A performance SUV may sound like something of a contradiction, but it’s a market niche that has proved a commercial success in the past. Mercedes is hoping it can repeat history with this new version of the ML63 AMG.
New turbocharged engine
Under the bonnet of the ML63 is a colossal 5.5-litre twin turbo V8 engine that pumps out a hefty 518bhp. That’s 15bhp more than the normally-aspirated 6.2-litre engine from the outgoing model.
The new V8 engine reaches 61mph from rest in 4.8 seconds – enough to worry most sports cars. If that’s not enough speed, an AMG Performance Pack is also available, which boosts peak power to 549bhp, and cuts the 0-62mph time by 0.1secs.
So much power in something so tall and heavy doesn’t seem the ideal recipe for what Mercedes likes to call ‘a superlative driving experience’, but the AMG engineers have developed a new Active Curve System to stabilise roll, as well as retuned air suspension and a centre differential that sends most of the power to the rear wheels. The changes are claimed to improve both agility and high speed stability.
Big SUVs powered with large petrol engines are notoriously heavy on fuel. To improve mpg, Mercedes has given the ML63 an engine stop-start system.
Despite increased equipment levels, the new ML63 is also 40kg lighter than the old model. This is largely due to the smaller engine, plus a new, more efficient 7-speed automatic gearbox and electric power steering system.
The changes result in a combined fuel economy figure of 23.9mpg – not groundbreaking, but reasonably good for a high-performance 4×4 – and a claimed 28% improvement over the old model. CO2 emissions are still high at 276g/km, but again low for a performance SUV. Even so, this places the ML63 in the highest VED bracket (M), and means annual car tax of £460.
The signature AMG quad exhaust pipes are there, as is an aggressive body kit and 20-inch wheels (21-inch versions are optional).
The interior also has a suitably sporty feel with an AMG steering wheel, door-sills and sports pedals. Further standard equipment includes an electric sliding glass sunroof, heated seats and an uprated audio system with Bluetooth and USB connectivity.
Prices and specifications for the ML63 AMG are yet to be confirmed, but we expect order books to open in early 2012.
Find out how the current car rated in our Mercedes-Benz M-class review
Make sure you buy the right SUV with our Top 10 4×4 buying tips
Impressed by powerful Mercedes’? Read our full review of the SLS AMG supercar