Mercedes CLK

Mighty Mercedes hits the road in the UK, but can its price be justified?

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

The CLK 63 Black Series is engaging to drive, as well as great to look at. Although it’s not as well engineered as the likes of the Porsche 911 GT3, what this machine lacks in accuracy and chassis balance, it more than makes up for with character. And in the process, it answers the critics’ claims that Mercedes’ AMG performance models are dull. It’s just a shame the newcomer is so prohibitively expensive.

MAKING cars go quickly is a dark art... So, the Mercedes AMG CLK63 Black Series is perfectly named.

Inspired by the firm’s experiences in Formula One, and using the Black Series label first seen on the smaller SLK 55, the CLK 63 represents a far more ambitious driver’s car.

It uses motorsport know-how to take the fight to Porsche’s 911 GT3. And with a 507bhp 6.3-litre V8, composite brakes and fully adjustable suspension, the Mercedes certainly has all the right ingredients for success.

The slinky CLK shape has been given an F1 safety car-style makeover. A deeper front bumper dominates at the front of the car, while there are also bulging wheelarches, chunky side skirts, four large exhaust pipes and a set of imposing 19-inch alloys.

Carbon fibre is used extensively throughout; it appears on the bootlid spoiler, the rear underbody diffuser and the front brake cooling ducts.

The lightweight material features in the stripped-out cabin, too, covering the centre console and door trims. There are deep racing bucket seats for both driver and passenger, while the rear bench has been removed.

Climb behind the chunky leather steering wheel, and you’re immediately confronted by a comprehensive and impressive array of dials that even includes a race timer function!

When you turn the ignition key, the naturally aspirated V8 erupts into life. As with previous AMG efforts, the 507bhp unit serves up epic performance, with the 0-60mph sprint taking 4.3 seconds. Under acceleration, the 6.3-litre powerplant emits a baritone growl, which gradually turns into a bellow the faster you go.

All this power is transmitted to the rear wheels via a seven-speed semi-auto gearbox. It’s quick to respond to instructions from the steering wheel-mounted paddles, although it can get clumsy when left to its own devices.

Point the aggressive-looking nose into a corner, and the Black Series really impresses. The ultra-stiff chassis reacts instantly to the driver’s inputs, and the steering wheel provides a great deal of feedback, even if it is a little on the heavy side.

What’s more, despite the uncompromising suspension set-up, the CLK remains impressively supple, even over broken surfaces. That’s not to say the beast has been tamed, though. Switching off the traction control will turn the AMG into a real handful.

By far the Mercedes’ biggest prob-lem is its price. At £99,517, it costs nearly £30,000 more than the standard CLK 63. And while that car isn’t as much fun, it’s nearly as fast, as well as better equipped and more refined.

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