There are few ways better ways to move seven people around in style and comfort than the Mercedes-Benz GLS.
And if the standard range of petrol and diesel engines doesn’t quite cut it, Mercedes-Benz has kicked things up a notch with the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLS63.
It meets the size and style brief, but takes the engine to a new level with a turbocharged V8 crammed under the bonnet.
If the boxy Mercedes-AMG G63 is a little much for you, the GLS63 could fit the bill.
The Mercedes-Benz GLS range kicks off in Australia from $147,100 before on-road costs for the entry-level petrol GLS450 and then moves up to $153,900 before on-roads for the diesel GLS400d.
Stepping up to the fire-breathing AMG model will set you back an additional $101,800 over the diesel below it. The Mercedes-AMG GLS63 is priced from $255,700 plus on-roads, but for that coin it’s fairly well equipped.
There are 10 colours to pick from with all but the Diamond White metallic being free of charge (the Diamond White will set you back an additional $1200).
Although it comes with pretty much every box ticked there are a few options you can pick from, such as monstrous 23-inch alloy wheels, carbon-fibre components, a six-seat layout, and an entertainment package.
You can all the more details in our Mercedes-AMG GLS63 pricing and specifications story.
On the outside you’ll find 22-inch alloy wheels, LED matrix headlights, LED daytime running lights, LED tail lights, privacy glass, side steps, height-adjustable air suspension, proximity entry and start, as well as power door and tailgate closers.
Inside the cabin it’s all luxury with dual-12.3-inch displays featuring MBUX (the latest Mercedes-Benz infotainment system), electric seat adjustment for all three rows, heated and cooled seats for the first row and heated seats for the second, a head-up display, AM/FM/DAB+ radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a 13-speaker Burmester sound system, and satellite navigation.
It’s hard to find any features missing. The GLS comes with everything you’d expect (and more), with the only options being cosmetic or to extend towing and seating capabilities.
Carbon for days
Mercedes-AMG has gone to town with carbon highlights, including the option of a carbon-accented steering wheel.
The Mercedes-Benz GLS hasn’t been crash tested, but comes with all the safety technology you’d expect from a vehicle this size.
Standard safety features include low- and high-speed autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning, and lane keep assist.
There are nine airbags throughout the cabin, including curtain airbag coverage for third-row occupants.
Much like a lot of Mercedes interiors, the GLS makes a great impression when you first open the door. The dual-screen setup atop the dashboard is a tech masterpiece, while other details like vent grilles next to the screens, heated and cooled cup holders, and acres of storage are welcome.
It’s also pretty cool that you can option a half-carbon steering wheel on the GLS63 to complete the bahn-storming look.
The steering wheel itself sits nicely in the hands and features a flat bottom plus small LCD displays attached to switchgear for the vehicle’s performance settings.
There’s also a stack of customisation available for the cabin. Things like LED light colours and intensity can be set by the driver and attached to profiles.
The MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) infotainment system also comes with connected features allowing online searching for hotels and restaurants, along with the ability to display dynamic images for venues and even internet reviews.
Augmented reality built into MBUX allows the display of an image from the front camera with street sign overlays to make understanding navigation instructions easier too.
Outside of that, there’s a stack of room inside the cabin. The second row has ample accommodation for adults, while access and accommodation to the third row is sufficient for adults as well.
Cargo capacity starts at 355 litres behind the third row and expands all the way through to 2400 litres with the second and third rows folded. Both the second and third rows can be operated electrically, which makes putting them up and taking them down a breeze.
For the most part Mercedes-Benz has done a great job with this interior to make it functional yet sporty, which is pretty much the GLS63 brief in a nutshell.
This is where things get fun. The Mercedes-AMG GLS63 uses a 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 engine producing 450kW of power and 850Nm of torque.
It’s mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission and sends torque to all four wheels through the Mercedes-Benz 4Matic+ all-wheel drive system, which also includes a limited-slip differential on the rear axle.
Fuel consumption for the GLS63 comes in at 13.0L/100km on the combined cycle, partially thanks to idle stop/start and cylinder deactivation (up to four cylinders can be switched off while driving under low loads).
We didn’t bother measuring our actual fuel economy given the vehicles were swapped between a number of journalists throughout the day.
The drivetrain is supplemented by a mild-hybrid system Mercedes-Benz calls EQ Boost. It consists of a starter-alternator and a 48V system that can store energy for short bursts of additional power and torque.
During regular driving it generates energy when coasting or braking and can then provide an additional 16kW of power and 250Nm of torque on demand.
On top of the boost function, the 48V system helps deliver imperceptible engine restarts and also provides the extra voltage needed for the vehicle’s ancillary systems while the car is off or coasting.
All of this results in a claimed 0-100km/h time of just 4.2 seconds – pretty impressive for a 2710kg (tare) bus.
The drive is the part that’s likely to surprise you the most when you first set foot in the GLS63.
Hit the starter button and the GLS63 fires to life with a snarly note ready to begin barking at bystanders. Even with the exhaust in its quiet mode there’s a purposeful note at idle.
At low speeds the GLS63 feels just like any other GLS. The ride is surprisingly good thanks to air suspension with variable damping, even despite the standard 22-inch alloy wheels and 45/40 (front/rear) profile tyres. 23-inch rims are optional too.
Modest throttle applications give you an idea of what’s lurking beneath the skin.
You’ll find a litany of drive modes to choose from, including Comfort, Individual, Slippery, Trail, Sand, Sport, Sport+ and Race. You can also switch AMG Dynamics between Basic, Advanced, Pro and Master, which work in unison with the drive modes to offer varying levels of stability control intervention and torque distribution.
Flicking to Sport+ adjusts the suspension’s ride height to lower the centre of gravity and increase handling performance.
It’s at this point the gearbox enters its sport mode and prepares for full attack. The GLS has a way of shrinking around you and doesn’t feel anywhere near as big as its 5.24m length would suggest.
The steering is very direct and even in the firmest suspension setting, the GLS63 soaks up anything you throw at it. Throttle response is next level and unrelenting. The noise is also criminally good, it barks on upshifts and sounds like a fireworks show on overrun.
Most of these will never see a race track, but with brakes measuring almost 400mm on the front axle there’s enough stopping power to have some real fun.
It handles surprisingly well for such a large vehicle, but some of the artificial feel inserted by the suspension system can take a while to get used to. It uses a set of cameras to alter suspension height as the car goes through corners in a bid to keep the body flat.
As a result movements you’d expect mid-corner don’t happen, or are delayed while the car tries to remain flat.
Mercedes-Benz has gone to the effort of adding dynamic engine mounts to offer comfort when in normal modes and a stiffer setting for added rigidity when the driver demands more from the car.
The best part is, as soon as you’re done being silly, flicking back to Comfort mode makes everything quiet and comfortable again.
It’s cool that you can have the best of both worlds in such a big and beastly package.
The Mercedes-AMG GLS63 comes with a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty with five years of roadside assistance.
Servicing occurs every 20,000km or 12 months (whichever occurs first) and can be prepaid to save money.
Over a five-year period servicing costs $4550 when prepaid, or an average of $910 per service.
We weren’t expecting to like the GLS63 as much as we did.
It was only a brief drive, but it was enough to realise this is a car that features two sides. There’s the comfy family cruiser and then there’s the mountain climber.
It does the comfy family thing perfectly, but when asked to tackle a mountain pass it toughens up and goes for it.
It sounds great, looks tough, and is a little more modest than the boxy G-Class.
At this price it’ll have a limited audience, but for some people this will be the best way to have your cake and eat it too.
We’re looking forward to spending more time with the GLS63 when we get it through the garage for a longer drive.
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