2018 Mercedes-AMG G63 Edition One Review - The G
Mercedes-Benz has remoulded its big bad G-Class. This is a rare event, just the second time in the model’s near 40-year history. We clamber aboard the G 63 to see what all the fuss is about
The G-Class is a bit of an oddity. Over its forty-year career it has forged a reputation as rugged outlander, Dakar winner and massively capable workhorse but has also become a favourite of celebrities and sheiks alike.
At one end of the model line is the G Professional, made for serious work while at the other is the G 63, a vehicle fit for Beverly Hills. Admittedly the two are now a generation apart as the G-Class has recently been reborn, though outwardly you wouldn’t really know it. They’ve changed just about everything while keeping the look the same. That’s how the G fanbase wanted it.
Most of the appeal for buyers seems to be the command and conquer looks, which is why Merc didn’t mess with them, right down to the exposed door hinges. Even the way it unlocks, with a vault-like clunk. And there is no ultra-luxury soft close feature for the doors; they still need to be slammed shut as they did in 1979. Now it’s more about theatrics than any need to be sealed tight to withstand Amazon river crossings or Saharan sand storms.
They tell us the G 63 is still awesomely capable off road, but it seems a bit mad. Like Jeep putting a Hellcat into a Wrangler Rubicon. Logically, the G 63 doesn’t add up and yet in this image-obsessed Instagram era, it makes total sense. It’s prime excess, all 280 thousand dollars of it. Currently it’s the only G you can get here; others will come later, most likely a 350 d or the G 500, but the peak of desirability is the 63, and supply is limited. You now need to wait until July to get one.
So what’s all the fuss about it?
Most of it’s lost on us, but the G Class is still a solidly constructed off roader. There’s a full chassis underneath and all wheels are turned permanently, with no less than three diff locks. The solid rear axle is mounted via trailing arms with a Panhard rod and a roll bar while the front end now adopts an independent set-up via wishbones.
There are coil springs at each corner and continuously adaptive dampers. That’s all necessary to help cage the rage of the 4.0-litre twin turbo. Courtesy of the nutters at Affalterbach, the V8 serves up the usual AMG madness with 430kW and 800Nm of transmission pain. And how hot rod are the side exit exhausts?
There’s a nine-speed auto and the centre diff runs a constant torque split with 60 per cent sent rearwards. It’s equipped with a low range, the crawler ratio able to be selected on the go up to 40km/h.
Along with the three diff lockers and 241mm of ground clearance under the rear diff, there are three off-road modes. Like true G 63 owners, we troubled none of it, preferring instead to jam the dynamic selector into Sport mode and exercise the horses. The ride is fairly accommodating considering the full chassis is rolling on 22s as the adaptive dampers take most of the sting from the progress.
There’s still a little jiggle, but only a ride Nazi would take issue; this is a full-size Panzer after all (had to expect a war reference was coming). Hammer down, there’s a rush of excitement as the V8 thrusts the G towards the horizon. While all four wheels are tearing at the ground, the torque can influence the steering, a little help needed to keep it tracking straight.
There’s at least a reasonable connection via the helm to the 22s up front. The assistance weights up appropriately too, helping you nudge it around corners with more confidence. There’s 295 cross section rubber on guard for the leading wheels and you wouldn’t want anything less to keep this on the right side of trouble.
Understeer develops quickly so best to temper the fury with a dab of brake, settling things before hooking into the bends. Actually, it’s best not to hook too hard into anything with this; tip it in smoothly is more the go. In the firmer suspension settings (Sport and Sport Plus), the body roll is manageable with no ugly roll oversteer or unflattering wallowing, but there’s always lots of full chassis mass.
The seats have active bolsters, each side able to inflate to counter the cornering forces, and the seat belt will tighten when it detects a decent lean angle too, going into boa constrictor mode when forcing the issue with the sidewalls. Sans any active torque split or sports diff, there’s power-on understeer to contain, and with the V8’s forthright thunder, it’s not too hard to get the ESP in a lather, even in the ESP Sport setting.
Smooth is best then and, with that challenge, there’s an element of adventure to the drive. It’s chuckle inducing how much stonk this has down the straights. Nail the corner exit and this sinks back on its haunches and heads for the horizon with an absolute cacophony of boosted V8 surge. It’s of course ravenous, like a sumo at a smorgasbord, chomping away at a rate of 26L/100km at one point, but on the flip side there’s a long legged nine-speed auto (1200rpm in top at 100), auto stop/start and cylinder deactivation.
Still, don’t expect much better than 20 around town and 15s on the motorway. But thirst aside, this is no hulking relic to drive about town in. The turning circle is large but the steering easy, and there are enough convenience features on board to help out, like active cruise and all the usual safety aids.
The seating position is truck-like, but there’s a range of adjustment at both the wheel and the seat to suit. Your knee however tends to end up resting against the door, right where the not-so-soft Burmester speaker grille is located. While the exterior retains a nostalgic style, inside the beast takes on a certain modernity to its layout. It was simply a mess previously with bits tacked on here and there.
But this has an expanse of screens across two-thirds of the dash and most of Merc’s modern connectivity. Why there are even cup holders were you might want them. This First Edition model is lathered in leather, red stitching and red weave carbon trim. The seats are more sporty than plush and it’s not that easy to climb aboard; a grab handle would be helpful.
While the new body brings with it more interior space, your entourage in the back aren’t allocated a mammoth amount of legroom. They sit even higher than you, there’s plenty of width and head room is off the scale.
They also get their own air con unit but there’ll be a fight for the lone USB charger. The boot is accessed by a side-hinged door, and there’s a reason why most now use a conventional tailgate, as this design is a pain.
So is having to slam the doors all the time, as is having to fumble for the remote to unlock them, as there is no comfort access here. The G 63 is the sort of thing that some people think is simply awesome and want to take photos of while others will think you’re, um, someone with a surplus of disposable income.
But saying all that, we like that these sort of mad mobiles exist. It’d be a boring world without them.
Model Mercedes-AMG G 63 Edition One Price $280,000
Engine 3982cc, V8, T/DI, 430kW/850Nm
Transmission 9-speed auto, all-wheel drive
Vitals 4.78sec 0-100km/h, 13.1L/100km, 299g/km, 2485kg