2019 Mercedes-AMG G63 review

First Australian drive

There probably isn't a more pointless car on the road. A 2500kg four-wheel drive with a giant V8. But, that's mainly why we love it. Paul Maric gets behind the wheel to see what the new G63 is like.

Too much power. In my opinion, there's no such thing. Especially when it comes to the Geländewagen, or better known as the Mercedes-Benz G-Class.

Geländewagen means cross-country vehicle, or SUV, and the G-Class certainly lives up to its name. It's renowned for being able to go absolutely anywhere, and when specified in this AMG trim, it's more a supercar that can literally go anywhere.

Whereas the old G-Class used a live axle, featured an ancient interior and was ergonomically flawed, this all-new 2019 G-Class takes it to the next level in terms of luxury and on-road dynamics. It really feels like a brand-new car.

Kicking off from $247,700 (plus on-road costs), the 2019 Mercedes-AMG G63 leaves nothing to the imagination. Under its ladder-frame chassis is a 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged petrol V8 engine that pumps out 430kW of power and 850Nm of torque.

It's mated to a nine-speed multi-clutch gearbox and a permanent all-wheel-drive system that affords a 40/60 front/rear torque split. Comically, it features a stop/start system and cylinder deactivation that allows it to periodically run on four cylinders.

These efforts combined with a 170kg weight reduction over the previous model bring an official fuel consumption of 13.1 litres of fuel per 100km. You'll never see that number – even with a stack of highway driving, the closest we came to that was 19.5L/100km. Luckily there's a 100L fuel tank to keep you moving.

From the outside, the most noticeable changes to the G-Class begin at the front with a new grille and a circular LED daytime running light signature. Around the side, the lines have been refined but still present a meaty figure that cuts through traffic. The rear is a little more rounded now with smaller LED tail-lights attached to the bottom corners of the swinging tailgate.

While there is a proximity key system for starting the car, you still need to get the key out of your pocket to manually unlock it. The utilitarian door handles are matched with a loud locking and unlocking sound from the mechanical bolt mechanism used within the door.

At first, the solid thunk of the door and the extra effort required to open and close it is cool, but it gets old pretty quickly. With all the windows and other doors closed, the pressure into the cabin makes it hard to close doors, to the point where you really need to slam them before they latch correctly.

Once you're inside and settled, though, the interior is a really nice place to be. A lot of effort has gone into making this a more premium place with leather everywhere, lashings of woodgrain, and two giant 12.3-inch side-by-side screens that present infotainment and vital vehicle information.

There's also plenty of centre and door storage – stuff that was hard to come by in the previous G-Class. Same goes for interior room. There's 70mm of extra elbow room, 38mm more leg and shoulder room, and 150mm extra leg room in the rear. It no longer means you need to drive with your arm half out the window to feel comfortable.

Cargo capacity comes in at 454L with the second row in place and expands to 1941L with the second row folded flat. It's a very usable space too thanks to the massive opening and wide aperture. We were also surprised to see a metal cover over the spare wheel, as opposed to a plastic cover.

The G-Class misses out on MBUX, instead running with Mercedes-Benz's older COMAND system. That means the central 'hovercraft' – a confusing controller that takes up a big chunk of the central tunnel space. It's backed by a voice-recognition system that makes issuing commands while driving much easier.

Ahead of the driver, the screen can be configured to display a g-bubble with lateral, acceleration and deceleration g-forces, a lap timer and other vital vehicle information.

We did notice a couple of build and quality issues worth calling out. After sitting in the rain, water will leak on the driver's seat when you open the door. There was also a noticeable whistling sound coming from one of the door seals, which become annoying after a while.

This car is all about the drama. If people don't see you first, they will definitely hear you coming. That's thanks to the quad exhaust pipes mounted underneath the rear passenger doors with a bi-modal function. While you can leave the exhaust pipes constantly open (which we did, obviously), the bi-modal function will activate once pressure is built up with revs within the system.

Straight-line performance is absolutely blistering. Stand on the throttle from still and the nose lifts as it hurls towards the end of the road. The noise and fury that comes from those side-exiting exhaust pipes is next level. It is the dirtiest and gnarliest sound you'll hear this side of an aftermarket exhaust and mashing the throttle becomes an intoxicating experience.

