The Mercedes ML63 AMG is the high-performance flagship model for the new M-Class range, which goes on sale in April.
The ML63 AMG is due in July. In place of the 6.2-litre engine in the previous M-Class AMG, the ML63 AMG gets the 525bhp, 5.5-litre twin-turbo V8 from the E-Class and CLS.
An optional performance package (costing around 6500) can boost that to 557bhp. Both versions get Mercedes 7G-tronic seven-speed automatic gearbox.
Whats it like to drive? Compared with its predecessor, the ML63 AMG has more power and torque. The seven-speed gearbox is so well matched to the V8 engine that it makes the gearchange paddles behind the steering wheel virtually redundant.
As well as amusingly easy access to that all that power, you get air suspension that helps the car corner extremely flat, even when its being driven hard. This is combined with reasonably direct steering, so the ML63 AMG is a surprisingly good drivers car.
With the air suspension in comfort mode, the ML63 AMG soaks up all but the worst of surface imperfections and road noise is kept pretty well insulated from the cabin.
Its noticeably more comfortable than a sportier X5; this only changes if you specify the AMG performance package, which includes 21-inch wheels that make the ride far too unsettled.
Whats it like inside? Mercedes is now producing some seriously good interiors, and this new M-Class proves it.
Well laid out and put together, it has a stitched leather dashboard and alloy trim detailing. Its comfortable, too, with electric steering wheel adjustment and multi-adjustable, heated and cooled front sports seats.
AMG-embossed leather upholstery is fitted as standard, as are an electric sliding glass roof, 20-inch alloy wheels, air suspension, nine airbags and Mercedes drowsiness-detection system, Attention Assist. Its a shame to see that the likes of an electric tailgate costs extra at this price, however.
Theres plenty of room inside, with enough space for six-foot tall adults to sit in comfort behind one another. The boot is large enough for their luggage, too, and while initially looking a bit shallow, the false floor reveals a deep wheel well (theres a can of tyre foam instead of a spare).
Should I buy one? Theres no question that, like the flagship go-faster versions of the BMW X5, Porsche Cayenne and Range Rover Sport ranges, this ML63 AMG is an acquired taste and only for those who have very deep pockets. A diesel version makes a lot more sense.
That said, the ML63 AMG is one of the better performance 4x4s on the market. Its easier to hustle down a twisty road than many of them, but at the same time it isnt as outlandishly garish as some of its rivals in the supermarket car park.
For us, the diesel M-Class is the better all-round everyday car, but if you want a faster SUV, then the ML63 AMG certainly deserves to be on your shortlist.
What Car? says