Merc's GL-class SUV gets AMG power. We get behind the wheel of the behemoth to see how sportcar-rivalling performance suits it.
The laws of physics are absolute. There’s no getting around or bypassing them. If you want performance – real performance – then kerb weight and aerodynamic drag need to be compensated; in full. It doesn’t get simpler than that. And the way to do it is with bags and bags of power and torque.
AMG, Mercedes-Benz’ one-time independent, but now in-house, performance sub-brand knows this only too well. It has been squeezing oversized engines under the hoods of Merc’s finest for years. And the target has always been sportscar-busting performance. But how in God’s name is it going to get this bungalow-on-wheels to sprint?
Gazing at the spec sheet is not for the faint-hearted. And it’s certainly not for the green-tea swilling, card-carrying ‘environmentalist’, who loves to hate cars like these. Let’s start with its commercial vehicle-like kerb weight of 2580kg: that’s 2.6 tonnes of sheer mass. And that’s after Merc has thrown away the heavier four-wheel-drive system and replaced it with a lighter one on this model. Now getting 2.6 tonnes to move is no problem; it’s getting it to move quick that needs ‘specialised bits’. Enter AMG’s M197 twin-turbo V8, basically the same as used by the E63 AMG. Seriously potent, incredibly high-tech and very adaptable, this motor powers all AMG cars. Here it’s tuned to deliver a serious 550bhp and even more torque. What’s a bit more important, however, is that the 77.5kgm of torque comes in as early as 2000rpm. Just perfect for something this heavy. In addition, some tightly spaced gear ratios, an adaptable suspension system and active anti-roll bars, all help keep the considerable mass upright under load.
So the spec sheet seems impressive. Still, I’m not fully convinced. It looks just H-U-G-E in the flesh, dwarfing all manners of traffic, including XUV500s and Safaris, like a supertanker cruising past. More a piece of architecture than anything automotive, this gargantuan GL is XXXL-sized even by yankee standards.