For the limited few in this country who can actually afford a supercar, our bad road conditions could be the biggest turnoff for not owning one. The logical thing then would be to plonk a supercar engine under the hood of an SUV.
Mercedes-Benz India did just that with the GL63 AMG earlier last month. Not being content with one super-SUV, Merc launched the ML63 AMG last week.
The ML63 is rather calm looking, and can almost be mistaken for a regular M Class. Towards the rear, the bootlid is given the ‘ML63’ and the ‘AMG’ badges, while the fenders of the SUV get the ‘V8 BITURBO’ badges. The ML63 gets an AMG bodykit which adds sportier front and rear bumpers, a quad-exhaust system and 20-inch alloy wheels.
To summarize, the exteriors of the ML63 are the perfect example of the phrase ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’. The upside (or downside for a few) to the sober exteriors is that it does not attract attention, especially that of the negative kind.
The first hint you get that you’re not sitting in a regular ML Class comes when you glance at the AMG instrument cluster, the speedometer especially which has numbers marked till 320 km/h. Then comes the steering wheel, which is partly finished in Nappa leather, beyond which rests the solid-metal paddleshifts. Apart from these changes, the cabin of the ML63 looks identical to the regular ML Class.
The ML63 AMG comes with 9 airbags, ABS, BAS (Brake Assist System), ESP, ATTENTION ASSIST, an AMG speed sensitive steering, AMG suspension, AMG SPEEDSHIFT 7-G TRONIC gearbox, 20-inch AMG alloy wheels and a Harman Kardon music system with rear seat entertainment.
Engine and Gearbox:
A highly skilled man named Matthias Lube put together a 5,461 cc V8 Bi-Turbo engine in the ML63 AMG you see here. In accordance with AMG’s ‘One Man, One Engine’, Mr. Lube is the sole person who assembles this engine. His job is to ensure that between 5,250-5,750 rpm, this engine produces 550 hp, and between 2,000-5,000 rpm, 760 Nm of torque is produced. Our job was finding out what that means on the road.
Despite weighing 2,345 kg, the ML63 does 0-100 km/h in 4.7 seconds and onwards to an electronically limited top-speed of 250 km/h. Acceleration flat out is blisteringly quick and the speedometer sometimes struggles to keep up with the pace of the car.
The soundtrack of the ML63 only urges you to go faster. On the one hand, you’ve the engine sound, which may be a bit subdued, but the exhaust more than makes up for this. The exhaust in fact promotes hooliganism, as we we found ourselves entering tunnels repeatedly just to hear the V8 at full chat.
Special mention goes to the 7-speed dual-clutch AMG transmission which is lightning quick in swapping gears. It’s best to use the gearbox in Sport mode, which ensures gearchanges occur at the redline and not before that when you’ve your right foot fully down.
The ML63 does all of the above, and yet can be a regular ML Class when you need it to. It’s fits the ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ tag rather well as the engine does not shout when you’ve the accelerator gently pressed, and the 7-speed gearbox shifts up the cogs and puts you in the highest possible gear.
Ride and Handling:
The ride quality is a bit harsh given that the ML63 rides on 20-inch rims. However, it does get better on smoother tarmac.
While the ML63 may have a sophisticated AMG sports suspension, body roll is still present and predictable for a car weighing upwards of 2.3 tonnes. Though the drive is transmitted to all four wheels via Merc’s 4MATIC system, not more than 40 percent of the power goes to the front wheels.
The steering could have been setup a bit more for precision, but is nevertheless confidence inspiring to use. Unless you’re out on a track, the handling of the ML63 should more than suffice your needs.
Brakes and Safety:
The ML63 comes with an AMG high performance braking system that sees huge ventilated and perforated 390 mm discs at the front and equally large 345 mm discs at the rear. Needless to say, the brakes do a fantastic job in stopping the car. Other safety systems come in the form of 9 airbags, ESP, brake assist and Merc’s own ATTENTION ASSIST.
While the ML63 is claimed to do 8.47 km/l, our tests saw the SUV return 4.67 km/l.
The ML63 AMG is priced at INR 1.49 crores, ex-Showroom, New Delhi.
The ML63 is literally the smaller sibling of the GL63: It comes with two seats less, weighs less and is hence quicker and a bit more efficient. The ML63 is your ticket to driving a car with supercar-ish performance without worrying about speed-breakers, or bad roads in general. While its handling may not be supercar like, it more than makes up for this with its straight line performance. If the above reasons are not good enough for you, the sound of the 5.5-liter V8 may seal the deal!