The latest vehicle from Mercedes-Benz' range of offerings to get the AMG treatment is the GL-Class SUV. The 2013 Mercedes-Benz GL63 AMG is capable of accelerating from 0-60 in just 4.8 seconds while still carrying seven passengers in comfort.
While AMG has graced other extravagant Mercedes-Benzes with its style and muscle - think G65 AMG and the short-lived R63 AMG - the Alabama-built GL63 starts life as a relatively upmarket plebeian family crossover/SUV before getting the full performance treatment.
Like countless AMG products before it, the GL63 AMG boasts a modern muscle car powertrain, a tightened and tuned suspension and no shortage of styling touches inside and out.
Under its tall hood, the GL63 features AMG's 5.5-liter bi-turbocharged V8 engine. Aided by piezo injectors, it cranks out 550 horsepower from 5,250 to 5,750RPM and 560 lb-ft. of torque from just 2,000 to 5,000RPM.
As usual, the engine emits the now-familiar V8 burble as sweet as those performance figures would indicate.
AMG's seven-speed "Speedshift" automatic transmission sends power to all four wheels through a choice of three specially-tailored driving modes.
To reduce fuel consumption while the GL63 AMG is idling, a start/stop mode is automatically engaged when the Speedshift mode selector is set to Comfort. Mercedes-Benz has not released fuel economy estimates for its newest performance model, however.
Making the most of this newfound power is a more aggressive air suspension, which includes its own unique struts and the automaker's Active Curve System that reduces body roll during hard cornering. Uprated stabilizer bars, brakes with red-painted calipers and special speed-sensitive steering complete the package. Like other GLs, Mercedes' 4Matic all-wheel-drive system is onboard, where it typically splits power 40/60 for optimal handling.
Overall, the GL63 doesn't quite boast the same level of optional upgrades seen on some of the division's more track-oriented models, but it does hit 60 mph in just 4.8 seconds before topping out at an electronically-limited 155MPH, according to Mercedes-Benz' own estimates. That should certainly make the GL63 AMG the fastest luxury family hauler in the private school carpool lane.
Unique front and rear valances give the GL63 a look all its own that stands out from the standard models. Gloss black accents and additional chrome trim provide further contrast and they help complete the flared fender look unique to the GL.
The SUV rides on 21-inch wheels, each of which is 10 inches wide. The rubber enveloping them is sized at 295/40R21. Putting a whoa to all the go are 15.4-inch front discs and 13.6-inch rear discs.
Inside, the GL63 gains the requisite AMG double stitched leather and MB Tex (think vinyl) trim, as well as special sports seats for the front row. A flat-bottomed steering wheel incorporates dual aluminum shift paddles, while the infotainment system has been modified with AMG graphics and menus.
GL63 AMGs will come well-equipped with goodies like HID headlamps, massaging seats and navigation, but Mercedes-Benz will offer a few additional options, including a 360-degree camera, Active Lane Keeping Assist and Active Blind Spot Assist, a trailer hitch and a Bang & Olufsen audio system. A panoramic moonroof is also available.
The only immediate competition that comes to mind are two other German uber-utes, the BMW X5 M and Porsche's Cayenne Turbo S, though neither can seat seven. Those with lighter wallets or a preference for American muscle can look to Jeep's Grand Cherokee SRT8, though it has some German roots as well and also seats only five.