King Kong snarls in measured suburban tones, but don’t be fooled: The 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLS 63, a brute of an all-new model, somehow offers 603 Corvette-stuffing horsepower, room for seven, taut handling and occasional fuel economy of 20 miles per gallon.
For all I know, it might even be running for president.
At the least, the seven-passenger GLS underscores the absolute upside of the truck and SUV mania that began engulfing the auto industry a decade ago.
Luxury automakers like Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi and Jaguar – motivated by the massive profits in luxury SUVs – want to give buyers all the performance of a high-end sports sedan, plus vastly more room and towing capacity.
They just have to stuff it into a larger container – an SUV, for example, that carries a price of $150,000.
The giant all-wheel-drive GLS can blast through the quarter-mile in 12 seconds flat at 115 mph, according to Car and Driver, and is capable of a 174-mph top speed.
Every time I pointed it toward open concrete, I felt like Zeus was riding shotgun and ready to hurl some bolts.
It bristled with the sort of muscle that fit what Benz says is the most powerful three-row SUV in the world.
Easily the best proportioned full-size SUV I’ve seen, the white GLS taunted lesser vehicles with a prominent toothy grille anchored by a giant Mercedes-Benz emblem in the middle.
Fairly sleek headlamps slid back into the edges of the fenders, while really short overhangs front and rear contributed considerably to the GLS’ taut body.
A relatively long sculpted hood eased down onto smooth, slightly curved sides with crisp character lines above the door-handles.
What really made the GLS pop were its stunning black 23-inch wheels (a $5,000 option) that made the SUV look lower, sleeker and smaller.
Still, the hand-built, AMG 4-liter V-8 beneath the hood will always be the heart and soul of any high-performance Mercedes.
Think of it as a 244-cubic-inch nuclear reactor.
Ease into the throttle around town and the AMG-overachiever responds with a 60s rumble of V-8 power and a reassuring wave of power.
Besides the gas firepower, the use of a 48-watt electric motor, mostly to run horsepower-robbing accessories such as the water pump, air-conditioning and power steering.
Some of the unit’s 21 horsepower can also be devoted to assisting in acceleration – just what the pavement-pounding GLS needs.
Floor the accelerator and the GLS pauses for a millisecond with turbo-lag before practically exploding with fury, clicking off quick shifts from its 9-speed automatic.
Sixty miles per hour is a mere 3.6 seconds away, according to Car and Driver.
Although the steering on the GLS felt a little thick and heavy to me, it was quick, making it easy to toss the 6,000-pound SUV into a corner – even while accelerating hard. (Try that with a Blazer or an Expedition.)
Granted, its suspension was stiff, reacting firmly to bumps and potholes in sports mode, but I preferred that to the truck’s “comfort” setting, which I thought allowed the GLS to move around too much on its suspension.
Even in comfort mode, though, the GLS cornered with minimal lean for a vehicle nearly six feet tall, able to stay planted even in fairly aggressive corners and curves.
As you would expect in any high-end Mercedes-Benz these days, the black interior in my GLS felt six-figure upscale.
The upper dashboard, for example, displayed the sort of attention to detail and material affluent consumers want, stitched in smooth black leather.
For those who equate the upper end with high technology, the GLS offered twin 12.3-inch display screens side-by-side, one for the digital instrument panel and the other for infotainment.
While impressive, at least one of the boxes had a maddening glitch. Six or seven times, without my touching anything, the gremlin simply changed the radio station.
Fortunately, the gremlin/glitch left everything else alone.
Once again, though, I had to reacclimate myself to changing gears with a thin stalk on the right side of the steering column, but that was not a big deal.
In exchange, I got to admire the gray carbon-fiber trim beneath the display screens every time I shifted into reverse or park.
Meanwhile, a broad black console provided grab handles, while the GLS’ door panels just looked nice wrapped in the same smooth leather as the dash.
Fortunately, Mercedes-AMG put a priority on the seats, whose high bolsters and suede trim kept me planted as the perforated centers provided some cooling.
Likewise, the back seats had immense leg- and head-room. I can’t account for the third row of seats because I never put them up, distracted, I suppose, by other interests.
Like all luxury vehicles, my GLS arrived with plenty of options, including the carbon-fiber trim inside ($1,390); 23-inch monoblock wheels ($4,950); technology package ($1,450); and carbon-fiber engine cover ($1,500).
As you probably know, Aston Martin, Lamborghini, Bentley and – soon – Ferrari are investing millions in new high-profit uber-luxury SUVs.
They make good sense in this market. But none can top King Kong in capabilities and performance.
2021 Mercedes-AMG GLS 63
- What I liked most: Everything but the AM-FM stereo.
- What I would change: The AM-FM stereo.
- MSRP: Base price, $132,100; as equipped, $149,160.
- Official color: Diamond White Metallic.
- Fuel economy: Estimated 14 miles per gallon in the city, 20 on the highway and 16 mpg combined with filler on the right.
- Odometer reading when tested: 5,273 miles.
- Spare tire: Temporary compact.
- Weight: 5,927 pounds.
- Length-width-height: 206.4 inches long/79.9 inches wide/70.2 inches tall.
- Fuel-tank capacity: 23.8 gallons.
- Towing capacity: 7,500 pounds.
- 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 in a few words: One of the most amazing vehicles on the road, and I’m a car guy.
- Warranty: Four years or 50,000 miles
- Final assembly location: Tuscaloosa, Ala.
- Manufacturer’s website: www.mbusa.com
- E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org