Rapid mass tran­sit

Eight cylin­ders, seven seats, six fig­ures, less than five sec­onds to 100km/h

Herald Sun - Motoring - - PRESTIGE - JOSHUA DOWL­ING NA­TIONAL MOTORING ED­I­TOR joshua.dowl­ing@news.com.au

AND you thought land­ing man on the moon was an en­gi­neer­ing marvel. How about this: a car that can seat seven oc­cu­pants, tow al­most 3500kg and sprint to 100km/h as quick as a Porsche?

Not all at the same time, of course. But this is still an epic breadth of abil­ity in one pack­age.

Put an­other way, imag­ine an Olympic sprinter with the strength to pull an air­craft. That’s the best way to sum up the new Mercedes-Benz GLS63 AMG.

It’s a new, long and con­vo­luted name that comes with a re­cent facelift of what we used to call the GL63 but the phi­los­o­phy of the Mercedes flag­ship SUV hasn’t changed. It’s the ri­val to the top end Range Rovers and the new Bent­ley faux-wheel drive.

The price of $217,900 plus on-road costs (call it $230,000 by the time it’s in the traf­fic) may ini­tially be enough to give you an ice-cream headache, un­til you re­alise that’s less than half the price of the Bent­ley and about $100,000 less than topend Range Rovers.

Not that I’m ever likely to face the dilemma but I think I just found a way to save be­tween $100,000 and $250,000 on a car: by buy­ing this one.

ON THE ROAD

The ac­cel­er­a­tion is as­tound­ing. Re­spond­ing to the right foot is a 5.5-litre V8 twin-turbo mated to all-wheel drive with seven au­to­matic gear­box ra­tios.

The choice of so many gears means it can sprint from rest and then cruise barely over en­gine idle speed on a free­way.

Some may query why there is a 5.5-litre en­gine un­der the bon­net and a “63” badge on the tail­gate. It’s be­cause the num­bers on the bootlid no longer nec­es­sar­ily cor­re­late to en­gine size.

As Euro­pean reg­u­la­tions con­tinue to force car mak­ers to down­size their donks — to meet stricter emis­sions tar­gets — the boffins have be­come bet­ter at get­ting more power from smaller engines.

It also suits the mar­ket­ing de­part­ments. The the­ory goes some­thing like this: “We have the same or more power than pre­vi­ous 6.3-litre engines so we’re stick­ing with a 63 badge.”

Fair call. In fact, this en­gine has greater out­puts than the orig­i­nal SUVs that came with the “63AMG” badge re­leased in 2008 — we used to get ex­cited about 375kW of power and 630Nm of torque and now we’re up to 430kW/760Nm.

The other sur­pris­ing as­pect of the GLS63 is how it han­dles cor­ners.

Mercedes SUVs to date have not been at their best in tight bends but the new model erases pre­vi­ous mis­de­meanours.

With mas­sive 22-inch wheels and su­per-sticky Pirelli P Zero tyres at each cor­ner (nearly $1000 each to re­place), the gi­ant wagon feels as sta­ble as a low-slung sports car.

Only in truly tight cor­ners does its con­sid­er­able 2.5-tonne weight start to shift around. That’s when you be­gin to ap­pre­ci­ate the form-fit­ting sports seats.

Pro­vided you’re smooth with the mas­sive amounts of power and grip at your dis­posal, the GLS63 is re­ward­ing and re­as­sur­ing to drive.

Down­sides? There aren’t many. Those who want to hear the roar of the en­gine will need to lower the thick­ened side glass, which mutes the out­side world.

At 5.1m (as long as a Holden Caprice limo) you won’t be fit­ting into tight park­ing spaces.

The lack of a spare wheel of any type means you prob­a­bly don’t want to ven­ture out of phone range — or tow truck range — let alone head off the beaten track. A can of goop will only save cer­tain types of punc­tures; it’s not much use if there is a split in the side­wall.

No doubt these will be viewed as com­pro­mises when liv­ing with one of the world’s fastest seven-seat SUVs.

VER­DICT

The Mercedes-Benz GLS63 AMG is yet an­other ex­am­ple of an SUV that ap­pears to break the laws of physics.

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