Mercedes CLK 63 AMG Convertible: Is this the world’s fastest convertible?

by The Car Family: Internationally Syndicated

 

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What has god wrought?

 

Sit down, shut up, and hang on are all a passenger is the new CLK 63 AMG convertible needs to know because riding in this vehicle is a life changing experience that, well, needs to be experienced to be believed.

 

With the air-conditioning on, this four passenger convertible can easily get to 60 miles per hour in under five seconds without even having to use the steering wheel mounted shift paddles to manipulate the seven speed, absolutely seamless, automatic transmission. There is no doubt that this big engine is the best in the business, but at a cost. Can you say $90,000 (US) for the CLK 63 Cabriolet with its 6.2-liter engine motivating 475 horses to produce 465 pound-feet of torque? If you want a little more horsepower (503) at less cost order the CLK in coupe form if it is available in the country where you reside.

 

Is it worth the price is the question? We asked ourselves that question repeatedly during our test and the answer was always yes when you consider that for the less than $20,000 difference between the 6.3 and the non-AMG CLK you get an all-world performer that just might be the fastest four-seater convertible on Earth.

 

Okay, we were smitten as we always are when testing AMG. We had reservations at we only got 14 mpg in heavy traffic. But once on the open road the big engine was turning over 1800 rpm at legal highway speeds. Our gas mileage topped 26 mpg. We never averaged less than 24 mpg until we started to explore its acceleration and handling when the figure dropped to the 14-15 mpg range on premium fuel and the government has added a whopping gas tax penalty. Oh, the aluminum shift paddles got very hot in the sun and, for the price, there was no GPS or other extras associated with luxury vehicles of this type. That’s it. We want one and we want it badly. In case you need something a bit more practical, Mercedes is stuffing this V8 bad boy into nearly every car in its fleet including the station wagon.

 

Dad’s view: What a week. Beautiful weather, an unassuming Mercedes convertible in the garage, and a new gas credit card. We have been testing vehicles for decades, but seldom has one left us truly wanting to spend our own money on one. There was the Subaru WRX, the Toyota Prius, the Lexus RX, the Audi A4 CVT, the Bentley GT, Ford’s Escape hybrid, and the Honda Odyssey. Strange mix, but each one turned out to be a winner in the long term. Now comes the CLK with its AMGized engine and modifications and our list of favorites has been extended by one. The main reason is the relaxed nature of the engine. The 6.2 is built by an individual who signs the nameplate affixed to the engine. The powerplant has vertical intake and exhaust ports, a variable intake manifold with two internal throttle flaps to encourage cylinder charging, bucket tappets in the cylinder heads to make 7000 rpms a reality, all aluminum block and components, a variable camshaft adjustment, and a low-friction twin-wire-arc-sprayed coating on the cylinder walls, an extra-rigid closed-deck crankcase and cylinder walls with a Mercedes new coating, and the fact that this is an entirely new motor with little shared by the company’s other V8s. But the proof is in the pudding and we couldn’t get enough. The power comes on in a linear and forceful fashion. It isn’t the turbocharged all or nothing feeling, but a jet engine like force. It is in a word, magnificent. Especially considering that even though it is rated at a poor 14-18 mpg figure in reality gets much better when driven sensibly.

 

Not enough can be said about the seven speed automatic transmission that goes about its job so well you don’t even need to use the AMG Speedshift version of the 7G-Tronic seven-speed automatic wheel-mounted shift paddles. It is clearly more refined and easier to operate than BMW’s SMG unit. You can control the speeds at which the vehicle shifts by simply selecting a Comfort, Sport, or Manual mode.

 

The main driving problem is the significant weight on the front wheels making it nose heavy. This is no lightweight at over 4000 pounds and your notice it when driving over poor road surfaces. There is virtually no cowl shake and the ride has the rare combination of stiffness and suppleness. A Porsche convertible has nothing on this Mercedes when it comes to ride quality and the BMW convertible, although possessing better steering feel, does not do at well at smothering road imperfections.

 

The car is nearly indistinguishable from less expensive CLKs with only some small 6.3 AMG emblems to announce its intentions. The brakes are composites, the rims 18-inch alloys, the suspension developed specifically for this car by AMG sport suspension, and the entire package done in an inoffensive manner. Even the interior with its leather-covered sport seats, a driver’s computer, and a removable wind blocker don’t reveal the Jeckle and Hyde character of this convertible.

One warning is to never turn off the stability control. If you do the tremendous torque of the engine can make short work of your rear tires. Just like driving the hot rods of old, you can feel the car chassis working to handle the torque and a little quiver can be felt whenever you accelerate hard. That gentle movement and the bad boy exhaust note is so intoxicating that you quickly forget you are in a Mercedes convertible and my senses took me back to the days when my AC Cobra used to terrorize the population. Remarkably, I would rather have this CLK than my old Cobra for three reasons. First, the Cobra was an uncivilized beast that ran hot, had no creature comforts, and didn’t like traffic. Secondly, it had an aluminum body that could be dented just by having someone lean on it and you couldn’t lock it up. Lastly, it wasn’t any faster than this CLK, although it could use its powerslide abilities to corner faster. Top speed for the CLK is limited to about 155 mph which is more than enough despite the fact that this car is more about the trip than the arrival.

Mom’s view: I really lost my heart to this silver beauty and why not. Here is a vehicle that looks good, misbehaves on command, and doesn’t mind loafing around when the sun is warm and the road is clear. Okay, the gas mileage was atrocious once you pounded the accelerator into the floor pan, but if you drove it as a conventional vehicle it rewarded you with great fuel mileage. I did note that the interior was a little, no, make that a lot, less luxurious than I would have expected. The dull black plastic and leather don’t excite the senses and the seats are a bit firm, too. The glove box is small, but at least Mercedes offered some netting along the center console to hold the manuals. The cupholders were okay, but nothing more, and the radio just isn’t up to snuff. So if you love interiors get the Lexus SC or Audi coupe. As for me, this is all a girl really needs until the insurance premium arrives.

Young working male’s view: I wasn’t allowed to set foot near this Mercedes, but at least I got a chance to check the electronics and this car is loaded except in the area of communications and stereo. No Bluetooth, forget your bass adjustment, and the speakers are hard pressed to carry the sound quality the satellite radio provides let alone a good CD. I would much rather have the station wagon with this engine so I could take my dog to the vet in a hurry.

Young working woman’s view: Very, very nice. A bit plain inside and badly in need of some lighter leather colors as the black gets quite hot in the sun, but essentially, a smart looking smart aleck of a car meant to tease and please. Usable backseats and a small trunk give it a ring of practicality, too.

Family conference: Easily one of the best vehicles we have tested in our 20 years in the business, but not without some concern as to its fuel consumption. Overall, a blast from the past from of all people, Mercedes.

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