Road test: Mercedes-AMG G63 is 'fun' squared, or maybe even cubed

Road test: Mercedes-AMG G63 is 'fun' squared, or maybe even cubed

What we’re driving: Mercedes-AMG G63

What it costs: $247,700

Why we’re driving it: In a world filled and over-filled with suburban SUVs, none of those soft-roaders is anything remotely like the Mercedes-AMG G63.

It’s an old-school thunderbox, a total anachronism in 2019, packed with fire and brimstone.

The shotgun side exhausts poking out below the doors tell you everything, and the deep bass rumble they produce adds the exclamation point. The G63 demands attention – all the time, every time.

Fast is a given, but it can also go seriously off-road because at its roots this is still a G-wagon capable of challenging a Toyota LandCruiser or Land Rover Defender in the bush – although it also makes quite a statement next to your private jet.

On the outside

'Box' is the only word that describes the styling of the G-Wagon from Benz.

When the mad scientists at Benz’s go-fast AMG division get involved, the box gets even chunkier with giant alloy wheels, a bolder grille, and a just enough striping to advertise its AMG affiliation.

The original G-Wagon was a very basic thing and this new one carries over the fifties-style door handles despite a major makeover beneath the skin.

Somehow, even in 2019, it has held onto a body-on-frame construction method - which began at the dawn of motoring but was mostly dropped in the 1960s - because it is stronger and alloys seriously off-road suspension. Not that the G63 needs it.

Under the bonnet

A twin-turbo V8 engine that’s used across the AMG family is now installed in the G-Wagon, together with a nine-speed automatic gearbox that’s just as comfortable in a C-Class sedan. There is permanent four-wheel drive, coil-spring suspension with electronic damper control at each corner.

As usual, there is a range of drive settings – from Comfort to Slippery – and there are several extra four-wheel-drive modes if you really want to take your quarter-million dollar 4WD off the bitumen.

And while a heavy beastie at just on 2.5 tonnes, AMG promises a 0-100km/h sprint in around 4.5 seconds.

On the inside

In the past, a G-Wagon meant military-style austerity and only just enough stuff to do a job of transport. The latest G63 is wonderfully less austere, from red-and-black trimming to a pair of giant digital display screens.

This G-Wagon is far more Double Bay than Bathurst, which means a plush look and feel to all the controls, together with added quietness. It’s not a limo, but it shapes up well enough against other upscale SUVs.

Boxy on the outside means good headroom inside, as well as great visibility and a commanding driving position. Cabin space is up from the previous model, with generous luggage capacity inside the wide-opening rear door and a comfortable rear bench for passengers.

On the road

Life behind the wheel of the G63 is crazy, outrageous and sheer smile-plastered-on-your-face fun.

Part of this is a sense that the G63 shouldn't exist in today's refined world.

Like a dinosaur back from the dead, it sits and dares you to jump aboard and try to tame it. Which is not as easy as you might think, because the G63 has genuine off-road ground clearance and there is no grab handle to haul yourself up into the cabin.

Still, once aboard the seats are comfortable and supportive, the view is great, and all the new technology is a welcome surprise.

It’s not as advanced as some of the newest Benzes, either in infotainment or driver-assistance technology, but it ticks the right boxes for what it is and what it does.

Hit the start button and there is an animal rumble, floor the accelerator and it defies logic. Nothing this heavy, this boxy, this primitive should be this quick. It thunders away from the lights and is a brilliant overtaker.

But 2.5-tonnes in corners means the G63 can be ponderous, a bit bouncy and at times a challenge. Still, that’s also part of the fun – a fun that passengers can share because it's so outrageous.

The optimum off-road recipe for the G63 off-road would include optioning for grippier tyres and smaller wheels than the 22-inch alloys.

Summary

You might think there's no logical reason for the G63 to exist – yet here it is all the same, defying all convention. It'll command a hefty slice of your bank balance and is nowhere near as refined as a Porsche Cayenne in the SUV stakes.

But who cares? This is a crazy cartoon of an SUV which it deserves to be an object of desire in a world of political correctness and speed cameras.

Paul Gover

Paul Gover

As Motoring Editor for Australian Business Traveller, Paul Gover spends less time at his Gold Coast home than he does on the road (literally) test-driving the best of the four-wheel world.
 

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27 Mar, 2019 10:44 am

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