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First look: AMG flexes M-class muscles

Muscular: Mercedes-Benz says the ML65 AMG is powered by the world's most powerful volume-production normally aspirated V8.

The new M-class arrives Down Under next month, but AMG has already flexed its muscle

22 Aug 2005

MERCEDES-Benz is undoubtedly keen to blow away any negative images of its previous ML-Class SUVs - and the upcoming ML63 AMG version of the vehicle that will be launched in Australia next month lays down the challenge to not just BMW’s 265kW/490Nm 4.8is X5 and the new 287kW/550Nm Range Rover Sport, but also to Porsche’s 331kW/620Nm Cayenne Turbo.

In fact, Mercedes says the ML63 is underpinned by the most powerful volume-production normally aspirated V8 available on the world market.

With 375kW and 630Nm it out-powers the rest of the brute-force SUV pack and will thunder to 100km/h in a Porsche 911-like five seconds.

This makes the previous ML55 AMG, with its 255kW/510Nm V8, seem puny by comparison.

The new engine, which just sneaks over 6.2 litres in capacity, is far from being a low-rpm slogger. Maximum power comes at an astronomical 6800rpm, while the mountainous torque peaks at 5200rpm, with 500Nm already under its belt at 2000rpm.

Mercedes says the all-aluminium engine uses a lot of motor racing technology, including a particularly rigid bedplate design with closed-deck technology. The quad-cam, 32-valve V8 is hand-built and uses different bore centres to other Benz V8 engines.

Variable valve timing, a variable intake manifold and a special LDS coating on the cylinder walls ensure it breathes deeply and suffers from minimum friction loss.

The AMG V8 drives through the AMG Speedshift 7G-Tronic automatic transmission with a Direct Select shift lever mounted at the steering wheel.

4 center image Three specially configured shift modes help ensure the AMG V8’s power is used to best effect. The shift modes - "S" (Sport), "C" (Comfort) and "M" (Manual) – are selected using a switch in the centre console and differ in their gearshift characteristics and speed.

The full-time all-wheel drive system distributes power on a 40-60 split between front and rear axles via a toughened up drivetrain.

The ML63’s suspension is a reworked version of the Mercedes Airmatic system comprising AMG-specific damper struts and a specially configured ADS adaptive damping system. It incorporates a ride-height control that lowers the whole vehicle at high speeds to improve stability and help lower wind resistance.

The ML63 uses five-spoke 19-inch alloy wheels shod with 295/45 R 19 wide-base tyres.

The ML63 is identified by front and rear AMG aprons, an AMG- grille, flared guards, stainless steel running boards with rubber studs and tinted rear lights. There’s also a rorty AMG sports exhaust system with twin chrome-plated tailpipes The ML63 is fitted out as you’d expect in the highest-level Benz SUV.

Heated, leather trimmed AMG sports seats with a multi-contour function, AMG sports steering wheel with gearshift buttons, AMG door sills and stainless steel sports pedals with rubber studs are all standard. The AMG instrument cluster also features AMG-specific lettering and red needles.

Standard safety features include the Mercedes preventive occupant protection system Pre-Safe, crash-responsive Neck-Pro head restraints in the first seat row, adaptive, two-stage airbags for the driver and front passenger, front sidebags, window bags and belt pensioners and belt force limiters for all seats.

Mercedes-Benz Australia recently announced the second-generation M-class will go on sale here as early as September - up to six week earlier than expected - due to strong sales of the current model. AMG's ML65 is expected to join the forthcoming M-class line-up Down Under next year.

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