Su­per seven-seater

The GL63 is def­i­nitely one for fam­i­lies in a hurry

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Prestige - CRAIG DUFF craig.duff@cars­guide.com.au

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.

VALUE

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.

TECH­NOL­OGY

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.

DE­SIGN

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.

SAFETY

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.

DRIV­ING

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.

VER­DICT

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.

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