Banking on the Mercedes-Benz

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The Mercedes-Benz ML 63 AMG does all the right things for a super SUV. It’s more powerful, quicker and better finished but at the same times makes seriously impressive steps in reducing emissions and fuel consumption.

It’s still anything but cheap but at least it can wear a certain mantle of responsibility.

Anybody who had the fortune to drive the old ML63 AMG will have emerged wondering how Porsche and BMW managed to comprehensively hijack the story arc that covered driving dynamics. Even Land Rover got in on the act, its Range Rover Sport donning spoilers and big alloys to mask the fact that it was a Discovery in a pretty frock. The 63 AMG was much more fun to drive than any of them. The latest model looks to continue the old car’s laugh-out-loud improbability. It’s certainly got the power to do so. Instead of the operatic 6.2-litre V8, this car gets a twin-turbocharged 5.5-litre V8.

A little less dramatic in its aural signatures, this engine compensates with 518bhp of grunt (up 15bhp) but the torque curve punches off the top of the graph grid. Where the old 6.2 managed 465lb/ft of torque, the latest model teases that out to 516lb/ft. Tick the box marked AMG Performance Package and the ML 63 AMG will develop 550bhp and 560lb/ft. With power going to all four wheels via an AMG Speedshift Plus seven-speed transmission, the standard ML 63 AMG will hit 60 miles per hour in just 4.7 seconds and run onto an electronically limited 155mph. Go for the Performance Package and you have 174mph ability and another tenth of a second shaved off the acceleration yardstick.

The shape is just that little bit bluffer and less organic than before, with gentle curves being replaced by chamfered edging. There’s definite presence to the ML 63 AMG but it’s not an SUV that looks overdone in the sporting cues department. If anything, the rear end looks more aggressive than the front, with four square exhaust finishers and black mesh grille sections.

It’s understandable if you see these overpowered SUVs as something with a touch of the Cretaceous about them. They don’t appear to make a whole lot of sense to anyone other than city bankers here in the UK but the ML 63 AMG has been a big money spinner for Mercedes with 13,000 sold between 2006 and 2011, mainly in emerging markets such as Russia and China and that hardy perennial, the Middle East.

The latest ML 63 AMG is a more responsible and practical vehicle. It’s still hugely expensive and remains politically out of step but there’s no need to feel quite so guilty about owing it. In any case, most city bankers have managed to grow a fairly thick skin in recent years. Take the time to understand the finer points of this deeply impressive vehicle and you may not feel quite so instantly judgmental.