by John Tallodi
The Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG is an unlikely mix of chunky old-school off-roader and tar-burning V8 powertrain. Its Lego-esque looks have transcended modern fashion trends and despite its obvious flaws, the G-Class continues to find favor with fashion-conscious shoppers’ year after year. While the standard G models offer a modicum of off-road ability, the G63 trades any semblance of sensibility for a feral V8 and a whole host of sporty AMG modifications.
With the basic bodyshell design dating back to the late ‘70s, the interior of the G63 is a mix of finely crafted materials and compromised packaging solutions. There is very little space for elbows and arms while the windscreen is extremely upright and offers great visibility but it is situated very close to the driver and front passenger. The controls are logically laid out and the interior features a number of modern touches from the Mercedes-Benz parts bin.
The front seats are comfortable with a wide range of adjustments but they do not slide back far enough for taller passengers which compromises available legroom. The rear bench offers far less comfort and is a tight fit for most adults, getting in and out requires some effort too as the G63 sits quite high off the ground. Cargo space too is nothing special and there is not a lot of space to stash oddments in the cabin either.
The interior may have benefitted from some high-quality materials and new technology but the driving experience will dispel any doubts about the G63’s origins. The steering response is erratic, made worse by the massive alloy wheels and wallowy suspension. Braking performance is adequate but any sudden maneuvers elicit a large degree of disconcerting body roll.
The G63 may be very powerful but the chassis is woefully underequipped to take advantage of it, evidenced by the frantically overworked traction control system that is in operation at anything above a gentle cruise. This is the natural habitat of the G63 anyway, where its burbling exhaust, quiet cabin and soft suspension can be best appreciated. Not to mention the show-off looks and exaggerated AMG styling details.
The G63 AMG is a big and heavy machine but despite this its 563-horsepower, 561 lb-ft of torque 5.5-liter twin-turbo V8 helps it bludgeon its way to 60mph in a scary 5.3-seconds.
That is quick enough to see off some sporty sedans but the vague steering and lurching ride quality require a fair degree of driver confidence to extract this level of performance. Four-wheel drive is standard as is a 7-speed automatic transmission, three locking differentials and a two-speed transfer case are also fitted although this is at odds with the low-slung exhaust and road-biased tires also make it no better than most basic crossovers when it comes to the rough stuff.Fuel economy is almost as scary as the acceleration figures, with a projected 12mpg in city and equally dismal 14mpg in highway driving.
The G63 AMG may be a dynamically compromised performance SUV but just about every luxury item on the Mercedes-Benz menu has been crammed into its boxy interior.
Notable standard features include a Nappa leather interior with 10-way power front seats and heating for both rows, navigation, premium audio system with Bluetooth, adaptive cruise control, rearview camera, adaptive braking, LED daytime running lights, blind spot assist and an AMG sport suspension and sport exhaust system.
There are a number of additional exterior and interior AMG design details too and a large variety of available customizations to choose from. A rear-seat entertainment package is also available.
Assessing the Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG from a purely logical viewpoint against other luxury SUVs would have it placed last in just about every category. Mercedes themselves make far more capable offerings for less money.
Yet it is a strangely desirable vehicle that has carved out its own niche that seems immune to objective analysis. What it does offer is a lot of character, performance and chunky retro-looks that seem to keep getting better with age. Add in tons of customizability and you have the ideal automotive fashion accessory.