First things first: the new CLK Black Series is not just another AMG tweaked to function at tolerances bordering on combustible potential. It is the most intriguing Mercedes of recent years. The smorgasbord of scoops, wings, fins, and numerous air intakes found on the exterior of this fine piece of engineering is a promise of the treasure within.
It's apparent from the outset that Mercedes's tuning division has been tinkering with more than just the engine. Step inside, look over your shoulder: the removal of the two rear seats leads you to suspect that Christmas may have come early this year. And you would be right.
This is a limited edition based on the F1 pace car. As such, it has been geared more towards performance on the track than on the road. It is lighter than its CLK stablemates; it has more power where it counts (an extra 26bhp above the standard CLK 63 AMG); it has larger brakes and tyres, a limited-slip differential and sports suspension.
Strangely though, from the driver's perspective, little has changed in way of comfort and switchgear from any other top-spec CLK. The odd smattering of carbon and aluminium trim and a pair of super-supportive front seats enhance the racing theme; these adornments would, in most cases, be enough of a reminder in themselves of this car's origins.
But it's the noise of the massive quad tail-pipes which really gives the game away. Start the 6.3-litre V8 naturally aspirated engine and the sound of racing heritage brings everything to life. Rumbling up from the depths, the gentle burble you would expect from this silhouette appears to pass through some cacophonous multiplication, until it finally gets expelled in a crescendo of explosive pops, growls and grumbles. This is no ordinary Merc.
You're almost goaded into instant use of the accelerator as you hear the rumble from behind you, but that's just the start of things. The exhaust note is, in fact, the mouthpiece for the rest of the car. It's the first Mercedes I've driven for a very long time which actually has a personality; there's real character here, which is hard to ignore. The quivering reaction to the turn of the key, as fingers and toes tremble in excitement, is tempered only by the realisation that this car would have little compunction in showing you its full and mighty wrath, should you treat it with disrespect. Treat it as you would any other Mercedes and you do so at your peril. A gentle amount of pressure to the throttle and it will grab you by the neck before streaking past 60mph faster than you can get through the opening bars to the "Ride of The Valkyries".
But, 0 to 60 in just over four seconds aside, does this make it a great car? Almost. Without doubt it is totally bonkers. The chances of parking next to another one will be scarce, as only 500 will be produced each year: 350 of those are destined for the US market. That makes it elite though, not excellent, and elitism doesn't come cheap.
At £100,000 it is nearly £40,000 more expensive than the standard CLK 63 AMG. I expect those willing to fork out the additional premium will be doing so for one of two reasons.
Driving an exclusive Mercedes is all part of an unacknowledged willy-waving contest. It's pure "mine's bigger than yours" syndrome (other road users will deem it to be a display of gross public indecency). On the other hand, there will be some buying a Black Series who keep their zips firmly closed. They'll be buying this car solely because they want to compete in it. Not surprisingly, the racetrack is where the Black Series feels most at home. There is no alternative to the seven-speed automatic paddle-shift gearchange and those who enjoy stirring the cogs the old-fashioned way may be a tad disappointed. That aside, the Black Series chews up the tarmac ferociously.
Some will question whether it's worth paying £40,000 more for this model over the standard CLK 63 AMG. The truthful answer is that, if you're never going to take it further than the motorway and you don't have any desire to be prosecuted for indecent exposure, then no. Save the cash.