If you’ve been watching Mercedes’ AMG division over the last few years, you’ve probably noticed that business over in Affalterbach has exploded - they engineers are working their magic better and further than ever before. In this respect, AMG couldn’t resist the temptation to give the world its updated view on how a G-Class should be like.

The Geländewagen’s traditional shell was kept almost intact, but the bonnet now conceals AMG’s latest twin-turbo V8, while the offroader borrowed quite a lot of convenience and safety tricks from its more modern line-up colleagues. In addition to that, the vehicle is now friendlier to the human beings who inhabit it, with the cabin receiving a strong refresh.

The G55 AMG thus became the G63 AMG. This new model has quite a burden placed on its fenders, as its predecessor was the kind of car many automotive aficionados couldn’t build a dream garage without - the G55 AMG accounted for over 40 percent of G-Class sales.

AMG had first touched the Mercedes mammoth for the 2004 model year, with the G55, having the brilliant idea of gifting the car with a supercharged V8. The unconventional and extremely capable G55 AMG quickly became the vehicle of choice for customers ranging from oil tycoons and VIPs, to the aforementioned connoisseurs.

Speaking of the oil business, we have to explain that this is how the G-Class was born - back in the 70s’, the Shan of Iran, who was an important Mercedes shareholder at the time, saw the potential for the company to create a military vehicle. The project received the green light and Mercedes-Benz joined forces with Magna Steyr in Austria in order to make it happen. The Austrian company, which was called Steyr-Puch at the time, was tasked with handling the production of the G-wagen.

One thing lead to another and 1979 saw the vehicle also being offered to civilians. This joint venture also saw the car being sold as a Peugeot and a Puch, but only Mercedes’ model lived on to become the automotive icon it is today.

Over the years, the Mercedes G-Class was constantly upgraded, receiving training just like a soldier. This Mercedes proved to actually be more of a battalion, as it didn’t just serve one purpose. Apart from normal road use, its reach spread from offroad competitions to becoming a Popemobile and even performing on the aftermarket scene with a ridiculous number of horsepower.

Mercedes was planning to axe the G-Class and replace it with the GL-Class, but the manufacturer faced a strong protest from fans and asked Magna Steyr to keep its production line in Graz running.

We wanted to see how much the added technology and luxury could do for a vehicle that’s essentially over 33 years old, so we recently grabbed the keys to a Mercedes G63 AMG. In order to reach a conclusion, we decided to take the vehicle out in the desert and throw it at a modern city, among others.

The body of the AMG G-Class was the area of the car that received the least changes when the vehicle was revamped in 2012, with only a few details separating it from the previous offering of the brand, the G55 AMG.

The most important new element is the refreshed front apron. This is a feature that has been spied ever since the vehicle was in the development phase and it even tells the story of the revamp.

The bumper now includes three generously-sized air intakes, leaving the truck-like design behind, The mesh grilles used allow one to notice the radiators placed behind them, bringing a technical flavor to the tough appearance of the vehicle.

The new apron doesn’t just offer a trained eye a hint about the upgraded firepower of the vehicle, but also lets you know that the G-Class has received new features - the central air intake includes a large opening that houses the radar for the adaptive cruise control. In addition to that, it holds the front parking sensors, another new feature for the G-Class AMG.

Above the new front apron, we notice Bi-Xenon headlights that now integrate LED daytime running lights in the lower area - a similar design had already been available, but you had to turn to tuners for this.

In between the updated light clusters, we find a fresh twin-blade front grille with four chrome elements that brings the G63 in line with the new AMG family. Our test car was also fitted with a chromed bullbar, an original accessory that is better integrated into the car than before.

The flared wheel arches still dominate the profile of the G-Class AMG. The stainless steel running boards, as well as the double exhaust tips placed underneath have kept their place, but the G63 AMG offers new wheels. The standard car rides on 20x9.5-inch rims finished in Titanium Grey, wrapped in 275/50 R20 rubber.

