IT MAY have been born a military vehicle but the Mercedes G-class came of age roaming the fashionable streets of Dubai, London and Los Angeles with celebrities, film stars and pop icons hanging out of the windows. True car enthusiasts were less keen, though – even when the high-performance G 63 model appeared.
Some seriously old-fashioned engineering under its stylish skin meant the G 63 couldn’t hold a candle to the Range Rover Sport and the Porsche Cayenne on a twisty mountain road.
Thankfully, some late nights at Mercedes’ AMG performance division have transformed this all-new model into, arguably, the first truly sporty car in the G-class’ 39-year history.
Thanks to a sportscar-like suspension and steering set-up, this is a 4×4 bruiser with agility belying its bulk. Put it in Sport+ mode and the G 63 carves through corners in a confident, controlled manner that seems completely at odds with its daunting, van-like silhouette.
It doesn’t change direction with the immediacy of the Cayenne, but it more than makes up for that with an intoxicating bark from its huge side-exit exhausts.
The soundtrack comes courtesy of a twin-turbocharged 4-litre V8, which produces 577bhp; that’s the same as the Mercedes-AMG GT R sports car. Except the G 63’s new motor generates an extraordinary 627 lb ft of torque, whereas the AMG GT R’s V8 can ‘only’ manage 516 lb ft.
Put das hammer down and the G 63 will fly from 0-62mph in just 4.5 seconds and onto a 137mph top speed – 150mph if you pay extra for the AMG Driver’s pack.
You’ll be all the more surprised by that kind of acceleration when when you stare out over the helipad-like bonnet and see that you tower over all other vehicles like a particularly fashionable articulated lorry. A particularity refined one, at that; motorway runs are surprisingly free of harsh vibrations and noise, either from the engine bay or from air passing over the slab-like body.
Even more impressive, then, that the G 63 still managed to do the business when we took it on the rough stuff. Show it a loose gravel corner at 60mph and you’ve got a World Rally Championship car on your hands, but slow things right down and 45-degree gradients or boulder-strewn canyons don’t faze it. You’d have to be as unhinged as the car itself to do any of that in the AMG version, of course.
Inside, a cockpit that used to be as utilitarian as a German hardware store has been transformed for the Range Rover generation (about time, you might say). The leather-clad dashboard and brushed-metal air vents have a first-class feel, while the new dual-screen infotainment system (taken from the S-class limo) is attractive and simple to operate. Naturally, there’s room to swing an Alsatian or two, too.
The exterior, despite some rounding off of the edges round the front, to give it a slightly less aggressive face, will still divide audiences. Whereas the Range Rover has moved with the times and somehow manages to be the embodiment of sophistication, constructed using cutting-edge construction techniques, the G-class’s body still looks like it was hammered out over an anvil.
But those who do like the G 63’s cubist looks will appreciate the added refinement inside, the performance upgrades over the standard car and the knowledge that it still hasn’t forgotten its hard-as-nails military roots.
It also hasn’t forgotten to hold on to its designer price tag, which means it’s sure to continue to pull in LA’s rich and famous.
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