2021 Mercedes-AMG GLS63 is the world's most powerful three-row luxury SUV
You could say the Mercedes-AMG GLS63 is a hot rod for SUV lovers, or an SUV for hot rod lovers. Both would be true, even if that group is pretty small. Mercedes-AMG caters to a pretty tightly focused market of people who want top tier performance along with first class luxury.
Let's start with what this is: the Mercedes-Benz GLS is a full-size SUV with three rows of seats, providing space for seven people, or you can get individual seats in the second row for a six-seater configuration. All the rear seats fold down, so you can use any GLS for hauling cargo as well as people.
If you can call any Mercedes-Benz SUV basic, the regular GLS comes with a 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine, but the high performance AMG version is equipped with a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 with an auxiliary electric motor to give it an additional boost. The package is rated at 603 horsepower and 627 pound-feet of torque. That's enough to propel the GLS63 from 0-60 in 4.1 seconds and to bestow the title of "world's most powerful three-row luxury SUV." That's muscle car territory, but the AMG treatment also gives the GLS suspension and brakes to handle the speed.
Inside, you get all the tech you expect from one of Europe's leading luxury car makers. Head-up display, adaptive cruise control, steering assistance, and every feature you can name. One that's worthy of mentioning with such a powerful vehicle is the automatic speed limit assist. This may save a few driver's licenses. This feature reads the speed limit signs and also consults the GPS map to know the current speed limit at most times. If you have speed limit assist enabled, the GLS63 will maintain a legal speed, no matter how much you put your foot down.
The interior has been modified a bit from the regular GLS450, and depending on your taste, you may prefer the Mercedes-Benz trim over the AMG. We found the seats to be a little hard, in contrast with other Mercedes seats that are wonderfully comfortable. But the AMG interior package also includes top-end luxury features like a heated center console armrest, front seat massage, and both heating and ventilation in the front seats.
Dashboard technology is also forward-looking. You don't have to navigate a whole series of menus to change the radio station or get the seats to massage your back. All you do is say, "Hey Mercedes" and tell the GLS what you want.
That's all part of the new Mercedes-Benz User eXperience, or MBUX. The system includes both voice commands and gesture controls where you can do things like control the music volume with a wave of your hand. The gesture controls are fantastic; you'll feel like a Jedi knight. Don't ask how we know. The voice control is great, too — no more scrolling through your long list of favorite radio stations. Just say, "Hey Mercedes, play Radio Margaritaville," or any AM, FM, or Satellite station of your choice.
Another notable feature is the MBUX navigation system. When you're using the navigation, the center display changes to a camera view of the road ahead as you approach an instruction point. The GLS displays floating tags on the picture to identify street names, destination addresses, and floating arrows showing you which way to turn. The only quibble with this system is that you have to look down at the dash long enough to absorb detailed information. That information should be projected onto the windshield, and it probably will be in the future.
On the road, the GLS63 can be impressive. If you use the paddle shifters to work the 9-speed automatic transmission, this SUV will really haul the bananas. But in order to meet fuel economy, there are some engine programming tradeoffs to understand. If you keep the GLS in Comfort mode, it can be slow to respond to partial throttle. You have to really get involved with the shifting to get the performance, or just put the SUV into Sport mode.
Every luxury item has its price, and the GLS is no exception. As tested, the AMG GLS63 carries a price tag of $153,035. But you can get most of the nifty features for far less if you are willing to give up that heady turbocharged V8 engine. The base GLS450 starts at about half the price of the GLS63, which is not much more than other brands with comparable SUVs.
The bottom line is that if you want near-supercar performance in a large SUV, Mercedes-AMG is leading the market right now. Stop by a Mercedes-Benz dealership to find out more.
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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