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Project Grim Reaper – Mercedes CLK63 AMG Black Series

Shortly after we sold our last project car, the Mercedes C63 AMG, we were immediately on the hunt for another fun car that could push all the right buttons. With over 13k miles in a year put on the C63, our ownership could not have been better, but by following our car buying strategy, we were able to get in and out of the car and practically break even on cost of ownership. Very few vehicles appealed to us for the right price but we kept our options open and looked at several Maserati Gran Turismo’s, BMW E92 M3’s, & a few others. In the end, we found a immaculate 2008 Mercedes Benz CLK63 AMG Black Series for a great deal and immediately scooped it up. If it was anything like our last C63 but on steroids, we are in for a treat!
When Mercedes first introduced the Black Series, it instantly drew the attention of car enthusiasts and critics worldwide. It wasn’t often you saw Mercedes shoehorn a 6.2L V8 with 507 HP in a widebody compact coupe. This German muscle car philosophy was practically Mercedes answer to BMW’s M6/M3 and Audi’s RS4/S5. Journalists such as Jeremy Clarkson of Top Gear loved it so much that he deemed it the most fun car to drive in one TV series and also personally bought one for himself. If it’s good enough for him, it was good for us! To this day, the CLK63 Black Series still competes with the best exotics available currently even with antiquated technology. It even still has presence on the road thanks to its wide stance and aggressive carbon fiber bits.

A fair comparison would be against our former C63 AMG since it practically shares the same drivetrain. The Mercedes M156 motor is a masterpiece and belongs in the history of all time greats for naturally aspirated V8 engines. From the endless torque to the unique engine growl you hear through the exhaust, it really requires one to drive one to a 6.2L AMG to really appreciate it. Although our last car was tuned with more power, the Black Series feels quicker because the motor is not as detuned and also because it weighs several hundred pounds lighter. Breaking the rear tires loose is literally achieved with a tap of the gas pedal. As Jeremy Clarkson once said, you must be awake because this car will kill you in the wrong hands hence the name ‘Grim Reaper’.

In terms of the engine, very little can be done to further improve it without going forced induction. Perhaps a tune in order to wake it up a bit more? We definitely plan on a secondary cat delete to enhance the volume while retaining the tone. Check out the video below for a cold start clip. The Black Series does share the same 7G-Tronic transmission as found in the C63. However, the biggest difference and disappointment is in the fact that it can not rev match on downshifts thus making manual mode practically useless. A fix is available from tuners like RENNtech but at over $4k and requiring irreversible transmission valvebody modification, it isn’t worth it in our eyes. However, this is the one missing piece that Mercedes definitely dropped the ball on considering other 2008 models like the C63 contained this technology.

When you realize that the CLK was first introduced in 2003, it all makes sense once you get into the cabin of the Black Series. In typical Mercedes fashion, the feel of the car is very robust and even more stiffer because of the track oriented nature of the car. Technology is not the Black Series strongest point at all and there are little to few gadgets to play with. The headunit which controls primarily the satnav and radio is obviously outdated and horrible, leading us to use our smartphones for GPS more so than the actual satnav. But all that goes away once you sit in bucket seats that hug you tighter than your grandma would or admire the endless usage of carbon fiber material on the dash. With track performance in mind the rear seats are no longer there to save weight but rather imprints of where the seats would go still remain and small people can still sit in the back but its not recommended as there are no seat belts or cushion.

The driving dynamics of the car is pure bred race car for the streets similarly to what you’d expect out of a Porsche GT3 for example. Structural re-enforcement is done throughout the car from the trunk rear cross beam to the front strut tower, making the chassis compliant and planted. However, at its limits, the Black Series is sketchy and will kick out the rear end with ease which seems about right for any Mercedes AMG but even more so with the Black Series. It is definitely a car that demands respect and your undivided attention. It doesn’t handle like a Ferrari but it can put up a fair fight against the best, all the while having more fun in the process being the tail happy car that it is.

As good as the car is on the track or windy roads, it is not that bad of a daily driver even though others complain about lack of creature comforts. The motor has more than enough power for most people and has incredible low end torque for highway passing. The automatic transmission is great for everyday driving but the stiff coilover suspension makes you feel every dip and rock on the road. Couple that with low ground clearance, it’s probably best for a weekend car but could be done as a daily driver with caution. Fuel economy is a little worse so far at around 13 MPG but that might be due to our heavy right foot. :) If you are in the market for a Black Series, we highly recommend one if you can get one for the right price.

Personally, we think white is the most desirable followed by red and silver. Black is a tough sell which is apparent by the majority of cars for sale on the market being colored black. The car came with no packages or add-ons except for iPod connection kit so you pretty much need not worry about that. What you should worry though is making sure the car is well serviced, with all records, clean carfax, and preferably low owner count. Most Black Series for sale are under 25,000 miles but don’t be afraid to buy one with higher mileage. Of course, a warranty of some sort is always nice. The cost of ownership will be slightly more than regular AMGs only because of two piece brakes and larger/wider tires. Routine oil changes should not cost any more than any other 6.2L AMG. Lastly, you have a few more mechanical and moving parts like a rear differential that will require more maintenance. But all in all, the CLk63 AMG Black Series is a simple car with a big motor.

Photos via ActivFilms

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2006 Aston Martin Vantage
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2007 BMW M6
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