The GL63 is definitely one for families in a hurry
MONEY may not buy love but it certainly can buy a vehicle to carry loved ones. Even if there’s a horde. The Mercedes-Benz GL is a luxury SUV built to carry seven and, in the case of the new-to-Australia secondgeneration GL63 AMG variant, it does it at a pace few sports cars can match.
Intimidation costs $214,900. This SUV dwarfs most cars on the road and the GL63 badge on the back indicates its performance potential.
Inside, the centre-row seats will move forward at the push of a button to ease access to the third row seats, which in turn electrically fold into the floor to increase cargo space. And all seats are comfortable, according to our teen evaluators.
They also rate the Harman Kardon sound system and digital audio and TV.
The GL range is fitted with an overhead view reversing camera that’s among the most accurate Carsguide has used— no touch-parking here. We repeatedly backed the big SUV within 2.5cm of pylons and followed the screen’s overlays to snake through a slow-speed backwards slalom run.
The 5.5-litre bi-turbo V8 is at its best here, as the 760Nm makes light work of the 2.6-tonne mass. Once mobile, the sports suspension and Active Curve Control body roll control system endow the GL with sedan-like cornering.
An off-road mode for the seven-speed auto gearbox is the only thing the GL63 misses — it’s found on the GL500 and GL350 Bluetec models, which have a remote chance of heading off the bitumen.
The wide two-bar horizontal chrome grille supports the sporty three-pointed star and helps mask the GL’s size, as does the AMG-specific matt silver insert in the lower bumper.
The wheel arches have been flared by 11mm each side to fit the monster 21-inch rims and the alloy running boards are illuminated. The blacked-out door and roof pillars help stretch the glasshouse in profile view, while the pair of chrome twin tailpipes tends to focus the eye away from the 1.85m height.
Inside is typical Benz top-end gear in a leather-wrapped cabin that’s so spacious it makes the ML look cramped.
No one has officially crashed a GL so we’ll rely on Merc’s recent good record with the Euro NCAP crowd and assume the GL would earn five stars.
In the real world, there is no doubt: 2.5 tonnes of high-tensile steel and advanced occupant protection systems will win any argument this side of a tree or truck. M-B Australia loaded the safety suite with nine airbags, active blind spot and lanekeeping assist and adaptive cruise control as standard.
Climb aboard and strap yourself in. Without kids or chattels, this is a car to embarrass P-platers in or dispatch interstate trips in air-suspended comfort.
Acceleration is officially 4.9 secs to 100km/h. So it’s a very, very quick people-mover — until it enters a corner.
Then it transforms into a semi-sports car with levels of grip and handling that shouldn’t be possible with such a high centre of gravity. The trick active anti-roll bars keep the SUV flat and the V8 is but a twitch of the toes from firing the GL into the next bend.
It means relaxed cruising or spirited cornering, depending on the tolerance of the occupants to the inevitable G-forces to which they’re subjected.
City driving is effortless, though the GL can fill its lane on tighter roads. Other cars will shy away but the lane departure software earns its keep. The camera system takes care of reversing (don’t expect to fit in one space) and all-round vision is surprisingly good.
In the realm of upper-luxury seven-seat SUVs, the GL stands alone. The Range Rover Sport, due at years’ end, will be its closest rival.