Mercedes-AMG GLS 63: Olympic Sprinter In Panzer Tank's Clothing
AMG's flagship SUV adds more power, electrified boost, and loads of tech.
Mercedes-AMG has a new GLS Class for 2021, with a fresh face, a new interior, and a powertrain filled with more power and tech than any average driver will ever need. Mega fast SUVs are hitting the marketplace with a big impression, and buyers now have several options for packing seven passengers, encompassing them in the highest levels of luxury, and laying down performance figures seen in supercars not long ago.
In the 2021 AMG GLS 63, Affalterbach has added an electrified boost to its already potent turbo V8. Priding myself on having a specialty for testing the faster metal, I had to see what this massive AMG offering was all about.
A Competitive Segment Loaded With Big Figures
In the new GLS 63, AMG isn't messing around, and with competition from BMW's Alpina XB7 and Land Rover's Range Rover SVO models, there are some good options in class. Having recently tested the Bentley Bentayga Speed, I think the GLS 63 jumps way up in class to compete with it too, based on its performance figures.
Under the hood, the GLS packs AMG's 4.0-liter hot-inside-V biturbo V8. With 603 horsepower and 627 lb-ft (850 Nm) of torque, the 2021 GLS 63 receives the EQ Boost Starter Accelerator system, which makes the engine belt-less, pushes it lower in the engine bay, and adds an extra 21 horsepower and 180 lb-ft (244 Nm) of torque on demand through some electrified wizardry. With roughly 800 lb-ft (1085 Nm) under your right foot, you could probably change the rotation of the Earth if you pressed the pedal hard enough.
With a 4.1 second 0-60 run, it's only .1 slower than the Alpina, .3 slower than the Bentayga Speed, and over a second faster than the quickest Range Rover. Boasting a top speed of 174 MPH, the GLS isn't exactly slow, but the Bentayga Speed rockets up to 190, and the Alpina hits 180. At 206.4 inches long, 84.9 wide, and 70.2 tall, the AMG GLS 63 boasts a 123.4-inch wheelbase while packing 6,000 pounds of curb weight into its seven-seat package. The GLS is bigger than every one of its competitors, even the long wheelbase option Range Rover. At a base price of $132,100, the AMG GLS 63 is the least expensive of the group, and my designo Diamond White Metallic tester, with its 23-inch monoblock wheels, rang up an MSRP of $149,160.
You're Spoiled Inside In All The Right Ways
Coming as no surprise, the Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 gets top-notch appointments inside, sporting extra plush and heavily bolstered seats with loads of adjustments, heated and cooling, and more massage modes than you'll ever need. Soft leather and deviated stitching covers nearly every surface, and where it doesn't, you'll find the right amount of carbon fiber to complete the luxurious yet modern look. Ambient lighting options are cool, and give you a space age look inside.
If you're wondering where some of that curb weight comes from, the seats would be a guilty party. As would gobs of optional soundproofing and extra thick infrared-coated glass that keeps any plebeian noises and heat from ever entering the big AMG's opulent cabin. I'd skip the optional energizing package, as the air freshener (fortunately the jar is removable) punches a far too strong scent into the cabin. You even get door panels and armrests that heat up if you engage the seat heaters, to make sure all your parts are warm.
A duo of 12.3-inch, customizable displays manage loads of data points and features, and both are nicely incorporated into the GLS' dash. The infotainment system now has touchscreen features, has a not so great trackpad on the center console, but has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on tap if the endless list of Mercedes apps doesn't entertain you enough. 360º cameras provide great assistance when you try to park the massive Mercedes, eliminating any excuse you have for curbing the monoblock wheels.
Burmester audio is an option seemingly every Mercedes press car gets, and thumps with more speakers and wattage through its too cool metal speaker grills than any person truly needs. I wish Mercedes put the cupholders a bit further away from where you have to plug in and store your phone, as the current setup gets in the way of the cupholders, and the cord will accidentally touch the overly sensitive trackpad, which will start screwing with whatever feature is currently on the screen.
