lithe and lovely ímunds.h..wkedmunds.firstdrive.2.*
This car does not sound too bad. ímunds.h..wkedmunds.firstdrive.2.*
Road Tests: First Drive World Premiere -- First Drive: 2006 Mercedes-Benz CLS55 AMG Muscular Magic From Mercedes By Jim McCraw Date Posted 09-27-2004
Mercedes-Benz builds more different kinds of cars for more different market segments than any other car company, and it can't seem to resist slicing and dicing the market into smaller and smaller segments as it goes.
A prime example of that is the stunning new CLS55 AMG. The CLS family of sedans, shown at the Geneva Auto Show last March and at the recent Paris Auto Show, is a radical design departure from any existing Mercedes sedan, with a sports-car grille, a four-door coupe shape unlike anything else on the market and a brand-new interior design scheme. It is meant to fit into the Mercedes-Benz sedan family a notch above the E-Class and a notch below the S-Class, and in spite of the first letter of its new family name, has nothing whatsoever to do with the previously existing C-Class or the sporty CLK. Underneath the spectacular sheet metal, there is an E-Class chassis modified here and there to fit the new shape and size.
Now, the "regular" CLS that the U.S. market will get, the CLS500, will come with a 302-horsepower, 5.0-liter three-valve V8 engine and one of the new seven-speed overdrive automatic transmissions, starting in January of next year. In that form, it is a traffic-stopping, mile-eating roomy family cruiser (in spite of that low, swoopy roofline) that is aimed at the luxury car buyer looking for something new, special and different. We drove the CLS500 only days before the world debut of the second member of the CLS family, and enjoyed every minute of it. But now comes the high-performance CLS55 AMG version, designed by the performance and racing specialists at Mercedes-Benz's AMG subsidiary in Affalterbach, Germany, a few miles south of the company's Stuttgart headquarters.
The CLS55 AMG, which is expected in the U.S. next March as a 2006 model, will be sold in limited volume, only about 1,500 units each year for the next several years, and is aimed at a very special customer who wants the stunning new coupe/sedan look of the CLS500 but with a lot more all-around performance, which includes more power, more torque, better handling and cornering, and even better brakes than the monster ABS brakes that come on the CLS500.
The 5.5-liter, three-valve V8 engine in the CLS55 AMG is supercharged, using a Lysholm blower unit and generating a staggering 469 hp at 6,100 rpm and 516 pound-feet of torque between 2,650 and 4,500 rpm. That's enough pure grunt to move this lithe and lovely 4,200-pound sedan from rest to 60 mph in only 4.5 seconds, running up to a governed top speed of 155 mph. And enough to displace the E55 AMG, by a couple of tenths of a second, as the quickest and fastest sedan Mercedes-Benz has ever made.
AMG surrounds the supercharged engine with an enormous array of complementary equipment, starting with a tweaked five-speed transmission with full manual control via either the shift stick or steering wheel-mounted buttons. The suspension, which is lowered all around by 10 millimeters compared to the CLS500 setup, is an AMG-modified version of Mercedes-Benz's AirMatic DC semiactive, self-leveling air suspension with its own electronic calibrations for better cornering and ride performance at high speeds. The tires are upgraded to 235/35ZR-19s in the front and 285/30ZR-19s at the rear on AMG five-spoke alloy wheels. The brakes are, in a word, enormous — 14.2-inch front ventilated disc brakes with eight-piston calipers, with 13-inch ventilated discs at the rear, operated by four-piston calipers. A set of cooling fins and an oil cooler have been added to the differential for sustained high-speed running, and keep the lubricant nearly 60 degrees cooler.
In addition to the complete mechanical makeover than turns a CLS500 into a CLS55 AMG, there is a special interior package with napa leather seating, special multicontour sport seats up front, an Alcantara leather headliner, AMG gauges in black on white, with an AMG logo on the clock face and "V8 Kompressor" on the tachometer face and the buyer's choice of either matte or glossy burled wood trim on the instrument panel.
The CLS55 AMG coupe/sedan also has special AMG body styling, including a new front lower valance with large air intakes and round foglamps, side skirts and a prominent diffuser-style rear valance and two oval, chrome-plated tailpipes of the AMG sports exhaust system. The body carries V8 Kompressor fender badges, an AMG logo on the deck lid and an integrated spoiler lip on the deck lid that reduces lift at the rear axle by about 30 percent, improving high-speed stability.
As you would expect in a car of this pedigree, the CLS55 AMG comes with all of the things that make a Mercedes a Mercedes, including ABS, traction control, ESP chassis control, tuneable shocks absorbers and variable ride height, all retuned to AMG specifications, a big-time audio system and every conceivable power and comfort accessory as standard equipment. Options will include satellite navigation, Parktronic distance warning, Distronic proximity-limiting cruise control, dynamic multicontour bucket seats or power ventilated seats, remote trunk locking, the Keyless-Go credit-card locking and starting system, a tire-pressure monitoring system, a surround sound audio system and the Linguatronic voice control system.
During an all-too-brief test-drive, the CLS55 AMG showed the breeding that comes of 35 years of AMG's evolution, with a sporty, snarky, ready-for-battle look about it, a jaunty stance and a willingness to impress even the most jaundiced critic with its flashy performance. When you open the electronic throttle all the way into the plush carpeting, it takes a big, deep breath, throws you back into that left front bucket and gets through four gear changes with the speed and authority of an automatic rifle, all the while pumping sweet music through its mellow exhaust system.
Upshifts and downshifts with the wheel-mounted buttons are instantaneous, and this automanual stays in each gear right up to the redline and will not shift up automatically as some do. The power steering effort goes up with the speed and stays nice and hefty until you're back down to parking/crawling speeds. The air suspension system simply eliminates the small impacts and keeps the car flat and buttoned down even at ridiculously high speeds in sweepers and corners, no matter the quality of the pavement. Under emergency braking conditions like those we encountered, the big wide tires and the race-quality brakes shed speed so quickly and deftly that the car seems to weigh one ton instead of more than two. When you're out of the throttle, cruising on overdrive 5th gear, it's as much a pussycat as its CLS500 sibling.
The CLS55 AMG is a very serious car for the discriminating driver, and at about $85,000-$90,000 and 1,500 units per year, you won't see many of them in your neighborhood.
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