Affalterbach is nothing if not diverse, one moment popping out a 911 challenger and the next – perhaps with a slight grimace – a 2505kg seven-seater served via sweet home Alabama.
The SUV formerly known as GL adds an ‘S’ to its name, but here it stands for semantics rather than sports. ‘S-Class of SUVs’ is the new marketing pitch.
The GLS63 retains AMG’s 5.5- litre bi-turbo V8 and seven-speed automatic. Power rises 20kW to 430kW while torque stays at 760Nm, now over a 500rpm-wider window between 1750-5250rpm. The auto claims quicker shifts thanks to a new Sport-Plus mode, which helps deliver a claimed 4.6sec 0-100km/h, three-tenths faster than the 2012-era GL63.
Throttling this 5.1m-long bus from standstill with the suspension in Comfort delivers perverse pleasure as its new nose and adaptive LED headlights point towards the stars.
With a 40:60 front/rear torque split and 285mm-wide 22s all-round, merely breathing on the throttle will have sports cars chewing from its crackly quad exhausts. There will be much to eat, because fuel consumption rarely dips below 20.0L/100km. Oil tanker? BYO. There is surplus response, as expected, and when moving through Sport to Sport-Plus, intelligently timed blipped downshifts are quicker than before.
AMG claims the GLS63 offers pointier dynamics, but the revisions frankly feel like a nail file has been used to sharpen the tips of a bulldozer. The adaptive air suspension doubles up with AMG-specific steel springs and active antiroll bars, as with its predecessor. A new sport setting for the electronic stability control (ESC) appears the major change – and it’s a good one.
The GLS63 is more impressive in Sport than Sport-Plus. The firmer of the two settings is so stiff that it chatters into understeer when pressed to the edge of grip. The middle suspension setting allows the big girl to hustle at a surprising clip, it is throttle adjustable and willing to tuck its substantial rear into line.
This is AMG handling of the old school: charge forth, brake hard, turn, be patient then fire. Equally surprising is the steering, now with a faster ratio. It is naturally weighted and quick enough to allow hands to remain at nine and three.
The GLS63 is expensive at $217,900, plus on-roads, and it is no looker. However its ride quality and refinement are exceptional, adults fit comfortably in the third row and a decent boot is left behind them. It can tow 3.3 tonnes and possibly will only feel a fraction slower doing so.
Just like munching down a burger with the lot, this more-is-more sports-of-sorts SUV mightn’t be good for you, but it delivers a driving experience that is both juicy and quite delicious.
3.0 OUT OF 5 STARS
LIKE: Outrageous engine; seven-seat practicality
DISLIKE: Massive weight; massive thirst; no supermodel
Engine: 5461cc V8, DOHC, 32v, twin-turbo
Power: 430kW @ 5500rpm
Torque: 760Nm @ 1750rpm
0-100km/h: 4.6sec (claimed)