Many years ago there was no such thing as a SUV. What we know today as SUVs are known at that time as trucks. Trucks of that time are basically large in size, heavy, offer four-wheel drive capabilities, drab looking and are pretty slow. And when you talk about handling, it means that the vehicle should be able to manoeuvre off-road with ease while all four wheels planted to the ground.
Times have indeed changed things a lot. Just take a look at the 2012 Mercedes Benz ML 63 AMG. It is the most powerful SUV available in the market and it can easily outrun most cars today, even some sports cars.
With an introduction of the new-generation M-Class in 2011, it is widely expected that Mercedes Benz will introduce a high performance sub-model for the M-Class. It is common for an automaker to display differences towards its high performance models and the ML 63 AMG is no exception.
With regards to most SUVs, sometimes it is hard to tell the difference between a base model and its higher performance sibling and the only way is to check the rear badging. Mercedes has ensured that there will be no confusion when we look at the ML 63 AMG.
The car gets a fully redesigned outlook. The front fascia uses more black parts instead of chrome. Larger central and side air vents gives the car a more masculine and aggressive look. Subtle side skirts extend towards the rear bumper of the car. Just like the front, the rear bumper is dominated with large, angular vents.
While the exhausts on the base ML models are hidden behind the rear bumper, the ML 63 gets chromed quad-designed exhausts pipes. A performance model usually gets better brakes set-up and larger tyre size and Mercedes have exactly done that.
The front brakes feature 15.4 inches ventilated and drilled brake discs and six piston callipers and the rear gets a slightly smaller 13.6 inches brake discs and four piston callipers. The car gets a special designed 20 inch wheels over the standard model.
The engine used in the ML 63 AMG is a 5.5-litre twin-turbocharged V8 engine. The all-aluminium engine delivers 518bhp at 5200rpm and a torque of 700Nm from 2000rpm, with a stock boost set of 14.5 psi (almost 1 bar). The car has a top speed of 250km/h (electronically limited) and is mated to a seven-speed AMG Speed Shift gearbox which is also controllable via paddle shifters.
If the buyer opts for the AMG Performance Package, the car delivers a very impressive 550bhp and 760Nm of torque. In addition, the electronic top speed limiter is raised to 280km/h and a carbon fibre engine cover replaces the standard plastic cover. With the AMG Performance package, the 0-100km/h timing falls in just 4.6 seconds (4.7 seconds if without the package). Lastly, the gunmetal brake callipers are painted bright red and this is by far the easiest way to distinguish which models have the AMG Package.
Mercedes' Airmatic suspension, Ride Control and Active Curve system comes as a standard and there are three driver-selected modes (Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus) which electronically controls roll stabilisation and damping. Under full load, the air suspension will raise and lower the vehicle based on speed so as to improve handling, stability and aerodynamics.
In the interior department, the ML 63 AMG gets the usual AMG specific parts and accessories. The front gets sports bucket seats and all seats are wrapped in premium leather. The thick, Alcantara leather wrapped four spoke steering wheel is one of the specific AMG Performance Package item which replaces the normal half leather and wood steering wheel.
Mercedes Benz has delivered a mild looking beast that breathes on a powerful engine. It may appear boxy to some and pretty ordinary looking (if you were to compare other SUVs in its category, e.g. Porsche Cayenne Turbo) but what Mercedes can brag about is that it is the most powerful SUV in its class. And many years ago a SUV like this is impossible to envision.
Photo credit: Net Car Show
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