With three rows, seven seats, and more than 450kW on standby, the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 is neither a subtle nor cheap way to haul a big family, or a large group of friends if you must. In the same breath though, it’s worth pointing out that its not for everyone either.
The GLS is a big SUV. At about 5.3m long, almost 2m wide, and a smudge under 1.7m tall, it has presence in the same way that the G63 has presence. Looming and imposing, there are curves and contours but its large scale renders them geological.
It requires matching scale from AMG’s glitter, then. The 23-inch multi-spoke forged wheels look monstrous, but here they’re merely arch-filling.
The stand-out on the vehicle is the Panamericana grille, giving the burly SUV the glittering maw of a basking shark turned rap artiste. Flashy? Well sure, but if you’re surprised then you must be new around these parts. Even Mercedes’ Cavansite Blue paint, not typically a stand-out hue, gains unexpected depth on a vehicle of this size.
If the SUV is big, the engine is its equal. The AMG 4.0-liter V8 Biturbo is finished by hand, mustering 450kW of power and a lavish 850Nm of torque to all four wheels. EQ Boost lends an extra 16kW and 250Nm short periods, while also helping leave the stop/start system running smoothly.
AMG says it’ll do 0-100 km/h in 3.8 seconds and, when you consider this is a vehicle with a massive curb weight, that number isn’t just impressive it’s downright bizarre.
Talking about remarkable things, put the GLS 63 in Comfort mode and it wafts around cloud-like. During our test period we took it to Mpumalanga and its no secret the road below may have been neglected to the point of all-out corrugations, but you’d never know it.
Of course there are the Sport and Sport Plus options if you wish, and individual control over the air suspension settings, and a button to open up the four pipes.
Once you’ve untamed the beast, hit the petrol and the 9-speed hurls itself down through the ratios, engine growling like a bassoon full of clotted cream as the GLS 63 just pulls. The suspension does a near-magical job of keeping things stable and level, with the active anti-roll bars lending their talents as you weigh into the corners.
The truth of everything is that you can drive the AMG GLS 63 much faster than you probably want to drive it. That mix of scale, weight, and animal instinct for self-preservation make it less fun on twistier routes than the numbers and capabilities might suggest. It’s an addictive ride and feeling we can’t yet describe.
Far better, then, to settle back into an interior that’s similarly lavish. Not for nothing, when Mercedes-Maybach decided to make its first SUV, did it look to the GLS for inspiration. AMG’s cabin puts more focus on the driver than the new Maybach GLS 600, but neither will prove unsatisfying inside.
What you get is leather all around, a panoramic roof, Burmester Surround Sound system, 64-color ambient lighting, heated and ventilated front seats with massage, 5-zone climate control, and soft-close doors are standard. So, too, is the twin 12.3-inch dashboard, the centre touchscreen supporting Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Mercedes’ excellent MBUX platform with its surprisingly capable voice control system. Vehicles like this tend toward the menu-heavy, and so being able to use natural-language commands like “Hey Mercedes, turn on the seat massage” rather than go digging for the right option is a welcome shortcut.
Everything looks, and feels, like it was hewn rather than assembled. The diamond-stitched AMG leather is worth a mention, as is the Burmester sound upgrade. At a fee you can get heating in the second row.
Seven seats are standard, with six an option. The first and second rows are plentiful in space and toys; the third is best for kids, or adults as we discovered during our trip to Mpumalanga.
You could well argue that, as options go, that’s pretty illustrative of the AMG GLS 63 altogether. On the face of it, a R3.2m SUV with 450kW is somewhat ridiculous. If I’m honest, for as much as I enjoy the experience, I’ll also readily agree that its a warranted one.
Let’s face it, though, the AMG GLS 63’s audience cares not a jot about fuel economy and how much it’ll cost for you to fill her up. Your options, should your priority be blistering speed and space for seven, are fairly limited. AMG made a Brutalist brawler for the driver who wants space and speed, and while we can argue the small print there’s no denying that on that front the AMG GLS 63 delivers. Do we love it? All of it.