Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG: India Review

Deep down the Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG desires to be a sports car. And it does come surprisingly close.



2014 Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG India review




The thought of driving an AMG seemed more exciting this time around. And this was because of my visit to the Affalterbach plant recently, where I got a chance to see AMGs being prepped up in the flesh. For those who came in late, Mercedes-Benz AMG is the sports line of their production cars, just like the ‘RS’ is for Audis and ‘M’ to BMWs.


The latest Mercedes AMG to be launched in India is the Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG, which competes with the segment benchmark, Porsche Cayenne Turbo. To begin with, the new Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG is powered by a 5.5-litre twin-turbo petrol engine and not a 6.3-litre motor, as the name suggests. This is the same hand-built V8 that also does the duty on the other two Mercedes-AMG SUVs - the bulky G63 and the seven-seater GL63 - which we reviewed recently. (Also read: Mercedes-Benz GL63 AMG review).



2014 Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG India review




The AMG Performance Package equipped Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG churns out a staggering 557PS of peak power and a massive 760Nm of maximum torque. The top speed is governed at 250kmph, and this power house claims a 0-100kmph time in just 4.7 seconds, which is mighty impressive for an SUV which weighs 2,345kg. This AMG SUV has a deep desire to be a sports car, and as the numbers suggest, it does come phenomenally close. 


To suggest its sports car like intent, the engineers have given the Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG the Affalterbach design treatment. The exterior enhancements are rather subtle compared to other AMG models, but the Mercedes ML63 AMG does manage to send the ‘sporty’ message across. Most of the sheet metal remains unchanged, but there’s a more muscular front bumper with bigger air intakes. The fenders have more pronounced flares; chrome strips highlight the design and rear gets four chrome rectangular exhaust tips. Look closer and you will be able to spot the subtle AMG hints like the ‘V8 Biturbo’ marked on the fenders and the 20-inch AMG alloy wheels. 




Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG India review - dashboard




In India, Mercedes-Benz is offering the ML63 AMG in only the top variant, to justify its monumental price tag. The cabin is draped in boutique-standard leather from head to toe, with the obvious exception of the display, buttons and knobs. The dashboard and centre console use a mix of upmarket materials including brush-metal accents and piano-black inlays which make it quite attractive. The seats come with AMG badging and there’s a sporty four-spoke flat-bottomed steering wheel to highlight its Affalterbach heritage. The cabin’s top class quality and finish definitely do justice to the AMG brand.


Equipment wise, the Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG comes packed to the brim. These include a panoramic sunroof, fully powered electric front seats with memory, climate control, cruise control and an updated COMAND system. For a big and powerful SUV like this, the company has also included a wide spread of safety features like airbags, ABS and ESP along with a host of other features which keep the occupants safe and secure at all times.



Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG India review




Crank up the Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG and it breaks free from the coy, demure look, suggested by the subtle exterior design and plush interiors, and emits a thrilling roar through its quad pipes. Suddenly the ML63 AMG feels like a beast, which until now was chained down. The twin turbochargers do try to hamper the exhaust note, but despite the intrusion, the AMG sounds deliciously uneven and menacing at idle and has a deep and loud roar under full throttle. 


The AMG 7G-Tronic adds to the orchestra by slamming the down-shifts, and holding on to the gear till 5,500rpm before shifting up. The gear-changes from the seven-speed automatic are smooth and yet quick. Power from the 5.5-litre V8 surges in from as low as 2,000rpm and keeps pouring in right till it reaches the 6,250rpm rev limiter. Darting on the winding mountain road to get a dramatic picture or while cruising back to office after the photo-shoot, the Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG never felt short on power. Ask for performance, and it gives you just that. 


There are three driving modes – Comfort, Sport and Manual. In Comfort, the seven-speed feels a little hesitant, but selecting Sport or Manual modes gets sharper responses from the Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG. In Sport mode, the shift transmission becomes more alert and the engine revs higher in every gear. Selecting the Manual mode gives more control, as the AMG will wait for your tap on the paddle-shifters before shifting. The steering has satisfactory weight and feel, and is also quite accurate.




Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG India review




You need a road like the German Autobahn to actually get the best out of this AMG beast. The poor road surface and lack of many wide open roads in our country, limits us to fully explore the Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG’s true potential. And when it is time to bring the two tonne SUV to a halt, the ML63 depends on a high-performance braking system with high fade resistance, featuring ventilated and perforated brake discs at all four corners. This AMG SUV runs on 265/45 section road tyres which may not be able to take on excess off-roading, but offer terrific grip on tarmac. The air suspension is firmly set up, as in most performance oriented cars, but not to the extent of being uncomfortable. One can further tune the suspension setting in Comfort, Sport or Sport+ modes, depending on the road surface to be tackled. 


The Adaptive Damping System makes sure that that the impacts are less jarring. In fact, for a SUV weighing an incredible 2,345kg, it does handle large bumps with surprising poise.  There are tons of data being processed by the complicated electronics to ensure that this tall and large AMG SUV handles well, without feeling ungainly. A huge credit for this goes to the new Active Curve anti-roll bars and the 4matic all-wheel drive systems which do a great job of reducing body roll and irons out any yacht-like wallowing. As a result, the Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG feels flat and planted during cornering. In case one gets overenthusiastic and carries more speed in a turn than the sticky tyres and anti-roll bar can handle, the ESP springs in to action and brings the two tonne SUV back on track. It may not be as fun to drive as the Porsche Cayenne Turbo, but certainly feels quite secure. 


The Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG does all that the regular Mercedes-Benz ML can do and more; that too with far more élan. At a mind boggling Rs 1.49 crore (excluding taxes and registration, mind) the new ML63 AMG also costs twice as much as the lesser mortal ML, and is about Rs 20 lakh less than the Porsche Cayenne Turbo. 


Not many can afford a Mercedes-Benz. And few still an AMG. Since the Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG is the ninth Mercedes AMG model in our country, there clearly is a set clientele for these products. So, does it justify the hefty price? No point answering that for it is the wrong question. The thing to ask is – does it feel like an AMG, even though it is an SUV, and a heavy one at that? It sure does. And, that for us (and for an AMG customer) is good enough.