Review: 2015 Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG

By Mark Elias
Thursday, Jul 2nd, 2015 @ 3:21 pm
Is it wrong to love a galoot? Loud, eccentric, boorish, and even larger-than-life, all are apt descriptions for the Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG. If M-B was restricted by the federal government as to what type of vehicles they could build, there's no way this one could pass muster.

Yet, the G63 and its more pedestrian G550 sibling, continue to move off the assembly line in Graz, Austria, as they always have, since the vehicle was originally introduced in 1979. Technically, it is not even built by Mercedes-Benz. More on that later.

What is it?
Built at the suggestion of former Mercedes shareholder and mid-east despot, the Shah of Iran, the Geländewagen (Cross-Country Vehicle) was originally designed for military use. Between 4,000 and 6,000 of the five-passenger G-Class vehicles are constructed each year at the Magna-Steyr plant in Graz, which has also been responsible for the E-Class 4Matic cars, and the MINI Countryman and Paceman. At various times, they have also constructed other vehicles for brands such as Audi, BMW, Fiat, Peugeot and Aston Martin.

The G63 AMG is the hot-rodded version of the G-Wagen full-on luxury SUV, featuring a hand-built 5.5-liter direct-injected and twin turbocharged V8 engine that produces a stump-pulling 536 horsepower and 560 lb-ft of torque. It is mated to a seven-speed AMG SpeedShift-Plus transmission with steering wheel-mounted paddleshift levers. The engine also includes, as standard, an ECO Start/Stop system in an effort to economize on its need for nourishment.

The G-Wagen is also available in the less potent G550 model range, which features a naturally aspirated 5.5-liter V8 that produces 382 horsepower and 391 lb-ft of torque.

That brutish V8 and automatic transmission are mated to a full-time 4Matic all-wheel-drive transmission with two-speed transfer case and three independent differential locks. We seriously doubt it will ever see much dirt on its undercarriage, but it's always reassuring to know that the capability is there if needed.

The G63 rides on a suspension made up of rigid axles with longitudinal and transverse links, AMG-calibrated coil springs and gas-pressurized shock absorbers with a front stabilizer bar. While the standard G550 has a ground clearance of 8.07 inches, The G63 AMG, with its lowered suspension, loses a tiny bit, riding with a ground clearance height of 7.71 inches. It has an angle of approach and departure of 27-degrees and can cross a stream up to 19.7 inches deep.

Even though the G-Wagen is more than 35 years old, it has managed to keep up in the safety and technology department, with the addition of such items as Parktronic assist, a Blind Spot Warning System and adaptive cruise control.From the standpoint of in-car entertainment, the G63 features Mercedes-Benz's Comand system, which controls audio, navigation and telephonic operations within the vehicle. Drivers can view vehicle operations via a TFT color display between the binnacle gauges, or on a larger seven-inch color display, which utilizes the console-mounted Comand controller that allows the driver to change modes and radio stations with equal degrees of ease.

What's it up against?
In the field of large luxury SUVs, the G63 competes against the likes of the Range Rover Sport, BMW X5 M and Porsche Cayenne. Additionally, there is the Lexus LX 570, and, on a bit of a tangent, the Cadillac Escalade that, although larger than the others, also contends for the same customer base.

How does it look?
The G63 AMG looks as though it shared the design team of the Thermos brand steel lunch boxes that are popular with elementary school students. The only things missing are the cartoon characters on all sides.

Like the steel doors in the Illinois State Penitentiary, the locks on this SUV actuate with a resounding "thunk" that is clearly reminiscent of a d-grade movie with a title like "Lockdown on Cellblock G." Regardless, this is a G63, meaning that it includes styling touches that help distance itself from the more pedestrian G550. They include red-painted brake calipers, 20-inch black painted alloy wheels, AMG-specific design elements, and inside, the upmarket Designo leather interior.

And the inside?
If you have been in other recent Mercedes-Benz vehicles, you will feel totally at home based on the familiar controls located throughout the interior. Entry into the G63 immediately has a cocooning effect due to the tightness you feel from both sides. Legroom is at a premium, too, especially in the rear seat, which is better suited for the six-foot-and-under crowd.

The boxiness inside gives a sense of the utilitarian roots of the G, but the ample amounts of leather and wood trim help to bolster its luxo street cred. The seats offer good support with adjustable bolsters that managed to hold us properly in place during heated excursions on the interstate.

About those heated excursions. The G-Wagen gives off more than its share of heat from the big twin turbo V8 and the side-mounted exhaust dumps that would look more in place on a NASCAR Cup car than a high-zoot off-roader pretending to be a supermodel's best friend. To that end, we were thankful for the nicely ventilated front bucket seats, which continued to keep us cool during the 100-degree heat waves in South Florida.

Cargo capacity for the G63 AMG comes in at 40.3 cubic feet behind the second row. Fold the rear seats forward and watch that number climb to 75.1-cubic feet.

But does it go?
Obscenely rapid, for an SUV or any other vehicle, for that matter, the G63 and its twin turbocharged V8 seems stout enough to take the place of a common-day diesel locomotive. With an M-B estimated 0-60 time of 5.3 seconds, it is thunderously fast, both literally and figuratively through the sheer speed, and dulcet tones emanating from the side pipes just below each of the G's running boards.

Sound effects aside, the heart of this beast, the hand-built 5.5-liter twin turbo from Afalterbach, can be seen throughout the AMG lineup. A work of art, it too carries the name of its personal builder/artist on an autographed plate that is displayed prominently under the hood. The seven-speed SpeedShift automatic transmission smoothly banged through the gears, never taking a missed step along the way. In addition to its high price of admission, the G has a high rate of consumption. The EPA says to expect 12 city/14 highway, with a combined average of 13 mpg.

Using the center console-mounted Comfort-Sport-Manual (CSM) Drive Control button found us stepping through various drive settings that tailored the ride quality to our moods and needs. Still, possessing the aerodynamic qualities and top-heaviness of a Westinghouse side-by-side refrigerator caused us to exercise caution when attempting to negotiate tight sweeping turns or rapid lane changes. As nicely as this vehicle is turned out, it presents much teetering and side-to-side travel.

At the end of the day though, we think there is not much in this world, both natural and otherwise, that this Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG could not tame.

Leftlane's bottom line
Clearly a dinosaur from the Jurassic age, the G63 AMG is a car that appeals to us on a guttural and emotional level. Guttural in the sense that it has the ability to shake you to your core when standing full on the whomp pedal. Emotional by the way that we know we should look the other way when encountering this hot-rod masquerading as a large steel lunch box. There are other vehicles that are more comfortable and efficient, but still, we can't take our eyes off it.

2015 Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG base price, $137,150. As tested, $138,075.
Fully equipped, no options. Destination fee: $925.

Photos by Mark Elias.

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