Is there another vehicle that exhibits more street presence than the Mercedes-AMG G63? I seriously doubt it, but, regardless, there is universal respect reserved for the G63.
Now we have a ‘new’ version of a 40-year-old classic and somehow it has even more presence than the previous generation. While it would be easy to explain that away by the fact it’s wider by 106mm and longer by 110mm than the previous gen, I’d say it’s more to do with the fact that it looks more muscular than before. And I’d never have thought that possible.
So, what do you get that is ‘new’? Well, pretty much everything. Only the door handles, headlamp cleaning system and sun visors make the cut from the previous generation. Cleverly, however, Mercedes-AMG’s engineers have ensured that none of the reassuring military looks are missing. Just as importantly the resounding clunks from the square-rigger doors are still present and correct. No soft close options here.
As much as I loved the previous-gen G63, its interior space, or lack of it, always reminded me of an older Jeep Wrangler. For such a behemoth on the outside, once inside it was always a pretty snug fit. Climb inside the new car (yes, you still have to climb) and you’ll notice that there’s roughly 40mm more shoulder and hip room, but even more noticeable is the 70mm of additional elbow room for the driver. Your fellow troops in the back benefit from 150mm of additional and much-needed legroom.
The dash layout, and particularly the special steering wheel on our Edition One version, deserve praise for making the G-wagen feel like a high-altitude S63 experience.
But enough about its looks and very plush cabin. The G63 gets the 430kW variant of AMG’s now familiar hand-built, 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8. The maximum output is developed at 6000rpm and torque of 850Nm is produced from 2500 to 3500rpm.
Mercedes’ nine-speed automatic transmission makes another appearance here under the AMG Speedshift Plus banner and naturally the G63 uses permanent four-wheel drive. The system features locking front, centre and rear differentials, controlled not via fiddly touchscreen controls but by three large and satisfying buttons front and centre on the dashboard. There’s a low-range transfer ’box, too, selected with a button on the centre console while the car is in neutral.
A 0-100km/h time of 4.5sec gives some idea as to the brutality of the G63’s performance, given the V8 is also having to move two-and-a-half tonnes. What it cannot convey is the childish glee you’ll get from thundering up through the gears under full throttle, the twin tailpipes exiting from either side of the car genuinely matching AMG’s own GT R for aural drama – that you’re sitting several feet higher than in the supercar makes the experience all the more astonishing. Gearshifts aren’t race-car snappy, but the paddles respond quickly enough to be useful, and the huge torque on offer means you’ll rarely be stuck in an inappropriate gear.
Visually similar, the latest G is, nevertheless, very different to its predecessor under the skin. You still get a ladder-frame chassis, but the suspension attached to it is all new. At the front are a pair of double wishbones mounted to the frame in place of the old live axle, while the rear suspension is still a live axle, albeit controlled with four trailing arms per side and a Panhard rod.
The steering is now rack-and-pinion rather than recirculating ball, and the body sat atop the frame is lighter and stronger than before, formed from steel and clad in aluminium guards and doors, with an aluminium bonnet and tailgate. The net saving is around 170kg overall, though the G63 still comes in at 2560kg – not far short of a long-wheelbase hybrid Range Rover.
If it looks like nothing has changed on the surface how the new G drives compared to its predecessor is night and day. The new G is vastly better to drive than its predecessor (the ‘O.G.’?), loses none of its character and is now worthy of its AMG badge.
The biggest step forward is the steering. What was once terrifying is now quite acceptable, and that’s about as much as you can hope for from a car with the dimensions and mechanical layout of the latest G. Before, you’d get a mix of remoteness, inconsistency and imprecision in the rack, but once through an unresponsive dead zone around the straight-ahead, the steering can be used to plot a relatively reliable course from corner to corner. It’s no GT R, but it’s no longer a turn and hope for the best scenario, either.
With little feedback you have to build up trust that the G will negotiate the next turn, particularly given the extra brake pressure you need to haul off the considerable speed the twin-turbo V8 likes to reach. However, the newfound predictability and relatively early onset of scrubbing and squealing noises from the front axle give decent indication of how much the tyres have left to offer.
There’s grip to be found beyond the squeal, and while the G63 will eventually push predictably wide, you can carry impressive pace down a road that has as many turns as it does straights, confident in the V8’s ability to catapult out of the former and along the latter with hot hatch worrying pace, making up any ground you might have lost from your earlier circumspection. The ride is firm and tends to jiggle over smaller bumps, but the high ground clearance and heavy-duty suspension gives you little doubt that it’s capable of handling surfaces far more severe than you’re likely to encounter on normal roads.
The G63 lists at $247,700 and the entire 2019 allocation has already been sold, suggesting that plenty see the value in the Mercedes monster truck.
Engine V8, 3982cc, twin-turbo
Power 430kW @ 6000rpm
Torque 850Nm @ 2500-3500rpm
Weight 2560kg (168kW/tonne)
Top speed 220km/h (limited)
Basic Price $247,700