Saturday, July 7, 2007


These are the closing words from the 1957 movie, The Bridge on the River Kwai. In the movie, the insanity of war was being described. Today we have another form of insanity: the horsepower war.

The enthusiast media are gushing over the latest product of this craziness: the 2008 Mercedes-Benz CL63 AMG, a high-performance model of the Mercedes' smallest sedan sold in the US, the C class. The CL63 follows the time-honored muscle car tradition of stuffing a large, powerful engine into a relatively small, light car. Only this engine is a 6.2-liter V8 pumping out 457 horsepower. According to this road test on, the car accelerates to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 4.5 seconds, has a governed top speed of 155 mph, but can reach 174 mph if an optional Sport package is ordered.

In contrast, the Hemi V8 in the Chrysler 300C sedan and Dodge Ram pickup is sized at 5.7 liters and makes 335 hp in both vehicles. The new large V8 in the Toyota Tundra pickup is also 5.7 liters and makes 381 hp. However, the 300C weighs 4046 lbs, while 2wd quad or double cab versions of the Ram and Tundra weigh about 5200 lbs. I was unable to find the curb weight of the new CL63, but the top-level 2007 C350 Sport weighs a relatively svelte 3,495 pounds with an automatic transmission.

Why we "need" such extreme power in a car today is beyond me. It's not just Mercedes that's engaged in this form of oneupmanship, but every car manufacturer is in the game. Still, the German luxury makers, including BMW, Audi, Mercedes, and Porsche, have taken it to a new level.

With oil prices now over $72 per barrel and gas cresting a few weeks ago at well over $3 per gallon in the US, one wonders just how long this "madness" will continue. After all, it is 2007, not 1967.

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