Car reviews - Mercedes-AMG - G63
Cracking AMG engine, sharp steering, comfortable yet planted suspension, retro styling, side exit exhaust, dominating road presence
Room for improvement
Limited availability, restricted boot space, infotainment system already feels dated next to MBUX
Mercedes-AMG G63 proves even large and lardy SUVs know how to have fun
7 Dec 2018
By TUNG NGUYEN
HAVING been around for the better part of 40 years, the G-Class off-roader is the type of model that could only be made by a large, and profitable, car-maker like Mercedes-Benz.
Especially in it’s top-spec, AMG-fettled G63 form, the details of the upper-large luxury SUV read a bit like a list of oxymorons.
A 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged petrol V8 wedded to a four-wheel-drive system with a low-range transfer case? Check. How about an old-school exterior aesthetic combined with a high-tech, high-definition touchscreen in-cabin control? Yep, that’s in there too.
However, while the Mercedes-G63 might sound like an oxymoron, it never feels moronic as the sum of all its parts deliver a vehicle that is truly special in today’s increasingly homogenised world.
Standing next to the new-generation Mercedes-AMG G63, you might not be able to pick the differences between it and its predecessor, but keen-eyed car-spotters will note that the bumpers and wheelarches are more seamlessly integrated into the bodywork, while lighting has been upgraded to LED all round.
The new G63 has also grown in every dimension, meaning more space for occupants but strangely, less room in the boot (454 litres down from 480L).
Overall, the G63 wears a bold, brash, in-your-face look that either screams “give me attention” or “stay the hell away from me”, depending on the exterior colour and wheel combination.
We actually dig the styling of the new G63 and have to heap praise on Mercedes for sticking to the old-school aesthetic with modern touches such as the Panamericana front grille, but understand that the G-Class won’t be to everyone’s tastes.
From the outside, you might not be able to tell, but the Mercedes-AMG G63 is actually Benz’s most expensive SUV currently available, with a pricetag of $247,700 before on-road costs.
There’s no way to slice it – a quarter of a million dollars is an obscene amount of money, but for those who are in the market for an entry-level supercar like a V8-powered Aston Martin or even an entry-level Mercedes-AMG GT, the G63 will turn just as many heads (as evidenced by our quick jaunt down the Great Ocean Road) and can comfortably seat more than just one of your friends.
Aside from the three-pointed star badge, the G63’s rugged exterior might not give any hints to its premium nature, but step inside and it’s a completely different story.
Gone is the basic and utilitarian interior fit-out of the previous generation. The cabin of the new G63 feels high end thanks to plush Nappa leather seats, woodgrain trim, soft-touch headliner and the high-tech infotainment system lifted from an E-Class.
With a high seating position and a generous glasshouse, visibility from the driver’s seat is excellent
There’s plenty of room for all passengers, including in the middle of the second row, no doubt thanks to the G63’s 2013mm width.
We even dig the solid and loud ‘thunk’ as the doors close and lock.
One let down of the interior however is that the Comand infotainment system already feels dated next to the Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) setup introduced with the fourth-generation A-Class hatchback and new Sprinter large van.
It’s odd that Mercedes would fit the gorgeous dual 10.25-inch MBUX system with natural speech recognition to an entry-level model and workhorse, but the G63 makes do with two crisp-looking 12.3-inch displays.
While resolution and clarity are not an issue, we do miss MBUX’s updated matte-black touchpad controller that is slimmer and more responsive feeling than the G63’s bulky, gloss-black input device.
Aside from the interior and exterior packing, a large chunk of the cost is likely due to the G63’s stonkingly good 4.0-litre twin-turbo petrol V8 that belts out a colossal 430kW at 6000rpm and 850Nm from 2500-3500rpm.
Those familiar with AMG’s vehicle portfolio will likely recognise the 4.0-litre engine as the one fitted to other ‘63’ variants of models such as the C-Class, GLC, E-Class and GT sportscar, but the G63 matches or outclasses each aforementioned vehicle in power and torque.
In fact the only 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8-powered vehicle to develop higher outputs is the S63 L with 450kW/900Nm.
With outputs fed to the road via a rear-biased 4Matic all-wheel-drive system and a nine-speed torque converter transmission, the G63 can brutalise the zero to 100km/h sprint time in just 4.5 seconds.
If we’re being honest, the G63 never feels as quick in real life than it sounds on paper, but boy, is it fun.
Plant the right foot and the G63 boogies more like a top-tier hot hatch than a 2.5-tonne SUV with a solid rear axle.
The accompanying climb in speed and revs is also matched with a booming soundtrack from the AMG exhaust system that runs along and exits out of each side.
Besides the fact that side-exit exhausts are just ludicrously cool, the volume of the system can also be adjusted with the push of a button for those that want to hear more of the deep and growly tone.
Here’s a fun fact though, the switchable exhaust only turns exhaust volume up to about 80 per cent, with the hardcore noise mode only activated when the G63 is in Sport+ mode.
We’ve had very few experiences this year that topped our drive of the G63 in full-attack mode through back-country roads with all four windows down.
Tip into a corner and where you expect bodyroll and soft, squishy suspension, the G63 remains composed, planted and even agile thanks to a new multi-link front setup and adaptive dampers all round.
However, while the big, brash and baller G63 feels razor-sharp slicing through long sweeping corners, it can’t escape physics as quick direction changes means squealing tyres and ESP stepping in.
One thought we kept coming back to in our brief taster of the G63 is that ‘this car should not exist’ – after all it’s a petrol V8-powered SUV with off-road capabilities, it’s a big and loud boxy vehicle with a plush and luxurious interior, it costs $250,000 but is sold out until 2020.
But, we’re so glad it does exist because the Mercedes-AMG G63 is imbued with so much character and charm that, despite its few problems and subjective shortcomings, it’s a car you can’t help but fall in love with.
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