Him: “Why would you need that much power in an SUV?”
Me: “Why wouldn’t you?”
Him: (blank stare)
Truth is, if you drive a 2012 ML63 AMG, you’ll get that reaction a lot. Contradictory to common car enthusiast knowledge, it turns out that few people are able to “get” that a 5000-pound SUV that out-sprints a Lexus IS F to 60 mph (4.3 seconds, in case you’re curious) is an entirely rational thing. Buy one, and you’ll have to frequently deal with exasperated expressions, head shaking, and eyeball rotations that suggest a lack of mental capacity on your part. Not that you need let that be a deterrent — I’m just warning you.From my point of view, once you drive said ML63, you’ll never turn back. Now, I’ve always been a fan of the standard ML350 in both gasoline and diesel guise. In fact, many of us were at the 2012 SUV of the Year competition, where if it hadn’t been for the revolutionary Range Rover Evoque, the ML would likely have taken top honors. In its most basic form, the ML hits all the right buttons for someone who needs a do-it-all utility vehicle and has a little coin to splurge on some luxury. The ML packs seating for four adults and a child (or more children instead of adults), a cargo area that will hold a week’s worth of luggage, enough power to overtake even when loaded with these people and their gear, and enough comfort and amenities that travel is relatively stress-free. With 4MATIC all-wheel drive, it’s also capable of a little more than just soft-roading, especially with Mercedes’ height-adjustable air suspension, adaptive dampening, and downhill speed regulation systems.
The ML63 AMG has all that stuff (as standard equipment, even!), but it also has more torque than a Lamborghini Aventador and a 5.5-liter, twin-turbocharged V-8 that growls like Hades with a bad case of indigestion. It also includes Mercedes’ premium designo leather upholstery; a unique AMG gauge cluster and steering wheel; navigation, parking, blind-spot, and lane-keeping assist; and 10-way adjustable, heated and cooled front seats. Twenty-inch AMG wheels, an AMG-tuned suspension with summer tires, and beefier brakes round out the majority of the upgrades.
It all works together ridiculously well, whether you’re loafing along to the grocery store or charging away from a stoplight alongside a Mustang GT 5.0. The ride is still comfortable — there’s just less body roll when you take that freeway off-ramp a little quicker than normal. Give the throttle a stomp and all kinds of glorious sounds, mostly angry ones, come from the quad chrome exhaust tips. The ML surges forward like a 3-ton boulder hurtling down a mountainside (though making a much smoother attempt of it) except when you hit the serving platter-sized brakes, which will bring all the madness to a halt much quicker than you’d expect it to – on par with a McLaren MP4-12C, in fact. The whole experience is so effortless yet so brutal, with such aurally delicious undertones, that soon you start looking for excuses not to leave the ML63’s cocooning cabin. I primarily used the navigation for finding drive-thru restaurants and full-service gas stations.
Now, there’s one little caveat, and I’ll let our testing director, Kim Reynolds tell you about it as only he can: “Even with the stability control turned off as much as it can be turned off, it’s very brutal on how it intervenes – it’s very frustrating.” That’s right, the ML63 wasn’t quite as much fun around our figure-eight test as it could have been. With no way to fully defeat the stability control system, any attempt at tail-out antics is met with an E-slap from the computer, which I’m fairly sure was programed by someone who hates fun at least as much as John Lithgow’s character in “Footloose,” but not more than Ralph Nader, as you can still do a burnout. All that said, this muscle-‘ute is designed more for cruising than it is tearing up the local canyons. There are C63s for that kind of thing, after all.
The 2012 ML63 starts at $95,865 including destination charges and is currently on sale.