Motoring Review

Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 4MATIC+ packs power in excess

This awe-inspiring SUV gives way for nothing

30 May 2021 - 00:02
The hefty Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 4MATIC+.
The hefty Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 4MATIC+.
Image: Supplied

Aside from having a deeply unsexy and lengthy alphanumeric name, the Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 4MATIC+ is also completely off trend in the prevailing climate. Yet it manages to be undeniably awe-inspiring to observers wherever it treads.

Fear-inspiring too, when you see its oversized mug swiftly approaching your rear-view mirror, in the far-right lane.

It is amusing how a company that has been so vocal in its commitment to a future of clean mobility remains so adept at the art of barges that pack opulence and power in excess. But such discrepancies are found in most manufacturer line-ups, as we make the gradual transition to complete electrification.

The GLS 63 4MATIC+ is among a dying breed: a product life-cycle or two from now it might not even pack a traditional internal combustion engine. And it is quite an engine. The familiar, 4.0-litre V8 that we first experienced with the now iconic AMG GT coupé model in 2015, before it saw application in the rest of the range, beginning with the C63 in 2016.

If you ever needed proof that times are changing, consider that the next C63 will be powered by a four-cylinder engine, with extreme hybrid technology. But the GLS is no luddite in the electrification department.

Supplementing the twin-turbocharged engine is a compact electric starter motor packing 16kW and 250Nm for short bursts, bridging intervals of lag. Not that such intervals would be noticeable even without this aid, because the engine output in isolation is a mammoth 450kW and 850Nm.

Mercedes-AMG claims a 0-100km/h sprint time of 4.2 seconds. It certainly feels that fast - and slightly unnerving - given the hefty overall mass of the thing.

The nine-speed, torque-converter automatic transmission executes shifts imperceptibly and responds rapidly under kickdown, dropping all the way from ninth to fifth, for example, when you mash the accelerator. Which you are likely to do often, because it sounds spectacular.

While BMW seems to have thrown an acoustic muzzle around many of its M-badged wares, Mercedes-AMG (and Audi Sport) appear to have found a way to work around the emissions parameters without completely neutering the aural characters of their eight-cylinder cars.

According to Mercedes-Benz, the GLS-Class is the S-Class of the large sport-utility vehicle category. And that might hold water when it comes to the meeker, garden variety derivatives, but in fire-breathing AMG guise much of that suppleness is lost. Which was inevitable.

They could have done a bit more to differentiate the interior, however. The look and feel of the GLS-Class seems no different to what you would find in the less expensive GLE-Class, obviously aside from the vastness of its dimensions.

The interior of the Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 4MATIC+ also has vast dimensions.
The interior of the Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 4MATIC+ also has vast dimensions.
Image: Supplied

Speaking of size, buyers have the option of specifying 23-inch alloys in chrome finish, echoing the classic "monoblock" design of yesteryear.

While off-roading is hardly anywhere near the top of the agenda list for the GLS 63, it would probably not shy away from use on surfaces beyond smooth tarmac.

Air suspension as well as driving modes marked "Trail" and "Sand" hint to some potential on the rough stuff, as well as the benefit of the 4MATIC+ all-wheel drive system.

Just be sure not to scuff those wheels. But the chances are that the average buyer shopping for a GLS 63 already has a dedicated tool for terrain-mashing in the wilderness, probably a G-Class.

It occurred to me that for the price of one GLS 63 4MATIC+ (R3,154,000) you could buy three different types of Mercedes-Benz models. An A-Class to daily, a C-Class cabriolet for sunny sojourns and maybe a V-Class for those family trips. Unsolicited financial advice, but there you go.


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