Mercedes ML63 AMG Review
I recently completed a Munich to Paris road trip in a BMW 335. When I returned to the US, I was retrospectively struck by the lack of high profile vehicles (pickup and SUV’s, not celebrity Ferraris or Leclerc battle tanks) on French and German roads. I suppose when gas costs nearly seven bucks a gallon, fuel efficiency is all. Personally, I don’t care for SUV’s; the few I have owned have taught me that being tall and overweight is no more fun for a vehicle than it is for a former supermodel. So when my Mercedes dealer suggested I have a look at the new ML63, I scoffed. And then went along for the ride.
This beast is beyond bling. The Alabama-born SUV’s exterior is festooned with enough bright work and eye candy to make a ‘Sclade owner scurry off to SEMA for a quick retrofit. The ML63 brings the noise with four shiny exhausts, stainless steel running boards with rubber studs (the material, not Madonna’s back-up dancers), a truly fearsome high-gloss black radiator grill and lots of tough looking bumps and warts. Strangely enough, all the special effects are so oversized they’re almost tasteful. In the LIFE IS LIFE department, the ML63’s flared wheel arches shelter massive twenty-inch AMG wheels loaded with 295/40 tires.
The ML63’s interior is lavish; everything that isn’t soft touch plastic has been polished to a mirror-like sheen or slathered with lush, fragrant bovine hide. The sports seats are more heavily bolstered than the President’s justification for the Iraqi war; with a similarly wide range of adjustability (including the world’s most pronounced lumbar effect). The new AMG-designed steering wheel boasts a fat curved rim, ergonomic thumb rests and perfectly placed buttonology. Just in case the headless Ninja turtle helm doesn’t proclaim the ML63’s sporting intent, the on-board lap timer– sheltering inside the cowled gauge cluster containing a 200mph speedo– should do the trick.
There’s plenty of room for four adults, and just enough for a family of five. Although you wouldn’t expect the ML63 to haul anything dirtier than Parisian lingerie, access to the spacious cargo bay is excellent. Visibility is also top notch, save the view out of the right side mirror. Talk about flying under the radar; “normal” cars can slip completely beneath your field of vision. And speaking of sights unseen, why would anyone spend $2800 on a rear seat DVD entertainment system when the 503 ponies generated by the ML63’s 6.3-liter V8 are guaranteed to make the driver do things that will make watching a six-inch screen an exercise in car sickness?
As silly as I felt entering this blinged-out brick, its absolute power corrupted me absolutely. The ML’s 6.3-liter engine should be a bit high-strung, what with a relatively high horsepower peak (6800 rpm) and a torque peak not a lot lower in the rev range (5200 rpm). But it isn’t. The ML63 burbles about town or eases down the freeway in the traditional Mercedes mindless manner. And then…
Even with two-and-a-half tons of SUV to lug around, the ML63’s acceleration is on the insane side of brisk. Zero to 60 takes just 4.8 seconds of your time. The ML63’s in-gear grunt is similarly fierce; kick the near-prescient seven-speed autobox down a couple of cogs and, well, let’s just say that The Wizard of Oz isn’t the only place you can watch a house get up and go.
The ML63 deploys Mercedes’ Airmatic ride control system, hooked-up to a double wishbone (front) and four-link (rear) suspension The AMG-tuned system smothers imperfections and/or stifles body roll, depending on whether or you push the Sport button or stay in the ML63’s Comfort zone. Although the ML63’s pace is from another planet (called “fast sports cars”), its dynamics are old school Mercedes: if you’re determined to play with the laws of physics, the ML63 won’t punish you for going out of bounds (even if the police will). Otherwise, you'll soon learn to throttle back a bit and save those growling burst of speed for the straights.
With a plutonium credit card challenging as-tested price of $93k, cliff face depreciation and a prodigious thirst for premium go-juice (12/16 by the book, less by the foot), the ML63 is an expensive way to transport the brood from A to B, without any off-road excursions to C (score one for the Porsche Cayenne Turbo). Still, while I don’t share it, I can understand the desire to own a Mercedes ML63. Like so many AMG products, the ML63 gives you the sense that Mercedes has turned the clock back 20 years or so, back to a day when build quality and effortless power delivery was the norm, and even the bean counters were engineers.
More by Jay Shoemaker
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