Wednesday, January 16, 2013
The introduction of the 550-hp GL63 AMG last summer sparked a debate in our business about whether this vehicle is proof that AMG has lost its mind. We say no, no, 550 times no. Remember that AMG’s first race car was an S-class nicknamed the Red Sow. The firm is first and foremost a powerhouse: It transforms Mercedes vehicles into stealth sleds bristling with improper levels of horsepower.
To make this comparatively demure GL into an AMG, Mercedes drops in its talented twin-turbocharged 5.5-liter V-8, upgrades the transmission and all-wheel-drive system, and fits a sportier adjustable suspension. The AMG gets larger front brakes tucked inside its 21-inch wheels as well as a couple of cosmetic flourishes such as new front and rear fascias and fender flares. Sport seats fitted up front mean that, if you were so inclined, you could call this a “chairs and flares” package. We wouldn’t.
In daily use, the experience of the GL63 is much like that of the regular GL, only more urgent. Under light load, a reassuring rumble reminds occupants that the GL63 has 550 horsepower, which is 20 more than a Porsche 911 Turbo S and probably not something you want to mention to the other parents in your car-pool group. Under full throttle, a 4.8-second 0-to-60 time reminds you that the GL63 weighs 5812 pounds. Most vehicles with that much stonk weigh less. AMG’s tuning of the seven-speed automatic gives the 63 a flatulent bucksnort on upshifts, and the slowness of the rev-matched downshifts imbues them with a sort of purposeful menace.