The G63 AMG we drove was gifted with the optional Matte Black-painted AMG wheels. Regardless of the wheel choice, the design allows you to see the updated brakes, which clearly show that this car means business.

The designers also gifted the G63 AMG with new side mirrors that include turn signals, with a design similar to that of more modern Mercedes-Benz models. The mirror also integrate the visual warnings for the blind spot monitoring received by the SUV.

Once the work for the aforementioned changes for the sides of the G63 AMG was completed, they proudly placed new badges on the fenders. These offer you even more info on the technical revisions received by the car than the aforementioned front bumper: the “V8” is still there, but the “Kompressor” was replaced by “BITURBO” - the king is dead, long live the king!

As far as the rear end of the G63 AMG is concerned, the badges are even more important, as they are the only element that allows us to differentiate the G63 from the G55 AMG.

Lou Cheeka, one of our guest editors, asked us to reserve him some space in this chapter so he can tell us the story of the G-Class’ styling.

Back in the early 70s’ when the original G-Class was created, designers were working with a wooden model. We all know that shaping wood is not all that easy and this may offer a hint of why the styling is so boxy. The vehicle was initially destined for the military sector, so nobody complained anyway.

After the vehicle made it into the civilian side of the market, it followed a similar pathway to that of the Porsche 911 - designers were lazy, but keeping the styling unchanged over multiple decades actually became an asset for the car.

When AMG launched its first car built front the ground up, the SLS AMG supercar, it was hard to imagine that its shifter arrangement would make it into a model found at the other generation end of the AMG range, the G-Class. However, this is exactly what happened and the fact that Affalterbach’s logo now sits nicely embossed in the leather of the G63’s shifter is just one of the multiple changes received by the vehicle’s cabin.

As part of the revamp received by the G-Class range in 2012, all the models receive a reworked dashboard. The changes include a new electrically-adjustable, four-spoke multifunctional steering wheel and sportier instruments, while all the occupants can enjoy a 17.8 cm (7-inch) fixed display placed in the upper middle part of the dash.

The entire center console has been redesigned. Thus, below the aforementioned display, the control clusters are nicely grouped. The ergonomics are the first to benefit from this, with the most important update being the fact that the Comand system can now be operated via a controller placed in front of the armrest.

In addition to that, the reworked center console shaves quite some years off the feel of the G-Class cabin. For example, the aluminum buttons found on the new Mercedes models have found their way into the offroad machine.

Mercedes has wisely kept the traditional items in place, so you’ll still find the three buttons for the locking the differentials where you used to. However, the buttons, which are numbered to show you the order for locking the diffs, now have a sportier aluminum appearance. In addition to that, those accustomed to taking shotgun offroad rides in the G-Class will appreciate that the handle on the dash has kept its position.

The G63 AMG obviously receives a special interior treatment. It all starts with a dedicated instrument cluster, which includes a small TFT display that’s used for the AMG main menu and gear display. There are also white-lit AMG door entry sills, as well as the aforementioned AMG gear selector. Alas, the shifter can be a bit tricky to use if you want to switch from drive to neutral, as you can end up hitting reverse. You will be aware that you’ve done this, so there’s not necessarily a real danger, but it’s still unpleasant.

As for the fit and finish area, the G63 AMG spoils us with a designo leather finish that features diamond-pattern leather on the seats and door panels - this came via the designo Exclusive package. Our test vehicle was also fitted with the optional AMG carbon trim.

The part of the interior that brings the strongest contrast between modern and old elements is the luggage compartment. As you open the large door to access the 481 liters (17 cu. ft.) of the boot, this offers the same plush leather panels as on the other doors, but the rudimentary cover for the compartment reminds you of the G-Class’ utilitarian roots.

The G63 AMG has received a moderate amount of cabin upgrades, but these place the interior at a considerable distance from that of the G55 AMG.

We spent more time driving the Mercedes G63 AMG inside the city than we had initially planed, thanks to the fact the offroader managed to handle the urban areas much better than expected.

The Mercedes G63 AMG proves very maneuverable - using the car to make your way through the complex traffic feels pretty natural. Alas, the 13.6 m (44.6 feet) turning radius is not exactly a joy.

