Review: Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG
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With all the concerns of our deteriorating climate and rising fuel prices you would be hard pressed to find a car that’s less politically correct than the AMG prepped ML63. The Teutonic behemoth probably emits enough carbon to blot out the sun and gulps down enough fuel in just one week to power a small a village through winter, but there’s something about a 510hp big-cube V8 mounted under the hood of a vehicle that brings a smile to our face.Styling and Interior
There’s no mistaking the ML63 for anything other than a high-performance AMG model. Quad exhaust pipes, an aggressive front bar, lowered ride-height, and chunky wheels characterize the look of the sporty SUV, while a unique radiator grille, stainless steel running boards with rubber studs and tinted rear lights add a further touch of exclusivity.
Inside, there’s the figure hugging sports seats, AMG branded instrument dials and aluminum pedals that differentiate it from the regular ML field. Other features include Nappa leather upholstery, Alcantara inserts on the seats, and an AMG sports steering wheel with gearshift buttons.
Space is abundant for the driver and four other passengers, with equally generous storage space for all their gear. The tall driving position won’t be to everybody’s taste, especially those switching from a low slung sports coupe, but in return you get excellent visibility, easy access and barely any back strain after hours spent behind the wheel.Technical
The main element of the mechanical upgrades to the car is the new aluminum V8 engine, now displacing 6.2L versus the 5.4L motor of the previous ML55 AMG. Peak power of 510hp arrives at 6,800rpm and maximum torque of 630Nm stands at 5,200rpm. The high rpm levels for peak output suggest a high-rev nature but this couldn’t be further from the truth: from as low as 2,000rpm the engine’s already producing 500Nm of torque. To achieve its flexibility, the intake and exhaust valves are continuously variable over a range of 42 degrees, while the electronic control of the fuel-injectors maintains pressures between 3.8 and 5bar to optimize combustion and to ensure quick engine response from changes to the accelerator.
Drive is sent to all four wheels via AMG’s SpeedShift 7G-TRONIC automatic gearbox, with the driver able to switch gears using buttons mounted on the steering wheel. Another button located in the centre console allows the driver to switch between three different shift models, Sport, Comfort and Manual, each altering gearshift characteristics and shift speed. The vehicle’s permanent four-wheel drive distributes power to the front and rear axles on a 40:60 basis, which also gives it a sportier feel compared to the regular model’s 50:50 split.
The suspension set-up is based on Mercedes’ air-suspension and features AMG-specific damper struts and a modified electronic control module. An automatic leveling control system will adjust the vehicle’s ride height by raising or lowering the suspension depending on vehicle speed.
The rolling stock for our test car consisted of 19in light-alloy wheels fitted with 295mm tires all-around, however there’s also a set of 20in wheels available as an option. Residing within these wheels are sets of internally ventilated and indented brake discs – 15.4in up front and 14.4in out back.On the road
The numbers look good on paper but when you consider the vehicle being lugged around is a 2,310kg tank rather than a small car, even power figures as good as those of the ML63 can look a little feeble. Fortunately, the sporty SUV doesn’t disappoint. The engine always remains in readiness for any changes to the accelerator, releasing mountains of torque from very early in the rev-range. There’s a willingness to rev that belies the engine’s 6.2L displacement but once it reaches its power peak the tacho’s needle struggles to creep further. It doesn’t matter because the ML63, like most powerful Mercs, is all about the effortless surge you get much lower in the rev-range.
Our tests saw it cover the standing kilometer in an impressive 24.22 seconds and with a trap speed of 219.2km/h. This was sufficient to beat the time of the 450hp Cayenne Turbo, which took 25.22 seconds to cover the same distance and only reached 210km/h, and it also beats V8-powered sports saloons like the Maserati Quattroporte (24.33 seconds and 219.6km/h) and the Jaguar XJR (24.28seconds and 211.9 km/h). Our 0-100km/h time came up in at five seconds flat.
The vehicle’s kerb weight barely penalizes performance in a straight line and continues to remain imperceptible 90% of the time. The only times it rears its ugly head is when cornering hard, where coupled with the constant AWD system sees the ML63 start to understeer slightly. Thankfully, engineers thought of this and installed a system that allows you to adjust the rigidity of the pneumatic suspension. Set it to a firmer setting and body-roll is almost negated and the vehicle’s handling remains balanced even when driven at speed. So comfortable is the ride and handling through curves that we constantly needed to keep an eye on the speedometer to keep account of the real speeds we were traveling at.
Of course it’s still possible to unsettle the vehicle but push too far and stability control immediately steps in and brings it back into line. The ML63 also comes with some of the best brakes in the business, decelerating the SUV from 130km/h in just 64m – a better reading than the 65.6m achieved by the Porsche Cayenne Turbo.Final Verdict
The ML63 drives with a level of precision that’s unthinkable for a vehicle weighing in at more than two tons and standing almost two meters tall. From the get go, the ML63 impresses not only because of its hand-built engine but because of the pleasure it delivers when pushed to the limit. With a significant help from the Affalterbach tuners, the ML is now on par with sporty SUV rivals from Porsche and BMW in terms of on-road dynamics but more importantly it marks a return to the levels of performance and quality one would expect from a top end vehicle wearing the Three Pointed Star. For those who doubt an SUV could ever truly be labeled a performance car, we suggest you take a ride in the ML63 and find out just how far things have come.Mercedes ML63 AMG Review