The 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLS is priced from $101,900 in Canada, $76,000 in the US.
The 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 is priced from $160,900 in Canada, $132,100 in the US.
The GLS 63 is a rare entry in the ultra-elite segment of hyper-powerful full-size premium SUVs.
A strange thing happened a day or so after I returned the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 after my week-long test: Mercedes-Benz said that they were pulling nearly all V8 engines were to be pulled from the product line for the 2022 model year. Suddenly, I grew far fonder of the GLS 63…
It’s quite possible that, had the news broke while I was in possession of the AMG GLS 63, I would have suggested that anyone thinking about getting one should call their local Mercedes-Benz dealer immediately and order one or a GLS 580. No matter, I’ll still share my impressions of the GLS 63.
Smoother lines mean less G, more GLE
Not that it matters, but I’ve been a huge fan of the GL-cum-GLS since its introduction 15 years ago. Its style and presence have always elevated it head and shoulders above its then niche and limited segment. It once wore G-Wagen-inspired squared-off shoulders and a far boxier look. In my opinion, the 2nd generation, introduced in 2013, is the most handsome. The current iteration, launched for the 2020 model year, is visually softer and timid.
The tested 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 is by far the most distinct and imposing but even it seems “soft”. Even so, the 22-inch wheels are breathtaking and the full-AMG body kit signals to all that this isn’t a regular GLS. No matter the angle, the AMG GLS displays numerous hints about its on-road abilities and the power that it harbours.
Superb premium cabin
The AMG GLS 63’s cabin is far more flamboyant than the outer shell. The twin 12.3-inch display screens are front and center and are beautifully framed by its surroundings. Though there are few physical buttons, accessing the various menus is quite simple via the MBUX commands or through the screen.
Of all the interior’s features, it’s the steering wheel that stands out the most. It’s comparatively small in diameter and looks directly lifted from an AMG CLA 45. As is expected from a high-end Mercedes-Benz vehicle, the materials are top-drawer and expertly assembled. The seats are wonderfully supportive in both front rows. The third row is more of a backup plan however when stowed in the floor, the trunk is quite capacious.
These are reasons why someone would select an AMG GLS 63, if one still can, of course. The prime motivation behind dropping a cool $160,000 on this SUV is the power, the performance, and the related noises.
Delicious boosted V8 power
The 63 is powered by a twin-turbocharged hand-assembled 4.0-litre 8-cylinder engine that, with EQ boost, produces a whopping 603 horsepower and 627 lb.-ft. or torque from 2,250 to 5,000 rpm. I would normally state that these high-output V8 engines can be around forever, and won’t be for 2022, but no other internal combustion engine will ever replace a V8 in a “mainstream” vehicle. The effortless way it develops all this power is immensely gratifying. And the exhaust burble is something I’d want to be wrapped in. All told, the AMG GLS 63 will crush the 0-100km/h in only 4.2 seconds.
Of the GLS 63’s many tricks, its agility is unexpected. From the small steering wheel, the GLS feels smaller than its outer dimensions suggest. A combination of the AMG active ride control and adaptive dampers assures the driver that the big SUV will never get out of hand. The level of cossetting comfort is on par with my lofty expectations. The sole exception here is when the road’s surface is dotted with sharp ruts. Here, the dampers struggle with the size and weight of the wheels. As a side note, the Grand Wagoneer manages these irregularities better while the BMW Alpina XB7 does no better.
How unique and special is AMG?
Overall, the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 answers the call for comfort, refinement, and luxury. Although it’s fast and powerful, the GLS 63 is not as special as its $160,000 price would let you believe. The GLS 450 delivers 80% of the 63 for roughly 50% less money. The gap with the 580 was even closer, at one point… Yes, the GLS 63 is an AMG, but I think most of us will agree that AMG is diluted and has lost some of its clout.
Because of this, the premium for the BMW XB7, which retails for the same amount as the GLS 63, over the regular, is far more understandable if mostly because of exceptionality. It’s not that the GLS 63 is common, it’s that Alpina remains truly exclusive.
As it stands, however, if you have a 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 on the way or are shopping for one, get it.