Every now and then I get the opportunity to drive a car that blows me away. On this occasion the particular car was the Mercedes Benz CL 63 AMG. Sitting next to our Merc A150 we couldn’t have had two more different yet obviously related vehicles in the Benz range. One you could purchase for under $30K and the other, counting the added specs, over $400K.

As with all Benz products you know that some of the cutting edge technology that is to be found in today’s CL range will find its way to the A Class. For example the four-wheel electronic ABS first appeared in the 1978 Merc S Class, and other advances such as airbags, ESP and pre-tensioning seat belts are now standard in every one of their passenger vehicles including the A Class.

The new CL range comes with upgraded innovations such as Active Body Control (ABC), proximity cruise control, new more sophisticated braking systems which start braking before you hit the brake pedal, when the car senses an imminent accident. This is achieved with the use of its sophisticated radar system. An option of infrared headlamps to assist night driving is also available.

Of course a car like the CL 63 AMG is all about raw power and buyers get that in substantial amounts. Under the bonnet is a 6.3-litre V8 developing 385kW of power. It’s a silky smooth, highly responsive unit that will propel the car to 100 km/h in something like 4.6 seconds and quickly reach the 250 km/h or so permitted by the maximum speed governor.

AMG engines are built at the AMG plant at Affalterbach near Stuttgart. Each engine is built stage-by-stage by one man who wheels the block from station to station, adding components as he goes. When the engine is completed and ready to ship to a Mercedes-Benz assembly plant, the engine builder signs a metal plaque on the unit to confirm his highly skilled handiwork.

The transmission is highly sophisticated and complex and perhaps that’s why Mercedes-Benz chose such a descriptive name for it: AMG SPEEDSHIFT 7G-TRONIC (the capitals are Mercedes’). It uses a steering column-mounted lever that you tap to select P, R, N, and D. The seven-speed box can be manually operated using F1-style paddles behind the steering wheel, though with 630Nm of torque I found it best to leave well alone and let this electronic marvel do its job. I guess there are situations where manual shifting would be handy -“ very twisty and steep mountain passes, for example -“ but for most applications, fully automatic mode is just fine.

It came as no surprise to me that the CL’s interior is an opulent combination of fine leathers and woods with no real surprises for people familiar with Mercedes-Benz products. Naturally, there’s much emphasis on a very high level of luxury, but most controls are easy to use and reach. The COMMAND system is getting easier to use, but even more simplified navigation and sound system controls would be a plus. At least the car’s lengthy list of safety systems needs no driver input and the CL has to be one of the safest cars ever built.

Mercedes-AMG products are expensive, there’s no denying that, but for people who want the best in safe, high-performance road-going automobiles, they are probably worth every penny. This is one super car I’d be happy to drive across the continent.

AUTO FACTS

Price: $383,000

Engine: 6.2-litre eight

Power: 385kW, 630Nm

Transmission: 7-speed automatic

Fuel: 14.9

Good: Engine and transmission a dream

Bad: That price

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