Each time Mercedes-Benz introduces a new model, it doesn’t take too long before AMG cranks out a harder, faster, and more aggressively styled version. Given that the refreshed 2013 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class debuted just under two months ago at the New York auto show, it's no surprise that the top-spec GL63 AMG model is now making its own debut -- though it is a bit surprising to see Mercedes add an AMG variant to the GL-Class range for the very first time.
The heart of the new SUV is the same M157 engine that's under the hood of most new AMG cars; it's a twin-turbo, direct-injection 5.5-liter V-8 that, in the GL63, produces 550 hp and 560 lb-ft of torque. Mercedes says the luxury SUV can rush to 60 mph in just 4.9 seconds, and is electronically limited to 155 mph.
This is the first time that the AMG team in Affalterbach, Germany, has altered a GL-Class model. Previously the fastest version was the GL550, which for the 2013 model year extracts 429 hp from a twin-turbo 4.7-liter V-8 and manages the 0-to-60-mph sprint in a claimed 5.5 seconds.
The GL63 AMG has standard 4Matic all-wheel drive, and power is routed through a seven-speed automatic transmission that has three modes. In "C", for Controlled Efficiency, the transmission starts out in second gear and has an engine stop-start feature. In "S", for Sport, and "M", for manual, the transmission is tuned for quicker shifts.
So that the Mercedes SUV remains as competent in turns as in a straight line, the GL63 benefits from AMG-specific suspension parts, including air suspension with adaptive damping that automatically lowers the ride height at high speeds. The GL63 also benefits from AMG-tuned electric power steering and upgraded cross-drilled brake discs, measuring 15.4 inches in front and 13.6 inches in back, with red-painted calipers.
The GL63 AMG benefits from the same facelift applied to the rest of the GL-Class range for the 2013 model year, which includes tweaks like a curvier front fascia and more attractive interior. The AMG version stands out from the other versions thanks to unique 21-inch AMG wheels, flared rear fenders, a unique front fascia with large air intakes, and bold AMG exhaust tips.The cabin benefits from AMG sport seats, a flat-bottomed steering wheel, stainless-steel pedals, and stainless-steel AMG doorsill plates. Overall, though, the GL63 doesn't look drastically different from other models. Compared to other AMG vehicles, the GL63 has a relatively subdued design – in fact, unless one spots the AMG badging or the exhaust tips, it could be considered something of a seven-passenger sleeper.
The Mercedes-Benz GL63 AMG will arrive in U.S. dealerships in the first quarter of 2013. The remainder of the model range, comprising the GL350 BlueTec, GL450, and GL550, hit showrooms this September. Pricing for all 2013 GL models has yet to be priced, but given the previous GL550 cost close to $85,300, and that the 2012 ML63 AMG fetches $94,900, don’t be surprised if the GL63’s base price tiptoes into six-figure territory.