Mercedes Debuts 518-hp AMG SUV

L.A. traffic congestion notwithstanding, let’s face it: there are people out there who can afford to buy performance vehicles with the sort of horsepower and that is more well suited to the wide open spaces than the 405 at any time of day or night, which undoubtedly why the worldwide debut of the 2012 Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG—with a 518-hp 5.5-liter, bi-turbo V8—occurred at the LA Auto Show this week.

L.A. traffic congestion notwithstanding, let’s face it: there are people out there who can afford to buy performance vehicles with the sort of horsepower and that is more well suited to the wide open spaces than the 405 at any time of day or night, which undoubtedly why the worldwide debut of the 2012 Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG—with a 518-hp 5.5-liter, bi-turbo V8—occurred at the LA Auto Show this week.

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The engine features spray-guided gasoline direct injection through its piezo injectors; an all-aluminum crank case (the entire engine weighs a mere 449 lb), four valves per cylinder, and a start/stop system. Presumably the last-named will get more of a workout than the carbon fiber calipers that are available for those opting for the AMG Performance Package, which provides the ML63 AMG with a top speed of 174 mph (the one without the AMG Performance Package has an electronically limited top end of 155 mph).

Power is delivered to all four wheels with the AMG SPEEDSHIFT PLUS seven-speed automatic transmission (the ML63 AMG features 4MATIC permanent all-wheel drive that distributes engine power at a 40:60 ratio, front to rear).

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For those who have a chance to take the ML63 AMG out on Mulholland Drive, there is the ACTIVE CURVE SYSTEM (they capitalize all of these terms) that uses active stabilizers on the front and rear axles to compensate for body roll during cornering; there are also the AIRMATIC Air Suspension, independent damper struts, automatic level control, and Adaptive Damping System.

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In the front, there is a large cooling air intake to keep things under the hood somewhat more temperate. At the bottom of the front skirt is a matte silver chrome trim strip to help widen the appearance of the front end. This is echoed at the rear by a black diffuser on the rear skirt. The front fenders are 0.4-inches wider than those on a conventional ML63 to accommodate the standard 265/45 R 20 high-performance tires.

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This is the third generation high-performance sport utility vehicle (SUV) from Mercedes-AMG. The first was launched in 1999, a model year 2000 ML55 AMG that provides 342 hp from its 5.5-liter V8. The second generation, the model year 2007 ML63 AMG, features a 6.3-liter V8 that produces 503 hp.

So far, there have been more than 24,000 AMG SUVs sold. Undoubtedly with the ML63 AMG, which will be launched in the first quarter of 2012, that number will grow significantly.