Mercedes AMG G63

Reboot of a heavy-metal classic that rocks our world

NATHAN PONCHARD

FIRST OVERSEAS DRIVE

FIRSTDRIVES

SPECS

Model Mercedes-AMG G63

Engine 3982cc V8 (90į), dohc, 32v, twin-turbo

Max power 430kW @ 6000rpm

Max torque 850Nm @ 2500-3500rpm

Transmission 9-speed automatic

Weight 2485kg

0-100km/h 4.5sec (claimed)

Fuel economy 13.1L/100km (EU)

Price $247,700

On sale August

IT BEGINS with a press of a button. Old-school metal door handles with the sort of push-button release most manufacturers relegated to history many decades ago.

And if you do it with your eyes closed, you can literally feel 1979 at your fingertips. Despite appearances, this new-generation G-Class is box-fresh from top to toe, yet its gloriously retro door handles are a direct DNA link to its 39-year-old predecessor. Theyíre exactly the same.

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So, too, is the metallic clack of its doors as they close, and the startling cocked-rifle crack as its central locking auto-arms just above walking pace. But those auditory nods to the past conceal a doppelganger SUV whose abilities have grown stratospherically.

That the new-gen G-Class looks so much like the fossil it replaces says volumes about what people loved about Mercedes-Benzís brick-tastic icon. All the cues are still there Ė flat windows, exposed hinges, frog-eye indicators, external spare wheel, and barely a curved edge in sight. And some of them are even direct carry-overs, including the front headlight washers, spare-wheel cover, internal sunvisors and the dashboardís metallic diff-lock switches, as well as those door handles. But all the stuff that matters has been transformed.

Thereís still a ladder-frame chassis lurking underneath but itís all-new, bolted to a body structure with an aluminium bonnet, front guards, doors and tailgate, for a total weight loss of 170kg, and a 55 percent increase in torsional rigidity. Neither of those improved numbers are particularly flattering Ė in G63 AMG guise, the G-banger still weighs 2485kg and its rigidity figure of 10,162 Nm/degree is well below what a modern monocoque can manage Ė yet the new G feels mega-strong and virtually shock-proof.

Itís the componentry, however, thatís key to making the new G drive like something from this century. Hustling the previous G55/G63 AMG quickly was like going 10-pin bowling with a pumpkin Ė frustrating, embarrassingly cumbersome and, at times, potentially quite scary. Constant ESC intrusion was the only way to contain the waywardness of its nonindependent suspension and recirculating-ball steering.

But this time around, we have an aluminium double-wishbone front end, rack-and-pinion steering with rack-mounted electro-mechanical assistance, and a brand new four-link live rear axle with a Panhard rod for lateral location. Not to mention anti-roll bars and adaptive dampers at both ends. Which is all good to know when youíre burbling along in traffic at 10km/h. But, given the opportunity, even the G63 version (Australia isnít getting the G500) has some serious off-road savvy, as our rock-strewn thrash in Trail mode (which disables ESC) in a 20-inch-wheeled example proved.

With loads of suspension travel and a loping, almost luxurious ride, the G63 is breathtakingly accomplished. And when the bends get tighter, thereís proper balance and steering precision to nail your line of attack, combined with the rear-biased delights of the G63ís all-wheel-drive system and 850Nm torque reserve.

Almost unbelievably, the same applies out on tarmac roads. Here, our Edition 1 test trucks (wearing huge Goodyear Eagle F1 295/40R22 tyres) defied any pre-conceived unguided-missile fears by demonstrating a love of corners Ė both fast and slow Ė and a level of accuracy thatís in a different solar system to the old knuckle-dragger. Likewise the comparative lack of stability-control intrusion.

With nine ratios channelling its loin-stirring 430kW/850Nm 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8, the G63 is laugh-out-loud quick. Nailing the throttle from a standing start sees it squirm and shift around like a fired-up rodeo bull, lifting its nose as it charges ahead and barking its fury through four gloriously non-PC side pipes. This hair-raising theatre is so goddamn addictive on so many levels that I doubt anyone will ever get close to AMGís 13.1L/100km combined fuel-economy claim.

