While slaloming the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 through the twistiest reaches of Mulholland Drive, it might be easy to forget that there’s over eight feet of car behind you, not to mention 3 tons of German metal to share with seven passengers. Massive machines simply shouldn’t be able to dance like this, and the way this behemoth Benz slinks across impossibly curving roads feels like sorcery. But really, it’s all about better living through science.
While most SUVs of this proportion mask their heft through fairly conventional means— shock absorbers that stiffen when necessary, for instance, this AMG-enhanced beast goes one step further. Using an advanced 48-volt electrical system and an adaptive air suspension system, the GLS 63 also actively compensates against roll stabilization using elecro-mechanical actuators. Think of it as adjustable air mattresses combined with an invisible hand that pushes on either side of the car to keep it flat while it’s tossed across the windy roads.
Once you’ve gotten over the GLS’s eerie aptitude for handling, there are no shortage of performance goodies to round out its dynamics. First and foremost, the 4.0-liter V8 beneath that big ol’ hood.
This hand-built engine packs two turbochargers, which is not all that uncommon in this golden age of horsepower. But helping along the seemingly conventional powerplant is yet another modern twist: an integrated electric motor system that adds up to 21 horsepower for brief interludes, and uses energy recuperation to recharge the system. Think of it more as a momentary boost (hence, Benz’s “EQ Boost” nickname) than a conventional, economy-minded hybrid. The grand total when all the wheels are spinning? A supercar-like 624 horsepower and a stunning 811 lb-ft of torque, which can whisk this AMG to 60 mph in 4.1 seconds.
But instead of tire-spinning wildness, that power is delivered with the subtlety of an Airbus A380 at takeoff: clean, linear thrust that’s downplayed by the fact that you’re sitting high above the rush of tarmac. But it’s not quite a Mercedes-Benz S-Class on stilts; it’s more low-key than the sophisticated flagship sedan.
Coupled with the GLS’s innocuous style, this $132,100 sport ‘ute falls into a curious conundrum: while not as posh as some super SUVs (see: Bentley Bentayga, Rolls-Royce Cullinan) or as aggressive as sportier offerings (BMW X6 M Competition), the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 manages to occupy a rather curious in-between area where it couples oodles of interior room with eye-opening get-up-and-go.
So while it doesn’t quite earn ultimate superlatives, the latest big, bad Benz carves a compelling niche for itself and folks who savor swift, understated transport for seven.
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