REVIEW | The 2019 Mercedes-AMG G63 is a charming rebel

New generation G63 is as subtle as a sledgehammer, in looks and performance. Picture: DENIS DROPPA
New generation G63 is as subtle as a sledgehammer, in looks and performance. Picture: DENIS DROPPA

There’s something appealingly rebellious about the Mercedes-AMG G63, the most potent member of the Geländewagen family.

It makes little logical sense to stick what is essentially a racing-car engine into a high-riding SUV that was ostensibly built to amble at mechanically-sympathetic (read relaxed) pace through rough and picturesque vistas.

But nothing is relaxed about this monstrous Mercedes; not its belligerently get-out-of-my-way shape, and certainly not its brutal 430kW/850Nm V8 turbo engine which has thrust like a sports car and a bellow to wake the dead.

From its squared-off styling to its duo of gutter pipe-sized exhausts exiting beneath the rear doors on each side, the G63 is all spitting aggression with the demeanour of a heavyweight cage fighter. Especially so in the matt-black paint job of our test vehicle.

When time recently came for Mercedes to bring out a modern second-generation G-Class after the original spent 35 years in production (albeit with several tweaks and upgrades along the way), it emerged from the cocoon with its old-school square shape intact, much to the delight of its many devotees, and to all beholders who hold that boxy is beautiful.

The V8 turbo makes a rebel yell through the side exhausts. Picture: DENIS DROPPA
The V8 turbo makes a rebel yell through the side exhausts. Picture: DENIS DROPPA

It also retained the body-on-frame design favoured by offroad aficionados who spend their weekends getting mud on their windscreens, along with serious trail-tackling gear including three diff locks.

One nod to modernity, however, is the replacement of the previous solid front axle with independent double wishbone suspension with coil springs. The rear axle remains solid.

Not that many G63 owners will necessarily wish to subject those low-profile tyres to serious rock-clambering (the G63 normally comes with 20-inch wheels but our Edition 1 test vehicle wore 22-inch versions). That task will most likely be left to the diesel-powered G-class which will arrive later this year and will be fitted with more sensible offroad-tackling footwear.

Playtime in the G63 will instead mostly take the form of testing Merc’s claim of a 0-100km/h sprint in 4.5 seconds, and by the way it eagerly shoots off the line it is a number that seems feasible despite this big Benz weighing in at a portly 2.4 tons.  

All the way up to its governed 220km/h top speed, the 4l turbo engine delivers lusty, hot-hatch beating acceleration with minimal turbo lag, all managed effortlessly by a very slick nine-speed auto transmission. As entertaining as the power delivery is the loud and hearty roar, which could frighten hadedas off lamp posts a block away.

With AMG Dynamic Select the driving characteristics can be set to five on-road driving modes. Picture: DENIS DROPPA
With AMG Dynamic Select the driving characteristics can be set to five on-road driving modes. Picture: DENIS DROPPA

It also guzzles fuel unashamedly, and I struggled to keep the average under 20l per 100km in our test vehicle.

A high-riding, 2.4-ton SUV is never going to feel like a sports car but Mercedes has sharpened up the G-Wagen’s handling with that aforementioned independent front suspension, and also by reducing the weight by around 170kg by using more aluminium body panels, and increasing body rigidity by 55%.

The 4Matic all-wheel drive is a rear-biased system with a front/rear split of 40/60, which results in less understeer on the handling limits. The firmness of the AMG Ride Control suspension can be adjusted to Comfort, Sport and Sport+ settings.

With AMG Dynamic Select the driving characteristics can be set to five on-road or three off-road driving modes.

For a vehicle shaped to bludgeon the airstream rather than slip through it, wind noise in the G63 isn’t too extreme. In any case, one’s aural attention is generally on the engine roar.


Mercedes-AMG G63 Edition 1

WE LIKE: Performance, sound, classic image with updated modernity 

WE DISLIKE: Fuel consumption

VERDICT: The legend abides


The new G-Class lays on more interior space than its predecessor and has grown 121mm in width and 53mm in length. The cabin comfortably seats four passengers, and there’s a decent 454l of boot space behind that sideways-opening tailgate.

Under that old-school boxy shape the G-Class has gone very new-school with the latest infotainment and safety systems. Semi-autonomous safety features help keep the vehicle in its lane and at safe following distances, and it automatically brakes to avoid accidents.

The dashboard is dominated by the new 31cm MBUX digital user interface for the instrument cluster and infotainment system, and lays on S-class style luxury with its smart leather seats, metallic switches and ambient lighting.

The flat-bottomed, perforated-leather AMG Performance steering wheel is a reminder of the serious firepower on the other side of the firewall, as are the various carbon-fibre trimmings inside the cabin.

The plush interior acquires Merc’s new high-tech Mbux digital interface. Picture: DENIS DROPPA
The plush interior acquires Merc’s new high-tech Mbux digital interface.  Picture: DENIS DROPPA

The price is R2,761,100, and R300,000 more for the Edition 1 Package (fitted to our test vehicle) that includes 10 exclusive paint options, sport stripes on the flanks, decorative red stripes on the wing mirror housings, matte finish 22-inch forged wheels, red interior highlights, carbon fibre trim and Performance steering with red 12 ’o-clock marking.      

The G-Class is an offroading legend and the latest iteration, while being thoroughly modernised, has maintained the boxy style and adventurous spirit of the original.

Such hardcore performance seems out of sync with a heavy, high-riding behemoth, but to a certain type of customer this dissonance will only add to the G63’s charmingly rebellious appeal.


Tech Specs

Engine

Type: Eight cylinder petrol turbo

Capacity: 3,982cc

Power: 430kW

Torque: 850Nm

Transmission

Type: Nine-speed automatic with low range

Front, centre and rear diff locks

Drivetrain

Type: Full-time all-wheel drive

Performance

Top speed: 220km/h

0-100km/h: 4.5 seconds (claimed)

Fuel consumption: 13.1l/100 km (claimed); 20.7l/100km (as tested)

Emissions: 299g/km

Standard Features

AMG ride control, blind spot assist, electric sunroof, LED headlights, electric windows, electric mirrors, climate control, cruise control, parking assist, MBUX digital user interface, ambient lighting, front and side airbags, electrically adjustable front seats, leather upholstery, AMG performance steering wheel, navigation with live traffic information, Distronic cruise control, Keyless-Go starting function, ABS brakes, stability control, automatic headlamps, rain sensor

Warranty: Two years/200,000km

Maintenance plan:  Five years/100,000km

Price: R3,083,743

Lease*: R65,615 per month

* at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit


Motor News star rating

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Performance * * * * *

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Competition

Porsche Cayenne Turbo, 404kW/770Nm — R2,158,000

Range Rover SV Autobiography Dynamic supercharged, 416kW/700Nm — R3,584,011



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