But itís the cornering talent of this 2.5-tonne Tessie that gilds the straight-line experience. With 2.7 turns lock-to-lock (spanning a quaint 13.6-metre turning circle) via Mercedes-Benzís delightful new three-spoke wheel, the G63 essentially goes where you point it. And if you drive it the way it desires Ė with a dose of patience in tight corners, trailing brakes in to pin the nose before squeezing copious amounts of 98RON juice into its combustion chambers and feeling the poised delights of 60-percent rear drive-bias Ė itís not only quick but also fun. Even with Dynamic Select in Comfort mode, especially if you enjoy bodyroll.

Nailing the throttle sees it squirm and shift around like a fired-up rodeo bull

Sport mode is the go, however, as it combines a still-supple ride with greater cornering prowess and sharper transmission response. But thereís something deeply satisfying in belting down straight-ish back roads in Comfort, sports-exhaust button illuminated to unleash some backing-track thunder, marvelling at just how plush a G63 Edition 1ís ride is, even on 22-inch wheels. Itís remarkable.

Sport+ brings the most intuitive mix of drivetrain smarts and stability-control freedom, but you can play with all that in Individual mode, amping the engine, tranny and exhaust while relaxing the damping firmness and ESC reins.

At least with the exhausts bellowing and the 15-speaker Burmester stereo cranking, you donít notice the wind noise so much. Despite all the wonders of modern sound deadening and noise cancelling, this thing has more front than a cyclone, and on a gusty day, the wind rush is voluminous. Yet the G63 powers ahead, rock-steady and rock-star ready, with the pick-power to pull up forcefully if a star-struck fan happens to lunge into its path.

Thereís far less trade-off than there used to be in the G63ís body-on-frame interior, though the posh new G-Class does cede some modernity to the everymanís new-gen A-Class. You wonít see any MBUX theatrics in this SUVís Widescreen Cockpit display Ė merely the same stuff you get in E- and S-Class Ė and now that weíve sampled the sleek minimalism of the new Aís new-gen column stalk and gear-selector wand, the older stuff in the G feels slightly parts-bin. Which is all an illusion, of course, because this beast is no Frankenstein.

Instead, itís a spectacular achievement. I hated the old heap, yet feel blown away by the bandwidth of this new-gen G63, and the immensity of its character. Few vehicles on earth can achieve as much as this one can, with all the menacing, yet cuddly feels that a Grisly Bear gives you before ripping your face off.

The steadfast determination of the engineers in Graz, Austria (where the G is predominantly hand-built) to keep it true to its heritage, and the input from AMG into making this truck not drive like one, has produced a megafast SUV that feels wonderfully old-school Benz. Itís as if money was no object when developing the new-gen G-banger Ö in much the same fashion that money has never been a hurdle for those who aspire to own one. Only this time, itís actually worth the coin.

NATHAN PONCHARD

Breadth of performance; flat-window vision; ride; charm; character PLUS & MINUS Weight; drag coefficient; wind noise; turning circle; cost; consumption

Frame job

G-Class is still the only series-production vehicle to boast three 100-percent locking diffs, which now combine with an on-the-fly ability to switch between high- and low-range at speeds up to 40km/h. All-new double A-arm front suspension is mounted directly to the frame, gifting 270mm of ground clearance at the front axle and 6m d 6mm more between the axles, s, in combination with improved fording depth ( h (up 10 100mm to 70 mm) o 700mm), improved approach, departure re and brea break-over angles (by one degree each a each),, and a far-superior ior 35-degree tilt angle (seven degrees better).

An SUV thatís as wide as it is tall (despite now being 64mm broader) was always going to struggle to beat the old G63ís poor 0.54 drag coefficient. And so it proves Ė 0.532Cd, with a huge 3.217m2 frontal area.

Front brakes are vented and drilled 400mm discs with six-piston aluminium fixed calipers, while at the rear, 370mm vented/drilled discs get single-piston floating calipers. Stopping power is immense.

Sizeable gains in cabin space Ė including a 150mm expansion in rear legroom Ė make this mother trucker an eminently liveable place to spend time. And you canít discount the vision-enhancing benefits of flat windows and tall seating.

BLOCK OF FLATS 01

STOP RIGHT NOW 02

SWING THOSE LEGS 03

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