Nevertheless, the SUV offers good front and side visibility. For example, it didn’t even need front parking sensors, as the driving position and the straight shapes of the car allowed the driver to easily judge the maneuvers. However, it has received this feature, with the visual display being placed at the base of the windshield, so you don’t have to move your eyes too far from the obstacles ahead.

Unfortunately, there are some exceptions to the aforementioned maneuverability and visibility. The first is brought by the recirculating ball steering, which is pretty easy to use in the city, but does show a reluctance to return to the neutral point when you’re approaching the full lock position.

As for the visibility, our complain targets the rear one, which comes with a certain blind spot caused by the position of the spare wheel, which is attached to the rear door. You do get a rear view camera, which is placed above the rear window, but this doesn’t entirely solve the problem. Nevertheless, you can’t say that the parking jobs are handled with difficulty.

The vehicle measures 4,681 mm (184.3 in.) in length and this allows you to drive inside the city in a pretty relaxed manner. As for the other two exterior dimensions of the car, these allow it to achieve a surprisingly high wow factor, with the G63 AMG receiving a hefty amount of appreciation from other drivers and pedestrians. Measuring more in height than in width - 1,935 mm (76.2 in.) vs 1,864 mm (73.4 in.), this Mercedes comes with proportions that draw a lot of attention, with the rest of the crowd-pleasing work being done by its unconventionally flamboyant styling.

City driving can include repeated stops that require exiting and entering the car and while the oddly-proportioned doors provide good access, the height of the car requires you to use the side steps and makes the process take longer than normal. As for the luggage compartment, this offers plenty of space and easy access, but you have to pay attention to the height of its floor.

When it comes to the powertrain, this shows excellent flexibility and thus has no problem dealing with city traffic. The 5.5-liter twin-turbo V8, which comes with a start-stop system, is extremely docile if you want it to, but it offers a constant reminder of its capabilities through its exhaust sound.

If you use the Controlled Efficiency mode of the powertrain, the seven-speed gearbox provides smooth shifts at low revs, exactly what you need between the city’s borders.

The mass of the G63 AMG can be felt during swift maneuvers, but the suspension, which is firmer for this model, will make this less noticeable.

The Mercedes G63 AMG is very enthusiastic about being allowed to show you what it can do out on the open road. Each time the radar of its adaptive cruise control system was able to see that the city has been left behind, it felt as if the car showed a huge smile, also putting one on our faces.

Revving the twin-turbo V8 while stationary causes the gargantuan-sized vehicle to rock from one side to another, giving you the impression that you are in muscle car. Dip into the throttle as you take off and the sound, as well as the acceleration, will convince you that you are in a muscle car.

The engine lets you feel each one of its 760 Nm (561 lb-ft) through its exhaust, which can go from a deep burble at idle speed, through surfing on the wide mid-rage torque wave, to a violent metallic sound at the top of the rev range. As for the transmission, this offers a prompt response, which makes up for some of the inertia induced by the car’s weight.

The throttle and gear shift mapping is not quite as aggressive as that used on other AMG models that feature this engine, such as the SL or the E-Class. Things have been dialed down a bit due to the fact that the suspension and AWD system of the G63 AMG would’ve twisted too much during sudden changes in power delivery.

Nevertheless, the engine and gearbox couple seems to laugh in the face of the car’s mass, which can march towards 3 tons (6,600 lbs) in real world driving conditions. The G63 AMG shows phenomenal pulling power, even at higher speeds, when the brick wall-like 0.53 drag coefficient starts to show its presence.

The car is 0.1 seconds quicker to 100 km/h (62 mph) than the G55 AMG, dealing with the job in 5.4 seconds. The top speed is still limited to 210 km/h (130 mph), but you can reach this before you know it.

And, thanks to the aforementioned exhaust repertoire, you really feel all the aforementioned numbers, with the G63 AMG offering a unique driving experience.

