Are you a head of state with a thing for Mercedes-AMGs, or the de facto leader of the Desilijic-Hutt Cartel? Then the Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 4MATIC might be just the luxury SUV you’re looking for
|Engine||Power||Torque||0-100kph||Top speed||Weight||Basic price|
|V8, biturbo, 5461cc||577bhp @ 5500rpm||760Nm (560lb ft) @ 1750-5250rpm||4.6 secs||250kph (limited)||2580kg (224bhp/ton)||$142,900|
|The speed. Wow. Just WOW!|
|It costs HOW MUCH?|
There is a turf war in the nerd camp between Star Wars and Star Trek fans. While the latter is more scientifically accurate, the former is far more action-packed. Where Star Trek had Kirk and Spok, Star Wars had Vader and Solo. No contest, in my mind. Star Wars is the way to go and that’s that.
One of my favorite characters, and this may come as a surprise, is Jabba the Hutt, surely because he was one of the very few characters that had everything figured out. He had his business, he had his crib, he had his servants and he had his pets. He was always lying down, with a drink at-hand, dancers all around, and the handle to a secret arena of death within easy reach for Luke Skywalker. He also had his ride, a desert barge that floated over the dunes, with a kitchen, plenty of space, automated everything and, most of all, a place for his divan. Which, actually, is pretty much what you’ll find with the Mercedes-AMG GLS 63.
And yeah, okay, there are differences. Where Jabba’s barge had a neutron cannon, the GLS 63 has a 5.5-litre biturbo V8 producing 577bhp. Where the barge had music and dancers, the Merc has an inboard Burmester sound system. And in place of C3PO protocol droid, a kitchen and the divan, in the AMG there’s speech recognition software, cupholders, and some very insistent massage seats. Not exactly potato-potarto, but you get the idea. Basically, just as Jabba the Hutt had everything figured out, chances are if you’re buying a GLS 63, you’re on a similar career path. Whether this includes Carrie Fisher on a chain, we’re not sure we want to know…
And that’s significant, given that the likes of the Range Rover is slowly substituting the luxury limousine in the statesman arsenal. You may remember that the Range Rover SVAutobiography ran the super luxurious Bentley Bentayga to the wire in a recent shootout, and even challenged the BMW 7 Series and Mercedes S-Class – two lynchpins of mainstream motoring luxury – to levels even we hadn’t expected. To keep the fight going to Range Rover, Mercedes had to come up with something special for its flagship SUV, the children at AMG combining outrageous luxury with brisk performance in a cocktail that is as savory as it is classy.
What’s the GLS 63 like to drive?
Simply put, the AMG GLS 63 is astonishing (I won’t waste your time suggesting otherwise). Across the V8’s rev range and up towards a pleasingly gutsy redline, endless amounts of torque make the big Merc feel almost – ALMOST – weightless under heavy acceleration, aided no doubt by the 4MATIC four-wheel drive distributing the power equally. Perforated and ventilated brake discs mean stopping is notably strong too. Credit must also be shared with the AIRMATIC suspension that somehow manages to keep the body flat (ish) through all but the tightest of turns without destroying the GLS’ long-established ride quality. Even the turning radius is impressively tight for a 2580kg brute. Jabba approved.
Of course there’s the handling to consider, with both gravity and inertia eventually surpassing the efficiency of even Mercedes’ best efforts. In fairness the heft of the GLS’ steering is surprisingly well-weighted despite the additional power steering requirements, though body roll at speed – particularly those the GLS 63 can do without breaking sweat – makes hitting the apex quite hard. Mayhap you need the Force to be strong in your family to do so.
What about the cabin and design?
As for the interior, Rolls Royce’s ‘Magic Carpet’ motto has a fair rival. With the throttle within reasonable range the AMG fury is substituted with executive jet panache, and the interior amenities are of typical German brilliance. Some may find worth in mentioning you can seat seven fully-grown adults in comfort, but the main feature is that the GLS is so big, the kids can actually play ‘hide and seek’ during a long trek.
Of course, the interior does have its issues. The touchpads connecting to the infotainment system for instance are – deep breath – largely pointless. You have three of them, including two on the Alcantara steering wheel and another where some time ago there used to be a gearlever. They are so sensitive though that you find yourself inadvertently changing the radio station, the dashboard gauges and the GPS destination when all you’re trying to do is change the ambient interior lighting from red to blue. I also have to question why Mercedes seems so fascinated with sub-menus with its infotainment systems, why the Self Park function seems to pick and choose which days it will work as it should, and also the sensitivity of the Lane Assist, which seems to assume I’m incapable of driving in a straight line without back-up. If the GLS 63 were hovering around the Sarlacc Pit, we doubt R2-D2 would have nailed his shot.
Yeah. One thing that concerns me is the price, which at $142K is nothing to sneer at, given that this figure is some $40K more than Mercedes’ equally excellent GLS 500. The suspension for instance only slightly tighter, despite AMG’s tweaks, the steering only slightly more pointed and the overall feel is no lighter. Similarly the GLS 500 is just as practical, comfortable and refined as its higher-powered sibling. Admittedly acceleration is another matter entirely, and while this alone cannot justify that five-digit price hike, a 2580kg planetoid capable of 0-100kph in 4.6 seconds is certainly a very convincing argument.
So, overall verdict?
These are sizeable dents to the hull, but these are not enough to squash my enthusiasm for the Mercedes-AMG GLS 63. Yes, it’s pricey, it’s heavy through the corners, and practicality of the infotainment system can be called into question. And yet, at the same time, it’s fantastically quick, beautifully built, and, for a vehicle of its size, still impressively manoeuvrable. Should you be a head of state or a crime mogul on Tatooine with bounty money burning a hole in your pocket, you may be interested to know that Range Rover’s luxury SUV limo isn’t your only choice, nor is the unparalleled speed of an AMG V8 to be missed out on.
As a side note, did you ever notice that Jabba the Hutt smoked shisha? Or that the bloated one was originally meant to debut in A New Hope? In fact, screw it, where’s that copy of Return of the Jedi…
- Technical specifications available on page 2