By James Raia
With the continued interest in sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks, it’s no surprise high-end manufacturers – Bentley to Lamborghini, Land Rover to Maserati – have introduced SUVs in recent years. Mercedes-Benz has been in the SUV business since 1997.
The German automaker also has among the industry’s most loyal customers, and with good reason. In J.D. Power’s initial loyalty survey last year, Lexus led return customer ratings among luxury brands with 47.6 percent. Mercedes-Benz was second (44.2 percent).
What the prominent data intelligence company can’t and shouldn’t be expected to determine is if automotive loyalty has a financial ceiling. When a customer decides to sell their Mercedes-Benz, will they still purchase a new model regardless of price?
A key example is the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 SUV. It’s the high-performance, customized version of the Mercedes-Benz GLS series. Its new name debuted in 2017.
2021 Mercedes-Benz AMG GLS 63: Pricey hauler
The base price is about $10,000 more than the now-five-year-old model when it was new. With all options included, the just-released beast can exceed $153,000.
The 2021 debut of the SUV’s third edition combines plenty into one vehicle. It’s as rugged as any Mercedes, but it’s also luxurious, refined, versatile (three rows of seating), off-road capable and performance-oriented.
With its optional trailer hitch, rearview backup camera, trailer stability assist and electronic stability program, the luxury SUV has a towing capacity of 7,500 pounds, according to the manufacturer.
A 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 producing 603 horsepower is new and it’s matched with a nine-speed automatic transmission. The GLS 63 also has a small electric motor/generator that produces 21 horsepower. It’s used to assist in up-shifting and automatic restarts, and control idle speed.
The SUV’s quiet, powerful driving personality is also assisted by the manufacturer’s 4Matic all-wheel-drive system. Fifty percent of the power can automatically be transferred to the front wheels in slippery road conditions.
The new Mercedes has a five-inch-longer wheelbase and is one foot longer overall. As a large luxury SUV, the new offering doesn’t comprise; it’s versatile in all circumstances.
For economy, the automatic’s restarts after long intersections or stoplights are seamless, and six driving modes are offered: Comfort, Sport, Sport +, Individual, Trail and Sand. The options complement the GLS 63’s impressive performance.
The new SUV also features a top-line interior. Napa leather, heated and vented front seats, a panoramic moonroof and several other stand-alone features vault the GLS 63’s status and its price. The multi-spoke, 23-inch forged wheels and Burmester sound system are the most expensive options, both $4,550.
The GLS 63’s Emerald Green Metallic exterior paint option attracts lots of comments. It’s a chameleon-like choice, glistening a handsome deep green in the sun, a seriously dark black in the shade.
One observer commented: “That’s an elegant car. I wouldn’t drive it unless I was wearing a tailored suit.”
FACTS & FIGURES: 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLS 63
Acceleration: 0-60 mph, 4.1 seconds.
Fuel economy: 14 mpg, city; 22 mpg, hwy.
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $133,095.
Manufacturer’s Website: www.mbusa.com.
Price As Tested: $153,200.
Warranty: Bumper to bumper, 4 years/50,000 miles; Powertrain, 4 years/50,00 miles; Corrosion, 4 years/50,000 miles; Roadside Assistance, 4 years/50,000 miles.
James Raia, a syndicated columnist in Sacramento, California, publishes a free weekly automotive podcast and electronic newsletter. Sign-ups are available on his website, www.theweeklydriver.com. He can be reached via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.