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Mercedes-Benz CLK 63 2007 Review

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There is nothing on the map that cannot be crushed by the compact coupe in the Mercedes-Benz family, provided, of course, you have more than $200,000 to spend.

The CLK 63 AMG must be described as a toy despite its serious brand, pace and price.

It is great to play with and great to play in, but it can be hard to take seriously until you hit the "go" pedal. Then it's obvious the CLK 63 is not a toy but a car almost Ferrari-class quick . . . and loaded with luxury gear to make any trip fun.

The 63 combines the latest AMG 6.2-litre V8 with a sports-tuned CLK chassis, giving a 4.7-second 0-100km/h sprint and an easy 250km/h top end, as well as cushy leather sports seats, great airconditioning and all the luxuries you expect for $200k.

It's no surprise the CLK 63, and the slightly less awesome CLK 500, have been a sales success since the upgrade work on the mid-sized coupe was done last year.

"The new CLK is really moving out the door," Mercedes-Benz Australia spokesman David McCarthy says.

The company is expecting a record year this year for the CLK. It sold 63 coupes and eight Cabriolets last year with AMG 63 badges, against the record result — when the car was still "only" a CLK 55 — of 46 Cabrios and 31 coupes in 2004.

Looking at the numbers it is easy to see that most owners are more interested in style than all-out performance, but that could easily change in the era of the 63.

It is a car that needs the stiffness of the coupe body, and the 500 should be more than good enough for anyone who wants a droptop.

The 500 also picked up everything from a TV tuner and Logic7 surround sound to folding electric mirrors. But it is the work of the engineers at AMG, the fast-car division, that makes the difference to a car that is already very good.

So the 63 has 18-inch alloys, upgraded brakes and lowered sports suspension, as well as a discreet body kit and bazooka-style exhaust pipes to let people know what has just come past.

The real blast comes from the engine, which — despite a 6.2-litre capacity with 6.3 badges — produces 354kW with top torque of 630Nm. Respectable racing car figures.

The 63 uses Benz's latest seven-speed automatic gearbox — there are no manuals in any AMG car, despite the sports focus — but there are lovely alloy shift paddles behind the steering wheel.

The price is $199,100, but the reality of insurance and on-road costs and extra trinkets (there are AMG owners who order special wheels just so they can impress friends with the same car) means it will be seriously into the $200,000 range by the time it hits the road.

ON THE ROAD

THE CLK 63 is a contradictory car. In a lot of ways it is a good-looking, comfy luxury coupe and in a lot of ways a way-fast speed machine. It is an interesting, challenging mix.

The challenge was always going to be to get the mix right, to do it for two types of customers — cruisers and blasters.

The excellence of the CLK 500, particularly as a cabrio, will make the choice easier for a lot of people as the CLK 63 AMG is clearly the most extreme speed machine in the Mercedes family.

The SLK is rorty but gets out of balance after an AMG makeover, while the CL is more at the luxury end of the business. So the 63 is for looking good and going quick. Really quick.

It is the sort of car that makes any stoplight a fun run, can turn any set of corners into a point-and-squirt blast, and makes overtaking easy.

But it is not perfect. In some ways that is good, because flaws give a car its character, but the flaws in the AMG package are not good for the price and the reputation of Mercedes.

The fuel tank is too small, holding only 62 litres and, in a car that can slurp premium unleaded at better than 20 litres for each 100 km — though I averaged 14.8 on test — the range is far too short for Australia.

More worrying, the suspension tuning in the 63 is soft and floppy, with vague steering.

If you give the electronic safety systems a holiday — absolutely not recommended for all but expert drivers — you can see how the car flops and wallows and is over-powered.

Mercedes-Benz has smart electronics to handle the problem, but they cut in early and hard if you mash the accelerator or turn hard on a slippery road. That is good in some ways, because it keeps the car safe, but I expected more and better.

The good thing is that the car is soft and cushy for city work, despite its low-profile tyres, but I still think the 63 engine stretches the CLK to the limit.

Just as the smaller SLK convertible is overpowered by an AMG upgrade, the new coupe is at the edge.

Some people will like that. Some people will delight in the outrageousness. And yet . . .

So, to rivals. The M6 from BMW is bigger and heavier and not as much fun, the M5 is not a coupe despite being a better car, and the Jaguar XK — I have yet to drive the R hottie — is also bigger and softer. Both BMWs are chunkier on the bottom line, too.

The present hot luxury favourite is the Audi RS4, which competes with the CLK on size and driving enjoyment, but is still a four-door and a little smaller.

In some ways the CLK is more likely to line up against the new BMW M3, which has just been previewed at the Geneva Motor Show.

It promises to be an intriguing heavyweight contest, but until then there is nothing quite like the CLK 63.

THE BOTTOM LINE

BRILLIANT car, with a couple of flaws.

Pricing guides

$14,934
Based on 17 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$8,990
Highest Price
$20,000

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
CLK63 AMG 6.2L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $30,400 – 39,820 2007 Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class 2007 CLK63 AMG Pricing and Specs
CLK350 Avantgarde 3.5L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $14,999 – 16,990 2007 Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class 2007 CLK350 Avantgarde Pricing and Specs
CLK500 Elegance 5.5L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $22,400 – 30,470 2007 Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class 2007 CLK500 Elegance Pricing and Specs
CLK200 Kompressor Avantgarde 1.8L, PULP, 5 SP AUTO $13,400 – 19,360 2007 Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class 2007 CLK200 Kompressor Avantgarde Pricing and Specs
Pricing Guide

$2,000

Lowest price, based on 4 car listings in the last 6 months

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