CHATHAM, Mass. – Mercedes-Benz is proud of its heritage, including tracing its roots to arguably the industry’s first automobile (the 1886 Benz Patent Motorwagen). Recently, I spent a week in a Mercedes-AMG G 63, a sport-utility vehicle (SUV) which in one iteration or another has been part of the company’s roster since the 1970s.
What originated from an idea by the Shah of Iran for a military vehicle six decades ago has evolved into an iconic 4×4 which has served armed forces around the globe as well as becoming a statement of the rich in some of the same countries, as well as in the United States.
My first G-Wagon (one of the names this vehicle has worn in its lifetime) driving experience was in 1979 on circus grounds in Southern Germany (when I was a youngster working for Mercedes-Benz).
It was a stiff, manually shifted, loud machine, but a lot of fun for a 20-something year old with no off-pavement experience. Today’s AMG G 63 is stiffer than some of the more modern SUVs, as well as louder, but thanks to its AMG-developed twin-turbo V8 engine and refined chassis pieces, remains a blast to drive!
And thanks to Mercedes-Benz attention to details and commitment to safe motoring, filled with the latest advanced driver-assistance systemsv (ADAS), amenities (heated, multi-functional leather-covered seats; satellite radio) and conveniences.
AMG means serious performance
Performance AMG style begins with the handcrafted 4.0-liter V8 with twin turbochargers. The burbling (as only a V8 will do) motor produces 577 horsepower and 627 pounds-feet of torque which, according to Car and Driver “rocketed the nearly 5800-pound G 63 from zero to 60 mph in just 3.9 seconds.” In the days before electric cars, that would be supercar territory, but even in this silent-hyper-performance era, that is REALLY quick.
Helping get that power to the pavement is a nine-speed automatic transmission with steering-wheel paddle shifters, and the all-wheel-drive (AWD) system. The 4Matic system (Mercedes-Benz speak for AWD) includes three locking differential modes (activated by three chrome buttons on the center of the dash, just below the infotainment screen) to conquer virtually any off-road situation (remember those military roots).
A new, independent suspension with double-wishbone setup in the front combined with a rigid rear axle — and the axles were raised, creating 11 inches of ground clearance — enhances off-road performance without compromising on-road activities. It was engineered by AMG to handle the performance of the V8, but it does not turn the SUV into a sports car (instead providing a balance between on- and off-road driving).
This is a tall, upright, angular vehicle (77.4-inches high, 191.9in. long, 78.1in wide), but in everyday driving, even pushing it a bit in the twisties, it acquits itself quite nicely. And the motor is RIGHT THERE to make up for any speed lost in the curves.
The combination of the powerful V8 and angular body leads to the fuel economy numbers of 13/14/16 (urban/combined/highway) miles per gallon. I saw 14 mpg during my week behind the wheel.
Bringing the AMG G 63 to a halt are red calipers grabbing drilled and vented 15.7in discs at the front, 14.6in ones in the rear. The brakes live within optional ($4,450) black 22-inch forged AMG cross-spoked wheels with Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric SUV, 295/40R-22 112W MO tires.
Suite of advanced driver-assistance features
The comprehensive list of ADAS includes active brake assist; DISTRONIC active-distance assist; blind-spot assist; active lane-keeping assist; PARKTRONIC parking assist; traffic-sign assist; ATTENTION ASSIST, and a 360º surround-view camera system.
Inside, the Mercedes-Benz touches
The review SUV included a few options to make the driving and occupying experience even more satisfying. The G manufactur Interior Package ($3,100) includes AMG Nappa leather seating materials; Nappa leather dashboard; AMG badging in headrests and floor mats, and, most appreciated, active multi-contour front seats with rapid heating, ventilation and massage capabilities.
Once either of the front seats are positioned with their electric adjustment for height, seatback position, lumbar support and thigh support, the seat memory can store it.
A three-zone climate-control system keeps the environment comfortable while the Burmeister® Surround Sound System pumps out the audio from the comprehensive infotainment system (including wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto) controlled by a 12.3in touchscreen, which also provides the heart of the navigation system.
These features make the journey an extremely comfortable one. The power is always there, ready to respond to your right foot. The angular shape, along with cameras and other ADAS features, make parking and maneuvering the large vehicle simpler than many other SUVs with similar dimensions.
The AMG G 63 is not an inexpensive vehicle. The review model had a base price of $156,450 and a collection of options which brought the MSRP to $172,300.
I did not have a chance to do any serious off roading in the AMG G 63 but would do so without reservation. A Mercedes-Benz vehicle exudes confidence and reassurance; it will not let you down. The G Class was designed for the world’s military and the toughness, ruggedness and reliability factors designed in for that purpose extend into the civilian one.