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Thursday 17th May 2007

Mercedes-Benz CLK 63 AMG Black Series

Kyle Fortune grapples with the dark side in the latest offering from AMG's Black Series



I like the idea of AMG’s Performance Studio. It’s existed in one form or another since AMG started some 40 years ago but was only opened officially last year, revealing a darker side to the AMG brand – a side once open only to those with limitless budgets and the right contacts. It’s the home of the track-biased Black Series cars, the first being the SLK 55 AMG last year, the second this new CLK. I’m in that now with Willow Springs Raceway as my destination. Surprisingly, I’m in no rush to get there, as I’ve just found a road that rivals California’s numerous rollercoaster's for dips and bends. Spunky Canyon Road – cue schoolboy giggling – is the most interesting stretch of tarmac I’ve ever experienced in the USA. This is run number two and the CLK 63 AMG Black Series is impressing more and more as I’m becoming familiar with Spunky’s numerous and challenging corners. 

The Merc dark side badge
The Merc dark side badge
So what has AMG done to the CLK 63 AMG to warrant the Black Series badge? Quite a lot it seems, and enough for Mercedes to slap a quite scary price tag on it. Nothing’s official yet, but don’t expect to see much, if any, change from £100,000. That’s a hefty £34,000 more than the standard car. It all makes the £14,000 premium Porsche charges for its GT3 RS over the GT3 seem like an absolute bargain. But that sizeable increase in price certainly buys you a more butch looking CLK, the Black Series having more than a passing resemblance to that other mentalist CLK – the limited-run DTM. No bad thing in our book.

It’s also likely that if you’ve watched a Formula One race recently you’ll have spotted a monster CLK heading the field when Ralf crashes or an engine expires messily. Lose the Christmas lights and the Black Series CLK is that car, or at least a rough, road-legal approximation of it. That showy carbon fibre addendum serves a purpose. The vents on the front bumper give the hot air from the larger radiator and optimised power steering cooler a more efficient escape route. The punctured front wings with their 6.3-litre badges serve the additional engine and transmission oil coolers. The rear axle also gains a separate cooler, this time situated under the diffuser fins added to the rear apron.

Carbon fibre rear diffuser fins
Carbon fibre rear diffuser fins
Aside from a host of new radiators there’s a rear spoiler lip (in carbon, obviously) but perhaps AMG’s greatest signal of intent that this is a track-optimised car is the fitting of a limited slip differential to the rear axle. The multi-plate LSD gives 30% lock under load and 10% on overrun. The suspension too is similarly track-biased with fully adjustable springs, damping that can be altered for both compression and rebound, and front and rear axle track and camber adjustment. It all sits on a wider track (75mm at the front and 66mm at the rear) on specially forged 19-inch alloy wheels – the wider track and those wheels necessitating the blown wheel arches. Weight actually goes up by 5kgs over the standard CLK 63 to 1760kg, despite AMG binning the rear seats and fitting lighter buckets up front.

Wider track aids stability through corners
Wider track aids stability through corners
Those buckets are essential up on Spunky Canyon Road, holding tightly as the limits of the Pirelli P Zero Corsas are reached and breached on the dusty surface. The revised suspension has done wonders for the steering. The slightly offset, thick-rimmed wheel has more detail as to what’s going on and better weighting than the standard car, turning in with real precision. The wider track obviously aids stability, the CLK feeling neutral in all but the tightest corners - where understeer builds gradually. Play with the accelerator and the rear is easily coaxed out - only to then be reigned in rather abruptly by the recalibrated, but still nannying ESP. Turn it off and the CLK goes ASBO, being quick and easy to get hugely sideways. All good fun, but not exactly sensible on tricky Californian roads patrolled by cops with hand cannons and no sense of humour…

26bhp increase for the Black Series
26bhp increase for the Black Series
Being track-focussed you might expect it to ride terribly but it copes with the worst Californian roads exceptionally well. The body control is impressive too, retaining composure even when asked to cope with the rapid changes in direction and odd off camber dips and crests that Spunky delivers. Here the engine changes are less obvious than the significant dynamic enhancements – the CLK 63 AMG Black Series’ additional 26bhp gained through revised air intake ducts, a sports exhaust with less back pressure and revised engine management. Toque output remains the same at 630Nm, but it’s produced higher up the rev range at 5,250rpm. All this means that like all the 63 cars you need to remain in the upper reaches of the rev range to really get the best of their power.