We clocked a 0–100km/h time of just 4.5 seconds, which is on par with the manufacturer's claim. It'll then head on to a top speed of 220km/h, which is a mighty feat given how aerodynamically challenged the body is. As speed picks up, stability becomes a little sketchy. It's highly affected by crosswinds and can be squirmy under brakes.

Find yourself some corners and you'll discover that the straight-line speed doesn't match its cornering ability. It feels very top heavy and the portly 2485kg kerb weight becomes immediately apparent. Be a little too aggressive with it and the stability control kicks in by harshly braking and taking away torque momentarily.

Having said that, the 295mm-wide tyres offer ample grip and afford traction when you get back onto the throttle (the standard offering is 285mm wide on 21-inch wheels). It was never going to handle like a sports car, but I was expecting a bit more refinement from the flagship AMG variant.

Under the body is a ladder-on-frame chassis that uses independent front suspension with double wishbones mounted directly to the ladder frame. Pop the bonnet and you'll find a strut tower brace that increases torsional rigidity. At the rear, it's a rigid-axle arrangement with four control arms and a Panhard rod.

Coil springs are used at the front and rear with adaptive dampers within the coil at the front, while the adaptive dampers sit outside of the coils at the rear. In addition to adaptive damping, transverse stabilisers are used at the front and rear to reduce body roll. Well that's the aim anyway – it still has a fair amount of tilt when tipped in.

Braking performance is excellent thanks to the 400mm cross-drilled rotors and six-piston calipers. They're capable of pulling up the G63 from high speed with little fade – although as mentioned earlier, it can get a little squirmy under hard braking until it settles.

While there are paddle shifters, the nine-speed automatic gearbox does an excellent job of managing driver inputs. There are several drive modes to choose from – Comfort, Individual, Sport, Sport+ and Slippery. Dial in any of the four-wheel-drive settings and then you can also pick from several extra four-wheel-drive-only drive modes.

Each of the drive modes delivers a variation of throttle and steering sensitivity, with the Individual mode offering the greatest level of customisation. We found that sitting in the Comfort mode with the exhaust on 'Powerful' was the place to be.

The only downside with the Comfort mode is that it can be a little laggy in terms of throttle response until the gearbox dives back through the gears. It'll either lean on the engine's torque band to gradually deliver torque, or it will dive back through the gears, which can cause a surge of acceleration.

In and around town, the G-Class is surprisingly easy to drive. That's thanks to the raised indicator lenses on the front two corners that make the outer extremities of the car easy to catch. In addition, there is a 360-degree camera and front and rear parking sensors.

The inclusion of electrically assisted steering means low-speed maneuvers like parking are taken care of with ease.

In terms of its off-roading credentials, if you were to stick a decent set of tyres on the car (instead of the road-focussed 22-inch wheels on 295mm-wide tyres with 40 profile), it would be hard-pressed to ever get stuck. With ground clearance of 238mm, an approach angle of 27 degrees and departure angle of 29.6 degrees, the drivetrain offers a low-range transfer case along with front, centre and rear differential locks.

Unfortunately, we weren't allowed to test this vehicle off-road, but given its history, we have no doubts it would drive over anything it was pointed at.

One thing worth noting is the ride height – 1966mm. It's an increase over the outgoing model, and at 1966mm it means that some carparks are a no-go zone. We found this out when trying to park in the city, only to discover the 1.95m height limit would mean us collecting a stack of fire sprinklers on the way in.

Mercedes-Benz offers a three-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty with the availability of a prepaid service plan. Servicing over a three-year period costs $3880.

Sure, a Range Rover Sport SVR would blow a G63 out of the water on the handling front, but it'll never keep up with it off-road and it's even less likely to turn as many heads as this beast does.

The Mercedes-AMG G63 is one of the most pointless cars in the world. But, the world is a much better place because of its existence. If you ever spot one of these on the road, tip your hat to the legend that spent the best part of $300,000 on a car that puts a smile on the face of anybody that loves excess.

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