Fabulous new V8 and top-drawer chassis. Porsche should be worried.
17 April 2006

What's new?

On paper, the new Mercedes ML 63 AMG makes little sense. On the road, it mesmerises with a breadth of talent no two-tonne-plus car has any right to possess. This is a muscle car as quick as any current 4x4 in a straight line – Porsche Cayenne Turbo S included.

You won’t have too much trouble distinguishing the ML63 from lesser M-classes when it arrives in the UK in June. Exterior changes include deeper front and rear spoilers, widened wheelarches, and imposing 19-inch wheels.

The AMG makeover continues in the cabin. Sport seats and steering wheel, and carbonfibre-look trim go some way to justifying the estimated £60,000 price. It’s under the bonnet, however, that the real interest lies, in the form of a new naturally aspirated 6.2-litre 503bhp V8.

What's it like?

One probing nudge on the throttle has the ML 63 shimmying excitedly and unleashing a genuine muscle-car soundtrack. For all its bravado, though, the big off-roader is remarkably docile around town.

Merc’s 7G-Tronic seven-speed auto gearbox has been upgraded to handle the power and torque. It’s a great transmission: kicking down eagerly and holding onto gears through corners. AMG has also tweaked the four-wheel-drive system to dole out the drive in a rear-biased 40:60 split rather than the standard M-class’s 50:50 arrangement.

Mercedes claims 0-62mph in 5.0sec, but if anything the in-gear acceleration is even more remarkable, thanks to the transmission’s broad spread of ratios and the engine’s belting mid-range urge.

Find a suitable back road and the ML 63 offers sharper lines of communication between steering wheel and road than just about any rival, feeling more like a well-sorted estate car than big off-roader.

Should I buy one? 

Although it’s unlikely anyone buying an ML 63 will care much about economy, its thirst cannot be denied. AMG quotes just 17.4mpg, so even with a huge 95-litre fuel tank you’ll be stopping regularly to fill up. At least that magnificent V8 makes the journey away from the pumps something special.

 

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