An SUV designed to please petrol-heads

Sumant Banerji, Hindustan Times
First Published: 11:55 IST(9/5/2014)
Last Updated: 12:27 IST(9/5/2014)
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Mercedes Benz is in the midst of a product offensive as it seeks to wrest back the number 1 position. After the smaller cars ? the A and B Class ? the company is now rolling out the performance-oriented AMG versions of almost all its cars. Close on the heels of the top-of-the-line SUV GL63 AMG, Mercedes is now bringing the smaller ML63 AMG.

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AMG stands for?

Performance, in one word. AMGs (A for Aufrecht, M for Melcher, two former Mercedes engineers) are iterations of existing Mercedes cars that include hand-built engines meant for outright performance. These cars offer much more power and adrenaline rush than the normal versions, and also feature different suspension set up to handle the increased power. At the same time, the luxurious elements are not sacrificed, which means these AMGs are far more expensive. In short, this is hardcore.

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The AMG in the ML63

The AMG version is expected to be priced at almost three times the re gular M class (with two diesel engine options) available in India. To the naked eye there is not an awful lot to differentiate the two barring the two enhanced air inlets on the bonnet. It is a big SUV with a high stance that gives the driver a commanding view. The three-pointed star is embossed on the big three slat grille, while the number plate goes below in the mesh. The headlamps are small in comparison, but the LEDs do scare vehicles up front.

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The cabin is large and airy and materials used are top notch. Even then, there is a sameness to the dashboard layout with the sundry rotary dials and horizontal AC vents. We wish Mercedes would change them in future for niche cars such as this. No complaints, but the aesthetics can be had at a bargain price in regular Merc vehicles.

Real deal: under the bonnet

A 5.5-litre twin-turbo petrol engine with 8 cylinders (a normal car has 4), 557 horses and a grunt worth 760 Newton metres. Sounds jargon? Here is more: 2.4 tonnes of weight that sprints to 100 kph in under 5 seconds. In a nutshell, that is the essence of the engine. It is not without reason that it comes with the signature of the guy in Germany who put it together for you. The AMG effect doubles the maximum output of the engine. More importantly, despite being a petrol and a heavier engine, it belts out between 22-50% more torque than the normal diesel version. It looks like a car built for the countryside (or where there are no roads), but it is a trigger happy performer. Mated to a 7-speed gearbox, the gear changes happen in a jiffy and when the gas pedal is floored, it is easy to lose track of speed. The steering turns stiffer with gaining speed, and gives ample feedback and control, so-much so that one does not feel the bulk of the machine. More than all this, probably, is the vehiclesfs tremendous braking power and the almighty roar of the engine.

Verdict: One for connoisseurs

Traditional wisdom says a good SUV is one that runs on diesel, which offer more torque and hence better haulage capacity. Which is why all the trucks on the road are diesel-powered. The entry of AMG engines disrupt this script. This one offers more power and grunt and is phenomenally quick on the road.

For all the performance though, it is a real gas guzzler. Belt it hard and you will not get any better mileage than 3 kpl. You will also wonder if it is meant for the track more or the countryside. Perhaps both. At a price touching Rs. 1.5 crore, not everybody can hope to have it in their garage, and even those who do, will not realise its worth. The AMG is for those nuts who call themselves connoisseurs for sophistication. Lack of practicality be damned.


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