The new powertrain also brings efficiency benefits, with Mercedes telling us that the G63 AMG is 13 percent less thirsty than the G55 AMG. During our test drive, the vehicle returned an efficiency of 19 liters per 100 km (12.4 mpg).

When given control over the G63 AMG, you can choose between three driving settings, with each one bringing distinct advantages. “Controlled Efficiency” allows you to enjoy the character of the car in a more relaxed manner. Since you won’t be going all that fast, you can enjoy the exhaust in a different way - the fact that the tips are on the side and not at the rear, reduces the negative effects of realizing that you’re hearing the exhaust, not the engine itself. This is also the only mode in which the Stop-Start system is active.

You can clearly feel the difference when engaging “Sport” mode and gearbox also works well in the “Manual” mode. The latter asset comes thanks to the fact that the transmission shows obedience to the compact-sized paddles placed on the steering wheel.

AMG has also upgraded the brakes and not only do these manage to handle the weight of the car, but they also offer a pleasant modulation and generous travel that you can use both on and off the road.

However, you shouldn’t label this as a go-fast machine, as doing that means that you’ll be disappointed through the bends. The stiffer road connection of the G63 AMG means that the body roll doesn’t reach terrifying limits, but the only thing you can do in this car during a corner is to wait for the road to straighten up again.

The suspension is not the only problem - you’ll also have to work with the recirculating-ball steering. This has gained electric assistance compared to the hydraulic setup of the previous model, but it’s character hasn’t been changed in terms of handling.

The system favors durability over anything else. It needs 3.1 turns from lock to lock and is very shy when it comes to feedback, so you’ll be disconnected from the road.

The electronics step in at the first sign of trouble and you are discouraged to perform any extreme cornering maneuvers. While in most cars an intrusive ESP that can’t actually be turned off would be unpleasant, in the G63 AMG it’s good to know that you’re protected.

As for the Yokohama rubber, this provides sufficient grip, but it’s not the super sticky type - a move that pays off once you leave the asphalt behind. The tires aren’t as bad as you think over rough terrain and the sidewall is generous enough for moderate sessions. Considering this, the 20-inch AMG wheels aren’t an excuse for not taking this Mercedes G63 off the road.

Driving the G63 in offroad conditions provides an experience that will be offered its own county in the landscape inside your mind. We took the vehicle out in the desert and it’s bewildering to hear the deep sound of the V8 as the wheels are throwing the sand in the air past the roof in their quest to provide traction.

If the G-Class’ body and chassis setup brings it drawbacks for almost all the other chapters, here is where this makes the car shine. You’d expect the G63 AMG to feel solid, but the car does more than that: going over obstacles or plowing through them feels as easy as a parking job on the driveway of an owner’s mansion.

In case things get messy, you’ll be able to lock the differentials - you can only engage the three diffs when you’re in low gear, which you can up to 40 km/h (25 km/h). The locking order, which is shown on their buttons, is the following: center, rear and finally front - the latter seriously alters the steering behavior and you have to adapt to this.

When all three are engaged, the same amount of power is sent to each of the wheels. This means that, for example, if a single wheel has sufficient grip, this can pull you out of trouble alone.

When it comes to ground clearance, the G63 AMG, as well as the V12-powered G65 AMG, offer even more than the standard models - 220 mm (8.7 inches) vs. 210 mm (8.3 inches).

As for the ESP, this can’t be completely turned off, but it allows a certain degree of movement freedom. You can perform oversteering maneuvers, but once the back end steps out too much, the car is calmed down. This kills some of the drama the G63 AMG would be capable of delivering, but it’s efficient.

Knowing all these aspects of the vehicle, it’s a pity that the percentage of owners who take the car out in the wild is a small one.

We’ll return to the road in order to tell you that, in the end, the most pleasant face of the Mercedes G63 AMG is probably that of a long-distance cruiser. If you take this AMG for what it is, you can enjoy occasional throttle dips and you’ll be spoiled by the car’s character in the rest of the time.
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autoevolution Feb 2013
In the city
Open road
Tech facts
77user rating 58 votes
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