Some numbers within the automobile world bear particular significance. Whether or not it’s 426 for the Hemi or 4.0 for the 911 GT3 RS, while you begin speaking about them as an fanatic, there’s normally a way of hushed reverence. For Mercedes-Benz, this quantity is 6.3. It is a reference to the 300SEL 6.3 that Mercedes constructed within the Sixties, which was an all-conquering sedan that shattered pace information in unimpeachable model.
Quick ahead 50 years or so, and that quantity has made a comeback, this time as a signifier for AMG efficiency fashions outfitted with the high-revving, 6.2-liter naturally aspirated M156 V8 and its almost-American soundtrack. This engine noticed obligation within the C63, E63 and S63 fashions, and, in my private favourite, the CLK63 Black Collection – a automobile I’ve all the time cherished however by no means pushed till Mercedes provided me an hour with one throughout Monterey Automobile Week.
Earlier than I get into what it was wish to drive, we must always discuss what differentiates the Black Collection from the usual CLK63. The apparent exterior variations embrace somewhat carbon trunk spoiler, 19-inch solid alloy wheels and massive ol’ carbon fender flares. Inside, there are many carbon fiber accents, and the rear seats have been deleted. Not-so-obvious modifications embrace AMG-tuned Black Collection-specific coilovers, a re-tuned seven-speed automated, a mechanical limited-slip diff, greater brakes and greater air intakes. For such an intense automobile, the modifications now appear fairly delicate.
Beginning the CLK can also be a extra delicate expertise than I anticipated. The place at the moment’s efficiency automobiles have a tendency to begin with an enormous, indignant bark that settles right into a diesel-like idle, the CLK form of grumbles itself into existence after which lopes alongside till you prod it. The M156 engine – the primary developed completely in-house by AMG – regardless of its dimension, likes to rev and makes its peak of 500 horsepower (25 greater than the usual CLK63) at 6,800 rpm. There’s loads of torque, too, with 370 lb-ft out there round 2,000 rpm and a peak of 465 lb-ft at 5,250 rpm.
That expansive rev vary and its naturally aspirated character imply that the Black Collection is a automobile that likes to be labored. Revving the engine out elicits much less total noise than you’d count on from one thing as particular and restricted as this, but it surely’s all good sound and all actual, with no tuned-in bangs or pops from the exhaust.
500 hp isn’t that a lot by at the moment’s requirements, however at the moment as in 2008, it’s not the tip of the world. Even when you think about that the CLK Black with its carbon fiber and rear seat delete was nonetheless tipping the scales at a positively porcine 3,920 kilos, it’s nonetheless an expertise, even when it doesn’t really feel as fast as one thing with the trendy 4.0-liter Biturbo motor.
By 2008, Mercedes had lengthy since bailed on the handbook transmission as an idea, and so it shoved a seven-speed auto within the CLK. On the floor, it is a bummer, as a handbook would have been extra partaking and possibly helped to shave some weight, however this auto is an efficient one – by 2008 requirements. Shifts are fairly fast, if not quick, and it largely shifts while you need it to, and, hey, it may very well be so much worse; it may very well be an automatic handbook like BMW’s SMG transmissions.
The Black Collection’ bespoke suspension setup is respectable for street use. The little streets round Monterey aren’t precisely brutal and damaged, however the automobile felt compliant sufficient for each day use. It’s not essentially plush and even one thing I’d wish to each day, however you’re not going to rattle any fillings unfastened. The automobile’s AMG-branded Brembo brakes are superior and really feel unflappable, because of their large six-piston calipers and two-piece rotors up entrance.
The early-to-mid aughts weren’t a good time for Mercedes’ inside design or high quality, and regardless of its whopper of an as-new price ticket ($138,000 in 2008 or round $197,000 in at the moment’s cash), this factor remains to be largely a C-Class. The seats are good however not overly supportive, and the supplies typically suck — Europe received fixed-back bucket seats, however they weren’t authorized for the US on the time. The automobile additionally undoubtedly smells like crayons, which is a plus for me, somebody who has owned a bunch of late-90s and early-2000s German automobiles, but it surely may very well be a bummer for another person.
Whereas the Black Collection was initially envisioned as a form of tribute to the then-contemporary F1 security automobile, it made the journey to the street fairly properly. My driving expertise was restricted, however I think about it as a automobile that may fortunately hustle up a canyon street, offered it wasn’t too tight, and it will look epic cruising round LA with all 4 home windows down. It’s been eclipsed by AMG automobiles many occasions over in efficiency phrases, but it surely’s exhausting to argue that the first-generation CLK Black Collection doesn’t have model to match its still-nearly-six-figure price ticket if and while you discover one on the market.