Not only one of the most powerful SUV your money can buy, but also very rapid, encouragingly capable, fantastically refined and exceptionally practical.

Our Verdict

Mercedes-AMG ML 63

AMG’s daddy ML combines luxury, speed and space very effectively, but fails slightly to win your affection

  • First Drive

    Mercedes-AMG ML 63

    Not only one of the most powerful SUV your money can buy, but also very rapid, encouragingly capable, fantastically refined and exceptionally practical.
  • First Drive

    Mercedes-Benz ML 63 AMG

    Fabulous new V8 and top-drawer chassis. Porsche should be worried.
13 January 2012

What is it?

It was no coincidence that Mercedes-Benz chose Santa Barbara, California to give journalists their first taste of the ML 63 AMG. This is the German car maker’s powered-up rival to the likes of the BMW X5M and Porsche Cayenne Turbo, and nowhere has it traditionally sold in greater numbers than here. Where better to show off the US-built performance SUV than on the roads where the majority are set to spend their life?

What’s it like?

Like most new AMG models released in recent times, the ML 63 uses a new twin-turbocharged 5.5-litre V8 engine. The forced induction unit replaces the old model’s naturally aspirated 6.2-litre V8, packing 518bhp and a prodigious 516lb ft of torque – an increase of 15bhp and 52lb ft respectively. If that’s not enough, there’s also a performance package option that increases boost pressure and adds a more free-flowing air manifold, bumping output up to 549bhp and an even more heroic 560lb ft.

There’s a lot to like about the ML 63, but the engine is clearly its most compelling feature. With all that torque delivered at just 1750rpm the full force of its performance is never far away, as reflected in its 0-62mph time of just 4.7sec – a 0.3sec improvement on its predecessor. Accompanying its sheer speed is a wonderfully exuberant exhaust note that tempts you to hold on to lower gears longer than is absolutely necessary just to experience its aural delights. With two heavily overdriven ratios at the top of its gearbox, it’s also a terrifically relaxed and well refined cruiser at the sort of motorway speeds it will face in the UK.

Unlike other AMG models with the company’s seven speed MCT (multi-clutch transmission), the ML 63 makes use of a closely related seven-speed automatic gearbox complete with lock-up torque converter. The reason for this is simple: no other AMG model is used as much for towing purposes as the ML 63. “It was a decision we made right from the start of development,” says AMG drivetrain boss, Fritz Eichler. And with a towing capacity of 3050kg, it appears fully justified.

It might lack the rapid fire action of the MCT, but the smooth shifting nature of the automatic perfectly suits the ML 63. Full load up-shifts are dispatched in a resolute manner, although it is a touch indecisive on downshifts in automatic mode – the result, no doubt of having to corral all that torque. Three driving modes are on offer: C for controlled efficiency, S for sport and S+ for sport plus. In the former, the standard stop-start function is automatically activated to provide valuable fuel savings when tooling around town. The combined cycle consumption has improved by 6.8mpg, or over 30 per cent, compared to the old model.

But while the engine steals the show, it is the overall ability of the chassis that really impresses. We’ve already noted the improved on-road prowess of the latest M-class in tests of lesser models and the ML 63 takes it to even loftier heights. Reduced ride height, unique elasto-kinematic properties, grippy rubber and roll-reducing active roll bars combine to provide it with a surprisingly agile nature with little lean along with well weighted and accurate steering, while delivering an unexpectedly compliant ride and top notch rolling refinement given the performance potential even on coarsely surfaced roads. The way it puts its substantial reserves to the road is nothing short of spectacular.

Visually, the ML 63 is differentiated by a series of exterior styling changes that help to give it an instantly more aggressive air than lesser third-generation M-class models. Included is a high gloss black grille, reworked front bumper with larger cooling ducts and a matt silver splitter element, front fenders that are widened by 10mm each side, more substantial side sills and a deeper rear bumper with fake blanked off air ducts, a pair of trapezoidal shaped chromed tailpipes and AMG’s signature wheels – the latter measuring 20-inch in diameter as standard and shod with 265/45 tyres.

