2013 Mercedes-Benz GL63 AMG

Call it a guilty pleasure; I love ridiculously fast SUVs. I sort of went head-over-heels for the new 2014 Range Rover Sport that I recently tested, and prior to that experience, I put some serious miles on the 2013 Mercedes-Benz GL63 AMG pictured here. You probably don't realize this, but the GL63 is the quickest three-row SUV you can buy in the States – thanks to its 550-horsepower, 5.5-liter, twin-turbocharged V8 engine, the biggest and baddest GL will hit 60 miles per hour in 4.8 seconds.

Now, take a second to realize what that means. This is a seven-passenger SUV with all-wheel drive. It weighs 5,812 pounds – nearly three tons. And it's quicker to 60 miles per hour than a Porsche Cayman. That's insane. And I love it.

But there's far more to the whole GL63 AMG package other than pure straight-line acceleration. I picked up this GL in Chicago, drove it home to Detroit, and spent a week bombing around southeast Michigan with this massive brute. And while it's not perfect, it's a truly amazing feat of engineering.

Driving Notes
  • I really like the design of the new GL, especially here in AMG form. From all angles, it looks downright commanding – more impressive than the smaller M-Class, for sure, and far more attractive than the aging Cadillac Escalade or bulbous Infiniti QX. Really, only the Audi Q7 gives it a proper run for its money in the department of three-row utility design.
  • This isn't the first time you've heard me – or many other Autoblog scribes – say it, but I miss the naturally aspirated 6.2-liter AMG V8, though the new 5.5-liter twin-turbo unit is really good here. Power delivery is very linear and there's a great rush that starts low in the rev range.
  • While some of us have complained about the lack of aural delight in the 5.5 versus the 6.2, I don't really find that to be the case here. There's an adequate and appropriate amount of engine growl that's filtered into the cabin, and it sounds terrific. Considering that this is first and foremost a luxury SUV over a proper performer, it's nice to have that AMG-spec roar reminding you what's under the hood every now and then.
  • To that point, it's important to note that this isn't really your typical AMG in terms of ride/handling, either. As you'd expect, things are a lot softer here in the GL63, even with the adaptive suspension set to its most sporty setting. The body rolls in corners, and the steering is very obviously electrically assisted, often feeling numb at times.
  • That said, in terms of driver engagement, the GL63 is one of the better seven-passenger SUVs you can buy. It's not quite as good as that new Range Rover Sport, but it's also larger and more accommodating for passengers, as well.
  • Speaking of which, the interior on this thing is simply fantastic. The seats are incredibly comfortable and supportive – something I was indeed thankful for during the long, boring drive from Chicago to Detroit – and there's ample room for folks in the second and third rows. The whole cabin looks tré chic, too, with Mercedes' Designo interior treatment fitted here.
  • The one gripe I have with the interior lies within the COMAND infotainment system. It's not that the system doesn't work well – it's the same knob I've used over and over again – but the screen is decidedly small in a cabin that's otherwise awash with larger features.
  • I do like the built-in functionality of the GL63, though. Those third row seats raise and lower with the touch of a button, the tailgage is, of course, electronically operated, and the second row seats easily fold flat, even with the headrests extended.
  • All in, the GL63 is pretty terrific, assuming you're not worried about things like cost or fuel economy (I averaged just shy of 15 miles per gallon during my week, for what it's worth). As tested, this loaded GL63 will run you just over $120,000. That's a good chunk of coin for what I consider a guilty pleasure, but for folks who want it, the GL63 will no doubt be a terrifically entertaining daily hauler.