN and a donor vehicle, but Gateway upgrades every part of the car.

Bloodhound’s plan to build a 1,000-mph car has run out of gas

The Bloodhound supersonic car (SSC) project has officially shut down. The upside is you can now buy a 135,000-horsepower car powered by a jet engine and a cluster of rockets for $319,000.

2019 Ford Ranger saves fuel without sacrificing towing capacity

The 2019 Ford Ranger marks Ford's long-awaited return to the midsize truck segment, which has seen a resurgence lately. But will being late to the party make Ford's job more difficult?

Pininfarina Battista is a 1,900-horsepower, 250-mph electric supercar

The Pininfarina Battista will be the first production car from famed Italian design firm Pininfarina. Named after company founder Battista Pininfarina, it has a claimed 1,900 horsepower and a $2.5 million price tag.

Tesla could show the electric pickup Elon Musk is dying to build in 2019

Tesla has started designing its long-promised pickup truck. The yet-unnamed model will come with dual-motor all-wheel drive and lots of torque, plus it will be able to park itself.

Allegro.ai is helping Hyundai mine the artificial intelligence gold rush

In November 2018, Hyundai invested in a startup named Allegro.ai. We talked to the company's founder to learn more about what that means for consumers in the not-too-distant futures.