Should I buy one?

It is inside, though, that the latest of Mercedes-Benz’s performance models really stands apart. The interior is exceptional, delivering a combination of luxury and quality that wouldn’t be out of place in the top-of-the-line S 63 AMG.

Mercedes-Benz ML 63 AMG

Price: TBA; Top speed: 155mph (limited); 0-62mph: 4.7sec; Economy: 23.9mpg (combined); CO2: 276g/km; Kerb weight: 2270kg; Engine type: V8, 5461cc, twin-turbocharged petrol; Installation: front, longitudinal, 4WD; Power: 518bhp at 5250rpm; Torque: 516lb ft at 1750rpm; Gearbox: 7-spd automatic

Join the debate

Comments
24

16 January 2012

[quote Autocar]with a towing capacity of 3050kg [/quote]

I struggle to think what I would ever need to pull that would weigh over three tonnes!

There is something quite obscene but very compelling about this package, especially if you can stretch it's legs either in the US or the Middle East.

In the UK though, unless you are pulling 747's for a hobby, I would imagine this is quite a frustrating vehicle to drive.

 

 

It's all about the twisties........

16 January 2012

[quote TegTypeR]There is something quite obscene but very compelling about this package[/quote]

I completely agree. If I had one of these, it would be the element of surprise on other drivers that I would enjoy most!

16 January 2012

Can't help but like it. And Teg, could tow a three-car trailer (R500, Porsche RS, ermmm something else) to the track days with it. Or probably some horses, a boat or something, but who cares.

16 January 2012

In California I saw a lot of Ford F 350 with Cummins 6.7 L6 diesel, towing capacity 8000kg, so they find something to tow apparently... It is not my kind of car the ML63, but I'd choose it over an X6 M or Cayenne Turbo all the time.

289

16 January 2012

....I think you might find your 'price as tested' a little ambitious!!!

16 January 2012

[quote matsoc]In California I saw a lot of Ford F 350 with Cummins 6.7 L6 diesel[/quote]

The 6.7 straight six Cummins diesel comes with the Dodge Ram, not the Ford F-Series pickups. The Fords are available with a diesel engine, but it's a V8. But yes, those Dodge Rams are pretty cool!

16 January 2012

I can almost see the point of having such a rediculously fast SUV, maybe for someone who wants heaps of space, a towing capacity, and excellent long distance cruising ability with the height of 4x4 instead of a large saloon such as an S class. I personally wouldnt want to own one but maybe for someone who wants basicly an 4x4 with the speed and luxury of S63 AMG its a good alternative

16 January 2012

[quote Fidji]The 6.7 straight six Cummins diesel comes with the Dodge Ram, not the Ford F-Series pickups. The Fords are available with a diesel engine, but it's a V8. But yes, those Dodge Rams are pretty cool![/quote]

Yes, you are right, it's a 6.7 diesel but it is a V8. It apparently sold very well, I was impressed by the number of these maxi Ford. They have the maximum towing capacity of 17500 pounds, it was even advertised!

16 January 2012

Interesting, when BMW brings out M versions of its X 4x4s everyone screams sacrilege and calls for the person responsible to be strung up. But when Mercedes slaps the AMG badge on its 4x4s, no one bats an eyelid....quite the reverse in fact!

16 January 2012

[quote Overdrive]Interesting, when BMW brings out M versions of its X 4x4s everyone screams sacrilege and calls for the person responsible to be strung up. But when Mercedes slaps the AMG badge on its 4x4s, no one bats an eyelid....quite the reverse in fact![/quote]

Well, I am one of those...AMG has a different meaning and origins. For many Mercedes of the 80s the AMG unofficial upgrades often involved the engine only. Once AMG meant pumped up Mercedes in a way similar to Brabus today. M cars were more driver focused cars...another thing.

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