0 to 62 in 4.3 secs
0 to 62 in 4.3 secs
Even so 62mph is reached in 4.3 seconds – 0.3 seconds quicker than the regular car – and the limiter’s been raised to 186mph. Nobody at AMG’s saying anything, but unshackled it should easily breach 200mph. Perhaps the weakest link in the CLK’s make up however, is AMG’s retention of the 7G-Tronic Speedshift seven-speed automatic. Sure, it’s a paddle shift system, but it’s still an auto, and one that despite the additional transmission oil cooler repeatedly reverts to ‘safe’ Drive mode at Willow Springs Raceway - overriding the manual programme until it’s cooled down. Sure, it’s warm in California. But the mercury rises just as high in the summer in Europe and it’s doubtful if customers will be too happy if they’re denied complete control of their £100k playthings on a warm day hot-lapping at the Nurburgring. 

7G-Tronic Speedshift the weakest link
7G-Tronic Speedshift the weakest link
When it’s cool enough to let you drive it, the 7G-Tronic transmission is smooth and quick. As it’s 20% faster in Manual mode than the Sport setting, and significantly more so than in Drive, Manual mode has to be the setting of choice. Do so, and it won’t shift down on full throttle, nor up at the limiter. You need to mentally adjust to remember to drop a couple of gears if you’ve reason for a quick change in pace to account for that rev-hungry V8 - forget to do so and torque-rich turbodiesels will sail by you.

So is it worth the extra? Certainly it’s a faster, better controlled and far more enjoyable CLK 63 AMG. And as a demonstration of what AMG can do it’s very impressive indeed. But it’s not got the measure of Porsche’s 911 GT3, or a used 360 Challenge Stradale as the well-healed track day enthusiast’s toy. If you must have an AMG and a track car, buy an E63 AMG, a Brian James trailer and a Clio Cup car or Caterham to put in it. And spend the rest on ferries, fuel and tyres for those inevitable trips to Germany.





 

KCF
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308mate

Original Poster:

11,314 posts

108 months

[news] 
Thursday 17th May 2007 quote quote all

Its not often my loins are stirred by a 3-pointed star but:

shout TROUSERS WELL AND TRULY TENTED!

That CLK is positively rippling with muscle, thankgoodness cause I reckon the standard CLK is car-design for insomniacs.

thumbup

gtoblue

34 posts

96 months

[news] 
Thursday 17th May 2007 quote quote all
Side on it looks like the ford ST24

pSyCoSiS

1,878 posts

91 months

[news] 
Thursday 17th May 2007 quote quote all
gtoblue said:
Side on it looks like the ford ST24


I can actually see the resemblence!

However, a stunning looking car, and indeed, very capable.

rimmer

6,662 posts

92 months

[news] 
Thursday 17th May 2007 quote quote all
i think that it looks really good even better than the standard amg clk.

SL Boy

60 posts

95 months

[news] 
Thursday 17th May 2007 quote quote all
Nice to read about and drool over the pictures but try buying one. I wanted to evaluate the SLK55 Black and approached the UK dealer who supplied my SL55 for information and asked what I needed to do to see and drive one. He was unable to help in any way. I contacted two other dealers with the same result. I spoke to AMG in Affalterbach who said if I wanted to fly to Stuttgart and drive one they would set this up but warned me the car was not being supported in the UK. So I gave up and ordered a GT3.
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badapple

2,259 posts

140 months

[news] 
Thursday 17th May 2007 quote quote all
What is this gonna cost? Another site says 230,000Euros

iluvmercs

5,919 posts

113 months

[news] 
Thursday 17th May 2007 quote quote all
Gorgeous car! VERY VERY nice. Saying this as a Merc fanatic, I think its a bit of a waste of money. I reckon it will be more than the £100k price tag though. The SLK55 Black Series was £100k, so this CLK will be more than that I should think.

I would take my £100k and buy a second hand Porsche 996 RS or a 360 CS.

I'm happy to see this black series looks and (I assume) drives completely different to the CLK-DTM though, meaning the DTM would be null and void.

Darren

Road_Terrorist

5,591 posts

128 months

[news] 
Thursday 17th May 2007 quote quote all
That's pretty damn expensive for what you get really, wonder if it will hold it's value being a fairly limited/unique model, or if it will depreciate quite a bit in the first couple of years scratchchin

Top Trump

1,543 posts

107 months

[news] 
Friday 18th May 2007 quote quote all
iluvmercs said:
Gorgeous car! VERY VERY nice. Saying this as a Merc fanatic, I think its a bit of a waste of money. I reckon it will be more than the £100k price tag though. The SLK55 Black Series was £100k, so this CLK will be more than that I should think.

I would take my £100k and buy a second hand Porsche 996 RS or a 360 CS.

I'm happy to see this black series looks and (I assume) drives completely different to the CLK-DTM though, meaning the DTM would be null and void.

Darren


iluvmercs would buy a Porsche or Ferrari instead!

