Wheels — Back on Track With Mercedes-Benz

The Mercedes-Benz CLK63 AMG Black Series suits the racing crowd

Exotic cars take many forms, but few hide their talents as well as the new hyper Benz. While anyone can tell that a Lamborghini or Ferrari is going to rocket them into hyperspace, to the detail-blind observer, the Mercedes-Benz CLK63 AMG Black Series is just another mid-range, two-door Mercedes coupe. They might notice that it sits a little lower and, perhaps, that it has bigger wheels than standard; but they would be hard pressed to tell you anything else of note.

These people, however, are not the ones at whom this car is aimed. This super rare and handmade special is targeted at Formula One motor-sports fans that drool openly with lust when they get close to it. They drink in the details like cold beer and all but cheer when they read the specification sheet. As they should, because this is a car that few, if any of them, have ever seen before — or will likely ever see again.

The reason for that is that it’s a limited-production version of the safety car that leads the pack of snarling F1 cars around the track on the warm-up lap. Even though it’s never turned a wheel in anger against others in a proper race, the 63 Black Series has had more track time than a showroom full of Lamborghinis.

Effectively a special edition of an already special edition, the 63 Black Series is built in a separate part of Mercedes’ AMG tuner division called Performance Studio. Split into three subsections (Edition, Signature, and Black Series), the Studio creates even more bespoke versions of the very unstandard AMG models. While all AMG specials are fast, it’s the Black Series department that makes the seriously fast cars.

And it shows. Like a well-trained athlete, it bulges in all the right places and wears the right clothes for the job. It crouches low on the road, the 19-inch wheels shod in super-sticky rubber swelling out of the main body into the pronounced wheel arches. There’s a deep air dam at the front to squash the tires into the road and an elaborate multifinned, carbon fiber splitter to do the same at the back. There are also suitably functional and butch-looking vents to cool the massive brakes at the front and deep sills down either side of the car to help it hug the road.

However, the fun really starts when you look under that wind-tunnel smoothed skin. The first standout feature is the multi-adjustable suspension. This is not some electronic aid that you just press a button on the dash to adjust. No, it’s real, race-style, get-out-the-spanners stuff that allows the driver — or more likely his mechanic — to adjust the car’s suspension in every possible way. It might sound odd to pay more to have to do something yourself, but that’s a race car for you.

What will undoubtedly make more sense to most people is the massive V8 engine — all 507 bhp of it. Rather than loading it with turbochargers and superchargers to achieve this heady figure, Mercedes simply did a deal with the devil to imbue the car with this amount of power. Or at least that’s what I’m suggesting. We could take a tour through the minute detail of the engine to find out why, but I’m sure most of us would prefer to leave that mystery unsolved.

Likewise the top speed figures. While life and license preservation wouldn’t allow a firsthand verification of the 63 BS’s 187 mph maximum, several long straightaways were dispatched at such a rate to suggest that, if anything, this speed errs on the pessimistic side. Even so, this car’s not all about top speed. It’s as much about centrifuging its near 4,000 pounds out of and around corners faster than a car of this size and weight should be able to — an ability it derives in part from the huge chassis braces front and rear.

For the record, Mercedes states that this car will hit 60 mph within 4.1 seconds and double that speed in dead-on 12 seconds. What the company doesn’t tell you is the fantastic noise the car makes while it delivers those sobering figures. Unlike the shriek of a Ferrari or the snort of a Lamborghini, the 63 BS coughs into life like a U.S. big block V8, then emits an ever more insistent bellow all the way to the redline. It even spits and crackles on the overrun in a most un-Mercedes like way.

Allowing you to make the most of this automotive musical instrument, the 63 BS is fitted with a seven-speed semi-automatic gearbox. As is normal these days, you can either leave the box in auto and let the car do the bidding or — why let the car have all the fun? — flick it into manual and do it yourself. What isn’t normal these days is the level of precision the 63 BS’s gearbox delivers. It works so well, including automatically matching the revs on down-changes, that it’s unlikely even a professional racer could do better with a manual box.

And that’s who will probably be driving this car, as they will be among the few who can fully appreciate this Black Series’ extraordinary abilities and will not shy away from the $135,000 price tag. But that’s immaterial in the United States, which has imported only 350 cars from a total global production run of 700, and all of them have been sold.

So, you could buy a standard CLK63 AMG and hardly anyone would notice the difference. Or you could get on the phone now and plead with your local Mercedes dealer to find you one. On the evidence before me, I’d suggest the latter.

Photography by Andrew Yeadon

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