If you’re familiar with the Mercedes CL then you belong to a rather exclusive club. The German firm’s flagship coupé lacked both the mass appeal and visual charm of its four-door S-Class brother. As such, it barely registered in the minds of UK buyers.
The harsh reality is that a manufacturer at the volume end of the market will always struggle against the Bentleys of this world. Would Sir like a CL or a Bentley Continental GT? The answer is rarely in doubt. But its failure to win over motorists had as much to do with its wallflower personality as it did the strength of its competition.
Now the CL is no more, rebranded as the S-Class Coupé. This should come as no surprise; the S-Class saloon commands a loyal following. Piggybacking on this goodwill to promote a super-luxury two-door variant is a smart move. It’s just a shame it took so long.
It’s with the AMG model that comparisons with Bentley’s Continental GT make the most sense. In high performance guise, the S63 AMG Coupé uses Mercedes’ new-ish twin-turbo 5.5-litre V8 petrol motor. The unit’s 585 horsepower might steal the headlines but it’s the considerable 664lb ft of torque that impresses me the most. All the usual clichés apply; effortless acceleration, the ability to cruise at speed without even trying, etcetera, etcetera.
But here’s the thing: that V8 motor is so grown up that it can be a little too civilised. The opportunities to hear it are slim unless you’re brave, reckless or both; given the car’s size, you need an awful lot of tarmac to really open it up. When you think of it in those terms, you’re paying a handsome premium for the AMG badge (all in the S63 is around £125,000).
Still, if the stars align, this car behaves just as you’d expect from a big AMG-tuned Benz. It’s laugh-out-loud fast in a straight line and, thanks to some trick suspension kit, it can hold its own in corners long after you’ve lost your nerve. Keen drivers might bemoan the lack of outright feel from the helm, but if that’s important to you, there’s always the smaller, more agile C63 compact saloon for those B-road blasts.
Anyway, it’s not a sports car; the S63 Coupé’s flag is firmly in the luxury camp – it’s what buyers expect and Mercedes is happy to deliver. The engine’s volume has been turned down a notch, making daily driving a more refined experience. You’ll end up spending around 90 per cent of your time using the car’s Comfort setting rather than its more raucous Sport. That said, the Dynamic Curve option almost eliminates pitch and roll, delivering a surreal experience when attacking roundabouts at speed.
The luxury theme continues in the cabin, which borrows heavily from the S-Class saloon; big, fully adjustable chairs up front and a surprising amount of space in the rear.
There’s another big advantage to the coupé over the four-door: you won’t get mistaken for a VIP airport transfer service. Being able to drive fast is one thing, but doing it in style is key. Sure, Bentley, Aston Martin and Ferrari have been doing it for decades, but in this case you get all the additional bells and whistles we’ve come to expect from a Mercedes; widescreen central display, a multitude of audio options, safety kit that can help you stay on the black stuff even when you’ve been naughty – the S63 Coupé has it all. Of course, you’ll have to pay a bit extra for some of those features, taking the cost perilously close to £150,000, but even then it’s not too unreasonable, compared to the competition.
It may not be the last word in on-the-limit performance motoring, but it’s the most thoroughly modern of the cars that occupy this rarefied space. For those who buy it, it’s unlikely to be the only car in the garage, but I’ll wager it’s the one that gets driven the most.
TOP SPEED: 155mph
0-62MPH: 4.2 secs
CO2 G/KM: 237g/km
MPG COMBINED: 28.0mpg
VALUE FOR MONEY: ★★★☆☆