Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Well, Mercedes managed to fool me twice in the span of about two hours, so I guess it’s shame on me. Mid-afternoon yesterday I was leaving school, and in the parking lot across the street I spotted something. It was a great big bus of a thing, but it was black, not yellow, and not students were lining up to board it. It had a Mercedes-Benz badge on it, still nothing groundbreaking. Then I noticed the back bumper. It wasn’t the back bumper any normal SUV would have. It was mostly vents and gills, like some sort of Storm Trooper helmet turned bumper. It had massive AMG wheels, sat low, and had massively flared haunches. I knew what I had spotted. The world’s fastest bus, the Mercedes GL63 AMG, a 550hp monster for only the craziest of the crazy. I immediately crossed the street to take a look. When I got close, I noticed that rather than saying “AMG” on the right rear like all AMGs do, it said, “4Matic”. The badge on the other side revealed that I had in fact been duped. GL550.
Apart from the badge, which on the AMG is also present on the front fender, the only other features to set the GL550 apart from the GL63 are the dual exhaust instead of quad. I quickly realized this, and made a mental note of how to distinguish the phony. And yet, two hours later, this time from the front and in white, I got tricked by a second GL550, which I felt with its massive grill and chrome splitter must surely be the mythical GL63. This isn’t counting the several times in the past when I’ve seen a GL550 and thought at first it was an AMG.
Here is the scope of the problem. At top is a GL550. You will not it looks very AMG-ish. Here is an actual GL63 AMG. It also looks very AMG-ish, with the badge and the exhaust being the only two distinguishing features. For reference, this is what a normal GL450 should look like:
It’s the same story around the front. The GL550 looks nothing like the pedestrian GL450, and exactly like the $120,000 AMG.
Some of you may say, “Ah, but this is good. The best kind of sleeper is one that you can’t tell from a normal model.” And I agree, but Mercedes has been doing it the other way around. They’ve taken a performance model, done it up, and then taken the same exterior goodies and thrown them on a normal model. I’ll grant you, the twin-turbo 430hp V8 in the 550 is very nice. But at least make the AMG appearance pack just that, and optional appearance pack, so we know that the owner of the car is fooling you on purpose (or just thinks it looks nice). Nearly all the German carmakers have done this for many years. Audi has the “S-Line” appearance package, and BMW has the “M-Sport”. But there are two crucial differences. One, these packages usually don’t really fool anyone. They range as to how good they actually look, but on whole they make the midlevel models look sporty without being trickery. Second, they are options. I’ve already seen that the GL550 is far more convincing than the others, but I should also note that from playing around on Merc’s website, it seems that this is the only way you can have a GL550. Other Mercedes models, and I’m sure other cars out there are guilty of the same thing, but the GL is the most recent and most blatantly obvious one that sticks out in my mind. So Mercedes, and anyone else who wants to make a normal car looks as tarted up as a rare, high-performance car, stop it, because this trivial, harmless, and generally no-big-deal “issue” has annoyed me to the point of writing a few angry paragraphs about it. Even though technically I’m the fool here.
Please. Think of the children.