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2021 Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 Review & Test Drive

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Filed under Automotive, Mercedes-AMG, Mercedes-Benz, SUV, Test Drives

For those who are accustomed to living in a world of excess, Mercedes-Benz is an automotive brand that will oblige to appease such consumers with vehicles like their newly redesigned GLS, a unique 3-row large luxury crossover. On the side of the performance leg of Mercedes, there is a new flavor for the GLS, which is essentially the S-Class of SUVs, that is adorned with the latest AMG equipment starting with a potent 4.0-liter BiTurbo V8 engine aided by a mild-hybrid system.

The new 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 is a beast, one only tamed by its luxury accruements that set the pace for the proper appointments one would expect in the top-trimmed version of the latest S Class. Featuring a similar V8 BiTurbo found in many other AMG performance vehicles, the GLS 63 takes things to a new level by utilizing a 48-volt mild hybrid architecture that places all of the engine’s accessories internally, so they don’t use a fan belt and utilizes the electric motor for many tasks acting as the starter, power regenerator/alternator, and a power-add for the drivetrain. In all, the power output in the GLS 63 gets a literal boost, not only from its two turbos to give the engine its 603 horsepower, but to occasionally add another 21 horsepower from the electric motor. Moreover, the powertrain touts 627 lb-ft of torque to get things moving quickly and reach 60 mph in about 3.6 seconds, which is a figure that bests Mercedes’ claimed 4.1 seconds and verified by a few major automotive magazine outlets.

The beastly bits of the Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 don’t stop with its all-wheel-drive ‘BOOSTED in more ways than one’ powertrain, but they continue through the cross-drilled and slotted brake rotors clamped on by large 6-piston calipers up front. Wrapping the brakes are usually the task of standard 21-inch wheels, but on my nearly-loaded test vehicle there are optional forged 23-inchers at all four corners wrapped by Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires, which are also in a staggering size – 285-patch up front and a massive 325-width-patch out back. Yes, 325s on a family SUV! If you’re now attempting to price out such a size tire, DON’T, because you probably can’t afford them if you have to look. Just like the fuel consumption, no one cares because AMG, baby! I did manage to get just over 22 mpg on the highway – if you must know.

So, what do all of these beefy drivetrain bits do for a large family SUV? Well, it makes it the fastest SUV of its kind. That’s right, the new 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 is the fastest 3-row crossover on the market unless you go the route of electric for a new Tesla Model X P100D. Otherwise, the GLS 63 is the king of the hill, and it looks and drives the part.

Handling is surprising at times as the active roll bars controlled by the electrifying 48-volt mild-hybrid system keep body roll to a minimum. Even though the GLS 63 feels heavy in driving it, it bites back well to do things a vehicle so big shouldn’t do. The ride quality is OKAY as most of its over-engineering tends to eat up the pavement and any of its imperfections. For the most part, the ride is compliant, quiet, and under control, unless you switch to the Sport + drive mode where the air suspension lowers, and dampers tighten up for an overall sportier ride quality. Things could be smoother, but this is the AMG of the GLS with no apologies in its beastliness. Taming things down is left the sophisticated mild-hybrid setup, which enables the engine to shut down when coasting or at a stoplight without leaving the air-conditioning air stale or warm in the summer.

The interior carries over the theme of BIG, a smart play on the GLE’s space only bigger, with a rather large cabin space and seats that look like they may be too narrow but are quite comfortable for just about any size person. Cargo room behind the third-row is a welcomed 17 cubic feet, which is good. Mercedes pulled out the stops to make the GLS 63’s interior a lavish space with the right touches to keep with its sporty theme through carbon fiber and aluminum trim, a 64-color configurable LED ambient lighting system, massaging front and second-row outboard seats, countless climate control zones, and the two massive 12.3-inch screens serving as the driver’s gauge cluster and the touchscreen MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User eXperience) infotainment system. Mercedes does well to bring a more natural interaction in their MBUX infotainment system, but it comes with a slight learning curve most must overcome to really utilize the advanced features of the system. The voice feature of the system is one of the best in the business with a more natural language recognition with access to many vehicle functions. You can simply say, “Hey Mercedes, open the sunshade” and the vehicle will accommodate by automatically rolling back the panoramic roof sunshade without the touch of any buttons. While some of the voice functions can be considered a novelty or an appeasement for the truly lazy, your voice has never been more powerful as it is in a new Mercedes with their MBUX setup. The sophistication of the many safety features comes into play in just driving the GLS 63 where it even adds a bit of deceleration as you approach a vehicle in front of you. Of course, there’s the expected merit of active and passive safety features and a decent adaptive cruise control and lake keep system that closely follows painted lines with ease.

Other controls and luxury comforts rise above the competition to provide the highlights of heated armrests and door trim, heated or cooled cup holders, heated-ventilated-massaging second-row seats, automatic power-folding (up and down) third and second-row seatbacks, power-adjustable second-row seats, and the third-row seats feature power adjustments and a few surprising soft-touch armrests and trim surfaces.

Mercedes-AMG leaves nothing untouched in the realm of mainstream luxury, if there is such a thing. If you can dream it, Mercedes may have thought of it and put it in the new GLS 63, the top of the crop for the GLS SUV, which again, is the S Class of SUVs – almost literally.

For all that the Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 is, consumers must understand there’s nothing else like it. Of course, to get something so unique, you must pay to play, and that pay is going to be about $150,000 for my almost-loaded test vehicle, which is still missing a few features like the wonderful color heads-up display that Mercedes offers and rear door power sunshades. Otherwise, my 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 that is just now going on sale, is caulk full of luxury in the midst of earth-moving performance, which is all completely unnecessary for most – but I like it, and I want it! This is a vehicle I could get used to and easily justify the price of admission when you compare it to vehicles like the Lamborghini Urus, Porsche Cayenne, and others – none of which have three rows of seats or can seat seven people like the beastly GLS 63.


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