Mercedes-Benz Fires Back
By Feann Torr
Mercedes CLS 55 AMG
Can you say AU Ford Falcon brake lights?
Transmitting 700Nm of torque to the CLS 55
AMG's rear hoops is a supercharged 5.5-litre V8
The quad exhausts hint at its AMG powerplant
The CLS-Class is a very long, very roomy vehicle
Mercedes' new CLS-Class is a bit of an enigma that I've given
up trying to figure out.
Merc reckons its new car is a '4-door coupé', but
coupés are traditionally, and according to many dictionaries,
2-seater, 2-door vehicles.
But like I said, I've given up fighting such an oxymoronic
description (it's like a 4-wheeled tricycle I suppose) and
now it's time to just take a look at the most powerful CLS
model in the range, the CLS 55 AMG.
Launched at the 2004 Paris Motor Show, the unique four-door
coupé is powered by the torque-laden and refined AMG
V8 supercharged engine, belting out a colossal 350kW of power,
And more than just being 'yet another' AMG model to hack
down the Autobahn with at 200+ klicks, the low-slung and strikingly
smooth CLS 55 AMG appears to be on the prowl, and may have
BMW's V10-powered M5 in its sights.
Which begs the question: is an all out power war brewing
While BMW has made a big statement with its highly anticipated
M5, generating 520Nm of torque from its 10-cylinder engine,
Mercedes' top shelf 4-door sports coupé makes 700Nm.
But a 180Nm torque difference doesn't tell the full story,
as the Merc is the heavier of the two and has five gear ratios
compared to the Beemer's seven, meaning the 0-100km/h sprints
will be very close as a result.
It is quite possible a power war is on the cards, because
the timing of the CLS 55 AMG (due for sale in Europe in January
2005) pre-emptively ups the ante as the M5 is about to hit
But then it could also be explained away as both companies
simply maturing to meet customer demand for increasingly powerful
four-wheeled road rockets.
The CLS 55 AMG accelerates from standstill to 100km/h in
just 4.7 seconds and reaches 200km/h after 16.1 seconds, while
the maximum speed is electronically limited to 250km/h.
The all-new CLS 55 AMG car will be appearing at Mercedes-Benz
sales outlets and dealerships in early 2005 in Europe, and
is expected to do so at about the same time as the retail
launch of the BMW M5.
And while the BMW M5 is one very fine looking sports sedan,
Mercedes new super coupe takes German vehicle design to new
levels, showing an almost organic approach to styling, while
retaining enough menace to keep the die-hard AMG fans happy.
The AMG bodystyling comprises an expressive front apron/bumper
with large air inlets and round fog lamps plus bold side skirts
to give the car more profile and a distinctive rear apron.
One feature that appeals to both the eye and the ear is provided
by the pair of chromed, twin oval tailpipes of the AMG sports
Further differentiation from the standard CLS models is ensured
by a special radiator grille with three imposing, silver-painted
louvers, while a subtle AMG boot lid spoiler is claimed to
increase downforce on the rear wheels.
The unique four-door vehicle has it's rear wheels driven
by the aforementioned supercharged AMG engine, which generates
an output of 350kW (476hp) and 700Nm of torque from a displacement
The impressive power of the supercharged V8 engine is due
to the supercharger technology already familiar from the SL
55 AMG and E 55 AMG. The belt-driven supercharger and the
intercooler are located between the banks of cylinders and
these work together with the low temperature radiator in the
front end to achieve particularly efficient cooling of the
The CLS 55 AMG gets other goodies on top of the juiced-up
engine, including pneumatic sports suspension, a high-performance
AMG braking system and a slinky sports bodykit.
The powerplant is complemented by the AMG sports suspension
and by the AMG high-performance braking system with 360mm
and 330mm ventilated discs plus 8- and 4-pot callipers on
the front and rear axles respectively. The addition of "AirMatic"
DC semi-active air suspension with adaptive damping ensures
that bodyroll is kept to a minimum, in turn giving the tyres
improved contact with the road.
As with the other AMG high-performance cars, the engine power
is transferred to the wheels via the AMG "SpeedShift"
5-speed automatic transmission (the M5 has a 7-speed Semi-Manual
Gearbox). This brings with it number of high performance features,
such as the lockup of the torque converter from 1st gear,
active engine-braking downshift and the "optimal gear
function"; these provide an extremely direct driving
experience in conjunction with more spontaneous and up to
35 percent faster gear changes.
One of the key visual features of the new AMG street car
is its wheels, which complement and indeed highlight the curvaceous
design of the CLS-Class. The way the car sits on the road
is purposeful and very eye-catching, and the 18-inch twin-spoke
light-alloy wheels shod with 255/40 (front) and 285/35 (rear)
wide-base tyres help achieve this. These powerful-looking
wheels complement the new bodystyling, which in turn reflects
the sophisticated coupé aesthetics (low and long) of
the CLS-Class to perfection. There is even a 19-inch AMG wheel
package for those who want bling, with tyres in size 255/35
Step inside the new CLS and, in addition to a surprising
amount of interior space, you'll notice the design of the
new and rather special AMG sports seats. These new seats get
special AMG perforations, double stitching, lateral piping
and Alcantara panels at shoulder height for a little bit more
As Mercedes wedges high performance engines in to almost
all of its model range - including the mid-sized C-Class and
drop top SLK-Class - it will be interesting to see whether
BMW's new hero car, the M5, will be able to handle the increased
pressure exerted by Mercedes.
The resources BMW has channelled into the M5 will ensure
that it can stand on its own four wheels in the face of a
tough Merc/AMG offensive, and perhaps the ball is now in BMW's
court? It could certainly escalate things by releasing another
M5 variant to shame the CLS 55 AMG, perhaps a lightweight
In Europe, Mercedes new CLS 55 AMG costs €96,164 (AU$165,000),
while BMW's M5 is set to undercut this with a €86,200