At the pinnacle of the already lofty 2013 Mercedes-Benz M-Class lineup is the ML63 AMG. Potent, reasonably practical, loaded with standard goodies and equipped with standard all-wheel drive (AWD) and a sport-tuned suspension, this 5-seat midsize luxury and performance SUV throws caution—not to mention the gas budget—to the winds with its standard 518-hp twin-turbocharged 5.5-liter V8 powerplant. Managed by the standard 7-speed shiftable automatic transmission to put out a massive 516 lb-ft of torque, this monster can tow up to 7,200 pounds with the proper equipment, but, despite variable valve timing (VVT), gets an EPA estimate of 13 mpg city/17 highway. Finally, a selectable 3-mode (Comfort, Sport, Sport+) suspension setting function allows drivers to choose the best ride/handling combination for particular conditions.
Standard 4MATIC full-time AWD, meanwhile, automatically shifts torque from the wheels that slip to the wheels that grip, while the available 4-wheel Electronic Traction System (4-ETS) does the same and also provides modulated braking of the wheels that slip for added driving confidence in snow.
Now for the good stuff. Adorning the profile of each and every 2013 ML63 AMG are 20-inch alloy wheels, a roof rack, a power sunroof, a power rear liftgate, heated power-adjustable outside mirrors and skid plates. On the inside, leather upholstery, heated power-adjustable sport front seats, leather, wood and alloy cabin accents, remote power door locks and power windows are complemented by memory for driver's settings and dual-zone auto climate control. Cruise control, meantime, as well as front and rear parking sensors, telescoping tilt-wheel steering, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, a universal remote garage door opener, and a wide-angle rear-view camera remain standard convenience features, all bolstered for 2013 by M-B’s new mbrace2 telematics interfaced with Bluetooth hands-free technology. Finally, KEYLESS-GO remote entry and engine start also comes standard.
Entertainment-wise, an 830-watt Harman Kardon premium audio ensemble again comes standard in this flagship trim and flaunts an MP3-capable 6-CD changer, 14 Surround Sound speakers, the COMAND central control system with video-capable 7-inch touchscreen display, a memory card slot, satellite radio and a USB connection. Additionally, hard-drive-based navigation also comes standard as part of the COMAND display.
Perhaps the most noteworthy option package for the top-shelf ML63 AMG is the AMG Performance Package, with tweaks to the V8 boosting output to 550 hp and 560 lb-ft of torque, along with tossing in a sport steering wheel and bright red painted brake calipers. Rear-seat DVD entertainment, meanwhile, is a standalone option, along with a number of unique interior accent schemes, including Piano Black lacquer accents and trim pieces. Additionally, 21-inch upgraded wheels, heated rear seats and a trailer hitch can also be tacked on to this flagship trim.
Standard safety features of note aboard the 2013 M-Class ML63 AMG include 4-wheel antilock brakes (ABS), traction and stability control, front and rear side-mounted airbags, and front and rear head airbags. Further standard safety equipment includes daytime running lights, front fog/driving lights, turn-signal-integrated mirrors and mbrace2 emergency alerts and services, along with pre- and post-collision safety systems, a remote antitheft alarm, adaptive xenon high-intensity-discharge (HID) headlights and Parktronic parking assist functions. Pre-collision emergency braking (PRE-SAFE), meantime, is now available as a safety option, as are lane departure warnings and blind-spot alerts.