I've never been a fan of Mercedes but some of the more recent beefcake models with revised styling are really very tasty. This is a very fine looking car.

I notice Mercedes/tuners have dropped supercharging on their premier division cars and gone for high revving, high output engines, more in the style of M cars.

Dr S

3,334 posts

112 months

[news] 
Friday 18th May 2007 quote quote all
A nice effort by the AMG guys but stands little chance against what you can get in this price bracket. And I didn't mention GT3, did I...

Murcielago_Boy

1,684 posts

125 months

[news] 
Friday 18th May 2007 quote quote all
Stunning looking car....

DoctorD

1,541 posts

142 months

[news] 
Friday 18th May 2007 quote quote all
Strange (or perhaps misleading) the mention of the 63 engine needing revs before it starts to feel quick. Unless they've done something really silly to it, then I would put that down to a tight engine. I have this engine in the ML63 (with a measured 511 bhp) and whilst it enjoys revs, that fails to convey an accurate picture.

In 6th gear or below there's not a cats chance in hell that any turbo-diesel will register as any form of competition. From 3500 or so onwards it produces that pukka exponential feeling of acceleration that you just 'know' will demolish anything bar the quickest of cars. The great news is that the acceleration is just relentless and gives the sense that if the rev limiter didn't cut in at 7500 then it would carry on climbing forever. So if it does that in a 2-tonne SUV, I am surprised that there is any talk of 'needing' to rev it in a 1700kg coupe.

p.s. out of interest before anyone comments about 'big heavy' V8s, this 63 engine actually weighs considerably less than the 3.2 straight six as fitted to recent M3s, which likewise leaves me puzzled that Mercedes has been unable to get anywhere near the weight of the last M3 CSL.

robm3

3,840 posts

113 months

[news] 
Saturday 19th May 2007 quote quote all
I'll stick with my CSL methinks, 1/3 of the price, just as exclusive and only a couple of tenths slower round the track (until the CLK's transmission cut's off or my brakes fade).

shedman

32 posts

91 months

[news] 
Sunday 20th May 2007 quote quote all
For the same price you could own both and M3 and an RS4 - not exactly good value?

ukross

206 posts

99 months

[news] 
Monday 21st May 2007 quote quote all
"Value" gets a bit meaningless at this end of the market I reckon. "I want the best - send the invoice to my assistant", type thing.

Rich dudes play-thing. Will already have a fleet of cars including some of those mentioned above.

jellison

12,743 posts

163 months

[news] 
Tuesday 22nd May 2007 quote quote all
Why do Merc and McLaren bollox these thngs up with auto boxes - even a ferrari electric manual would be better suited.

They just do not do manuals - I get it.............

DoctorD

1,541 posts

142 months

[news] 
Tuesday 22nd May 2007 quote quote all
jellison said:
Why do Merc and McLaren bollox these thngs up with auto boxes - even a ferrari electric manual would be better suited.



They just do not do manuals - I get it.............
I guess they know the demographics of their customers. In actual fact Merc's 7-speed box changes gears faster in manual than my CSLs SMG system (i.e. very fast). It just nanny's you a bit on downchanges, which is no problem on road but a major hinderance on track.

jellison

12,743 posts

163 months

[news] 
Wednesday 23rd May 2007 quote quote all
DoctorD said:
jellison said:
Why do Merc and McLaren bollox these thngs up with auto boxes - even a ferrari electric manual would be better suited.



They just do not do manuals - I get it.............
I guess they know the demographics of their customers. In actual fact Merc's 7-speed box changes gears faster in manual than my CSLs SMG system (i.e. very fast). It just nanny's you a bit on downchanges, which is no problem on road but a major hinderance on track.
Nothing apart from the driver sjould decide when the engine get a change of cogs thrown at it.



Did that DTM Clone from a few year back have manual (the one with the SLR Lump)?

bobthemonkey

3,549 posts

102 months

[news] 
Wednesday 23rd May 2007 quote quote all
Nope, the f speed box from the SLR, except they did something to the software, removing much of the nannying from it.

J500ANT

3,090 posts

125 months

[news] 
Thursday 24th May 2007 quote quote all
Earlier this week I was in Germany with my smart car friends. We visited the Ring and on our way back got overtaken by one of these (pix WILL follow). The driver couldnt take all 6 at once as we were heading towards a blind crest, so he was stuck in the middle. However the sight of it flying past and the noise was unbelievable! We were heading back to Saarbrucken and pulled into a fuel station, and it was there, so we grabbed a few more shots of it too. He got upset when one of us went to take a pic inside it though. When he was leaving he again gave it LOTS of beans and it just went! No wheelspin but maximum attack with a chorus of cylinders blasting away. Lovely!!
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