Say goodbye to the Mercedes ML63. In 2016, it graduates to G-Class, becoming the GLE63, so we took one of the last hopped-up mini Mercs to Lime Rock Park's Winter Autocross see if the off-road Geländewagen badge is deserved. Here are five thoughts we had while hooning the bejesus out of a $114,000 race car masquerading as a mid-size crossover.
1) Drifting is hard.
Especially for beginners, as I am. Even with Stephan Bastrzycki, an instructor from Skip Barber's race school, sitting shotgun, telling you when to floor it and when to lift, it was difficult to put all the pieces together and get in sync with the howling 550HP SUV. I spent a considerable amount of time testing the forgiveness of various snow banks around the course.
2) Don't break it. You can't afford it.
There was a palpable panic every time I craned over the six-figure car's hood to see if I left a piece of bumper in the snow bank I was being pulled from. Compounding that fear was the fact that the ML63 often had to be yanked out by a wheel ($2,110 each, per the MSRP). German manufacturing prevailed and the sturdy beast shook off each crash - and towing - with aplomb.
3) The ML63 is damn quick in the snow.
Particularly for an 5,000 lb SUV with no off-road package options. The 5.5 liter V8 Biturbo AMG engine comes with 4MATIC, Benz's proprietary AWD system... and nothing else. But who needs low range transfer cases and locking differentials when you have more power?! At 560 lb-ft, the ML63's got the most torque in its class.
4) Driven properly, it's happy to live in the oversteer.
In experienced hands, the ML63 is nimble and responsive, able to connect powerslides with ease. Time the load transfers correctly and the unloading springs will handily snap the beefy Merc around, right into its next slide. Some throttle feathering to prolong it and you're in business. Snow business.
5) The ML63 doubles as an effective snowblower.
Mercedes describes the ML63 as "off-road capable." They're not wrong. It's also capable of hurling snow in every direction. However, it's most capable of producing a shit-eating grin upon the face of anyone mashing the accelerator to the floor. Then again, who doesn't have fun playing in the snow?
To see if the ML63 is ready for G-stripes, check out our full review and video here.