So, you think there's nothing better than a large luxury SUV to stoke the fires of class consciousness, envy, and ecological anger?
Well, actually there is. Consider the high-performance version of the large luxury SUV, which is even more expensive and even more intemperate in its use of petroleum, leather, and veneers.
Like the Mercedes-Benz AMG GLS63, which starts at $125,300, has an around-town EPA mileage rating of 13, and a clientele consisting of the few, the affluent. Indeed, only those with deep pockets and a deep need for speed need apply.
As is the case with its compadres from automakers like Land Rover, BMW, and Jeep, the AMG GLS63 starts out as a relatively mild-mannered mainstream model. But then it visits AMG Mercedes' in-house tuner shop, where a bevy of mad scientists make the GLS63 look and act a lot sportier.
A hand-built, 5.5-liter V-8 is fitted with two turbochargers and an intercooler that is both air- and water-cooled. The result is an engine that dispatches 577 horsepower to four wheels via a seven-speed automatic gearbox.
Out on the street, that kind of guts translates into serious sprinting, autodom's answer to Usain Bolt's happy feet. Imagine a roomy, sumptuous vehicle that weighs nearly three tons getting from 0 to 60 in 4.3 seconds! Think of it as a stoplight terrorist with Versailles furnishings and the utility of a Costco shopping cart.
Happily, the tuner tots at AMG also made modifications that left the test car handling remarkably well for a 5,858-pound beastie boy. The upgrades included tweaking the suspension and fitting the car with optional Pirelli performance rubber (which was mounted on beautiful 22-inch alloy wheels).
A perusal of the tester's tires and brake rotors also revealed why the AMG GLS63 brakes with equal aplomb. The rotor diameters approached those of the rings around Uranus.
It's also fair to say that this mount is not a performance-only pony. It is solid, quiet business unless you rouse it sufficiently to ring in that wonderful engine note. It is also a comfortable ride in "comfort" mode and a little less in "sport" and "sport+." I preferred "sport" since it was comfortable enough and didn't numb throttle and transmission response as much as "comfort."
Visibility was fine, as was instrument and control placement. Seat comfort and support were exemplary up front, and certainly good enough in the next two rows. (The front seats were powered, massaged, heated, and ventilated. The second row was merely heated.)
The interior of the blue metallic tester proved as handsome as its body. The coffee-colored seats weren't just leather-trimmed; they were leather. I also liked the black lacquer piano trim, particularly where it functioned as a sliding cover for the portion of the console containing the heated and cooled cup holders. The striated pattern on it was probably intended to evoke a keyboard, but it reminded me of the cover on a roll-top desk.
Roominess was certainly a virtue in the tester. Car and Driver magazine got three carry-ons in the cargo area with the second- and third-row seats up, and fitted 34 with them down.
I particularly liked the accessibility to the third-row seating. As you may know, getting in there is usually the province of the small and the agile. But the Easy Entry System, powered in the tester by a $400 option, pushes the front seat forward, allowing the second row to tumble forward and create generous access to the backseats.
The test car was assembled in Vance, Ala. Its parts content is 61 percent U.S. and Canadian. Its engine and transmission are German-made.