Third row space is good for kids, and even adults could be stuck back there for a quick run, but I kept them folded down with a tap of a button, revealing a massive cargo area. To truly spoil your occupants, or if you're being driven by your chauffeur, opt for the executive rear seat setup, which adds captain's chairs, heated and ventilated seats, comfort headrests, and Qi charging for tablets and phones, as the basic rear seat setup and the rear climate controls are a bit basic. It goes nicely with the massive 123.4-inch wheelbase, to give you a huge mobile office. Sadly my tester didn't have this option.
A Three-Ton Tank Shoudn't Perform This Brilliantly
With obscene amounts of power and torque on tap, supplemented by a wicked level of electrified power from Mercedes' EQ Boost system, it's easy to rocket the AMG GLS 63 forward any time your right foot hovers near the accelerator. You have to teach yourself how to smoothly feed in the throttle to get the cleanest shove of power, as the turbos spool up quickly, and the EQ Boost system is on deck all the time. I dig that this flagship SUV still gets a throaty exhaust from AMG, with the expected button to engage a more powerful mode to satisfy your need for evil rumbles out back.
From 30 to 100 MPH, the AMG GLS 63 smokes the Bentley Bentayga Speed I tested earlier this year, and does so with a more pronounced shove, as opposed to the more subtle and gradual build of speed you get in the big Bentley. There isn't a single speed or situation when the GLS 63 won't quickly put cars in your rear view once you punch the throttle. Sadly my addiction to this experience reflected on the fuel economy, as I achieved just 13.5 MPGs during my test, versus the EPA estimated 14/22/19 city/highway/combined MPGs.
With the carbon fiber and alcantara AMG dynamic steering wheel and its cool customizable toggles and buttons, I found that driving in comfort mode and the suspension in sport was perfect, while going full tilt in sport+ when I wanted to hoon in the individual mode. Respect to AMG for allowing the individual setting to tweak the stability control with amateur, pro, and master options for the right amount of slip desired.
Introduce the GLS to some corners, and you'll be impressed by how capably it handles. WIth a 48 volt anti-roll system hooked up to the Mercedes Ride Control+ air suspsension, the GLS tackles sweepers with ease, staying flatter than any large SUV should. In fast weight transfers, you'll get some body roll expected when moving 6,000 pounds around, but I was astounded at how well the Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 managed itself on twisty roads.
AMG supplied electronic locking differentials and a quick lever to adjust ride height, should you tackle any off-road duty, but the real benefit of the trick diffs, a 9-speed TCT, and all-wheel-drive is on curvy stretches of pavement. I didn't take the GLS 63 off the smooth stuff at any point, as the big AMG was equipped with 23-inch wheels and a set of 285/35/23 front and 325/35/23 rear Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires, and I'm nowhere near as talented a driver off pavement as I am on it.
My first taste of an AMG model was in an E55 back in 1999, and it got me hooked on that wheel style. On the GLS, they look fantastic, but as I learned when I scored two punctures in the same rear tire, replacing those big Michelins is not only difficult because of availability, but you're going to spend a fortune on them. Better opt for a road hazard warranty when you buy the AMG GLS 63. Props to the Michelins for giving me more confidence in thrashing the GLS 63, while completing the sporty appearance when they weren't picking up nails.
Dizzying Performance In A Luxurious Package
With itself positioned to compete with the best from Alpina and Land Rover, AMG unintentionally put itself up against the Bentayga Speed, offering wicked performance through its electrified powertrain at a price savings that could have you buying the Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 and a Porsche 718 GT4 for the same money as the Bentley. Where the GLS really wins this segment is in the looks department. The BMW X7 platform, with its massive kidney grills, isn't nearly as attractive as the AMG face, and the Range Rover is still a bit bland for my tastes.
Mercedes-AMG is churning out fantastic machines that offer a good balance of tech, luxury, and performance, and I was blown away by the AMG GLS 63's ability to be a refined super SUV when I wanted to cruise around town, but was ready to outrun anything on a long straight or in the corners. If you're looking for the best way to tote around seven people, protect them in a cocoon of tech and luxury, and crank away at speeds meant for supercars, the Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 is a wonderful way to do it.