Mercedes ML63 AMG Review

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.

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  • MV_Photon MV_Photon on Nov 15, 2006

    I purchased an ML430 during October 1998, the first week that those V-8s were available in the US. True, the interior fit-and-finish was a bit chintzy. However, the drivetrain performed flawlessly for six years. My current vehicle is a Touareg V-10 TDI. No, I didn't buy a diesel for fuel efficiency (>23 MPG hwy). With its twin intercooled turbochargers pumping, it delivers massive torque (up to 553 lb-ft) throughout the throttle range (red line at 4400 rpm). Too bad that only 400 were imported before this year; VW dealers seem perplexed when trouble arises..... Well, I'm off to test drive an ML63 tinight! Having driven primarily SUV's for two decades, I perceive that the high seating position is invaluable to survey the flow of traffic, especially thru/around puck-ups & other SUVs. Moreover, I just feel a bit more secure wrapped in >5000 lbs. of steel.

  • Tummy Tummy on Jun 28, 2012

    After more than 7 years of ownership, I just traded my FX45 for a 2008 ML63 AMG. The cost was much less than 1/2 the original MSRP and comes with a 6yr /125,000 mile warranty. It was a locally dealer maintained car and overall a nice upgrade, in many ways, over the Infiniti. I'm finding the fuel MPG to be better than I expected considering it's 5,200 lbs. In the last week I've been getting about 11 in the city and we got 17.8 on the highway. Previously in our FX45 we were getting only 13 city / 19 highway, but it was much smaller, lighter and slower. My commute to work is only 19 miles each day rt and this is our third car, 2005 SLK350 being my daily driver. We also have an E500 4matic. We really like the power, airmatic suspension, nappa leather dash, seats, and overall feel, compared to the FX45. We will mainly used for our annual Holiday trip to the snowy mid-west, CostCo shopping, and carrying mulch. With the proper winter tires, I expect that it will be great in snow.

  • Dennis Howerton Nice article, Cory. Makes me wish I had bought Festivas when they were being produced. Kia made them until the line was discontinued, but Kia evidently used some of the technology to make the Rio. Pictures of the interior look a lot like my Rio's interior, and the 1.5 liter engine is from Mazda while Ford made the automatic transmission in the used 2002 Rio I've been driving since 2006. I might add the Rio is also an excellent subcompact people mover.
  • Sgeffe Bronco looks with JLR “reliability!”What’s not to like?!
  • FreedMike Back in the '70s, the one thing keeping consumers from buying more Datsuns was styling - these guys were bringing over some of the ugliest product imaginable. Remember the F10? As hard as I try to blot that rolling aberration from my memory, it comes back. So the name change to Nissan made sense, and happened right as they started bringing over good-looking product (like the Maxima that will be featured in this series). They made a pretty clean break.
  • Flowerplough Liability - Autonomous vehicles must be programmed to make life-ending decisions, and who wants to risk that? Hit the moose or dive into the steep grassy ditch? Ram the sudden pile up that is occurring mere feet in front of the bumper or scan the oncoming lane and swing left? Ram the rogue machine that suddenly swung into my lane, head on, or hop up onto the sidewalk and maybe bump a pedestrian? With no driver involved, Ford/Volkswagen or GM or whomever will bear full responsibility and, in America, be ambulance-chaser sued into bankruptcy and extinction in well under a decade. Or maybe the yuge corporations will get special, good-faith, immunity laws, nation-wide? Yeah, that's the ticket.
  • FreedMike It's not that consumers wouldn't want this tech in theory - I think they would. Honestly, the idea of a car that can take over the truly tedious driving stuff that drives me bonkers - like sitting in traffic - appeals to me. But there's no way I'd put my property and my life in the hands of tech that's clearly not ready for prime time, and neither would the majority of other drivers. If they want this tech to sell, they need to get it right.