The go-fast off roader was the pioneer of the sporty SUV class when it was launched in 1999, but since then it now faces a barrage of similar vehicles, such as the Porsche Cayenne, BMW X5M and Audi Q7 V12 TDI as well as a bunch of newcomers from the likes of Maserati and even Bentley.
The third-generation ML from AMG has come in for a major makeover that makes it both more powerful, faster and more efficient than its predecessors. It has ditched the naturally-aspirated 6.2-litre V8 from the last model in favour of AMG's all-new 5.5-litre twin-turbo V8. In standard form the new ML63 AMG produces a healthy 386kW and 700Nm to help propel it from 0-100km/h in 4.8sec.
But, following the wheel tracks forged by the C63 and E63, Mercedes has an optional Performance Pack that lifts the outputs to a staggering 410kW/760Nm that shaves a further 0.1sec off its sprint to triple figures.
Keeping all that power under control is a new 7-speed SpeedShift-plus automatic transmission and a specially-designed transfer case that splits the torque for a more rear-biased driving character. The air suspension and electronic systems have also been modified for more sporty handling traits.
The ML63 AMG is due to be launched in Australia in June 2012.
Keep an eye out for the January issue of MOTOR, on-sale December 14, for more news.