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The AMG version of the Mercedes luxury three-row SUV is nearly as fast as a C7 Corvette.

COURTESY MERCEDES-BENZ - The 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 is one of only a handful of high-performance luxury three-row SUVs on the market today. The 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 is the fastest school bus on the planet.

Wait, did I say school bus? I meant three-row luxury SUV. But the high-performance version of Mercedes' family hauler is so insanely large and powerful, auto writers reach for equally oversized metaphors to describe it.

Consider this: The basic GLS63 is as large as a Chevy Tahoe or GMC Yukon. But it is as fast as a C7 Corvette, with a recorded zero to 60 time at about four seconds — courtesy of its turbocharged 603 horsepower V8. And on top of that, it is as luxurious and well-equipped as any other top-of-the-line Mercedes. No wonder it starts at an eye-popping $132,100.

COURTESY MERCEDES-BENZ - With more than 600 horsepower and all-wheel-drive, the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 will get you where you want to go fast and safely.

If that sounds like a ridiculously small market niche, well, it is. The only direct competitors now are the BMW Alpina XB7, the Tesla Model X Performance and the Range Rover SVAutobiography Dynamic. Dodge has snuck into the competition recently with its even more powerful 707-horsepower and lower-priced Durango SRT Hellcat, but it is a not a genuine luxury vehicle.

In fact, as big as it feels. the GLS 63 is not among the largest SUVs in the world. America is still #1 in that field, with such models as the even bigger Cadillac Escalade, Chevy Suburban and Ford Navigator. And they all have very strong engines and upscale interiors, making them perfectly suitable for large families wanting powerful and comfortable transportation.

COURTESY MERCEDES-BENZ - The 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 easily meets all of the high luxury and technology standards set by the renowned German manufacturer.

But the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 is not designed for them. It is for those families who can afford the best and are willing to pay for it. Its full potential will never even be approached in day-to-day driving. Punching it when the road opens up is fun, until the inevitable traffic jam shows up and the huge brakes prevent anything unpleasant from happening. But even then, most drivers will back off well before the hand-assembled 4.0-liter powerplant approaches its peak. That would take a very long straight on a closed racetrack.

Despite the power and size, our test Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 was remarkably easy to drive, even on downtown streets with other traffic. With 627 foot-pounds of torque, it moved smoothly but not too quickly off the line, eliminating any fear of unintentionally crushing slower vehicles. The handling was very responsive for such a large vehicle, making lane changes and even parallel parking easy. By paying attention to the surrounding, it can also be driven quickly through medium traffic, despite weighing nearly three tons.

COURTESY MERCEDES-BENZ - The huge infortainment display screen in the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLS 63.

Inside, our tester exceeded the high standards for luxury and technologies set my Mercedes. After your eyes get used to the acres of leather, the first thing you notice it what appears to be an impossible long display screen stretching the full length of the dash. in fast, it is two adjoining screens, including one directly in front of the driver with the gauges and trip information, and the screen for the infotainment system in the center of the dash. The effect is dazzling, however.

The touchpad that controls the system takes a little practice to use without taking your eyes off the road for too long. Fortunately, it comes with the new Mercedes-Benz User eXperience, or MBUX. The system includes a voice command feature that eliminates the need to manually scroll through the long list of available radio stations and the like. Just say "Hey Mercedes" and tell the system what you to listen to.

COURTESY MERCEDES-BENZ - The second row of seats in the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 can carry up to three adults in comfort and style.

If you want the comfort, roominess of refinement of the GLS without the additional power, the regular one comes with a 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine with 362 horsepower and 369 foot-pounds of torque that should satisfy most buyers. But if you opt for the AMG version, you not only get the more powerful engine with an auxiliary electric motor to give it an additional boost, but an upgraded suspension and bigger brakes to better accommodate it. Our version also came with an array of options —

including $4,950 matte black 23-inch wheels, a $4,550 Burmester surround sound system, a $1,500 carbon fiber engine cover, a $600 Dinamica steering wheel, and a few others — that pushed the price to $153,035. As I said, the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLS63 is for those families that can afford it.

But if you're family is one of those and would enjoy a luxury three-row SUV that drives like a hot rod, you won't be disappointed.

COURTESY MERCEDES-BENZ - Because it is a large SUV, the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 has an enormous amount of cargo space.

2021 Mercedes-AMG GLS63

Base price: $132,100

Price as tested: $153,035

Type: Full size SUV

Engine: 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 (603 hp, 627 lbs-ft)

Transmission: 9-speed automatic

EPA estimated mileage: 13/18

Overall length: 206.4 inches

Curb weight: 5,754 pounds

Final assembly: Tuscaloosa, Alabama


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