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In the realm of luxury SUVs, it's pretty difficult to surpass the style and quality of the Mercedes M-Class. But even the style, technology, safety and performance in base models pale beside the mighty ML63 AMG.
A 5.5-liter twin-turbo V8 with an impressive 550 horsepower and 560 pound-feet of torque provides power. 4Matic all-wheel drive is standard on the ML63, as is a seven-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy suffers, as one would expect with such a robust engine, and the AMG returns an EPA-estimated 13 mpg city and 17 mpg highway.
Driving the AMG is predictably pleasurable. There's no lack of power or torque, and the ML63 is swift off the line. Like many SUVs, it experiences some body roll when pushed through corners. But the ML63 handles winding roadways with tact and control.
Mercedes-Benz's COMAND interface is adaptable and intuitive, making it one of the more impressive user displays systems on the market. The controls are well-arranged and easy to use.
The ML63 AMG lacks a third row, which limits space to five passengers. As expected, the interior finishes are top-notch. With the rear seats folded, there is 71 cubic feet of cargo space.
Included on the options list are serious off-road upgrades like a two-speed transfer case and an adjustable suspension system, allowing the ML63 to tackle rugged terrain with ease -- though it would be a shame to mar such a vehicle with the blemishes of a backwoods trail.
The ML63 AMG is equipped with a 5.5-liter twin-turbo V8 that produces 518 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque. When equipped with the Performance Package these numbers increase to a 550 horsepower and 560 pound-feet of torque. A seven-speed automatic transmission and 4Matic all-wheel drive are standard. Features of the ML63 include: 20-inch wheels; unique leather upholstery; active-roll stabilization; AMG suspension tuning; eight-way power and heated front sport seats; reclining rear seats; a COMAND electronic interface; Blutetooth; an eight-speaker audio system with HD radio, satellite radio and CD/DVD changer; a rearview camera; power-folding and auto-dimming mirrors; a navigation system; an iPod interface; bi-xenon headlights; lane tracking and blind-spot warning; and adaptive cruise control.
Options include the Performance Package plus: a panoramic sunroof; front and rear parking sensors; a night vision camera; triple-zone climate control; ventilated front seats; heated rear seats; 21-inch AMG wheels; a rear entertainment package; and a variety of interior accents.
Inexpensive alternative to luxury with a well-designed interior, but far less opulence and power than the ML63 AMG
Sportier SUV option with excellent on-road performance, but options are expensive and interior cargo space is limited
Cheaper alternative with agile handling and tons of options, but stiff steering and few off-road capabilities
Half the cost of the Mercedes-Benz, but lacking in options and a less powerful set of engines