AMG has dropped its new bi-turbo V8 into the boxy old G-class to transform the G55 into the even more powerful G63 AMG. It’s certainly rapid, but don’t cancel that Cayenne Turbo order just yet
More power for the 2012 Mercedes G63 AMG... I’m pretty sure that probably wouldn’t be high on the to-do list of anybody who’s ever driven the G55!
Since when has that stopped the team at AMG? The hottest version of the now 33-year-old G wagon was until recently still making do with the old supercharged ‘55’ V8. Skipping the 6.2-litre naturally aspirated engine altogether, it now hides the latest twin-turbo V8 as fitted to the new SL63 sports car.
Power is up from 500bhp to 537bhp, and torque from 516lb ft to 561lb ft, all the way through from 2000-5000rpm. Breathing through its twin side pipes, it sounds unbelievably naughty and the torque reaction is so strong when you blip the throttle at a standstill that the whole car rocks from side to side.
Zero to 62mph takes 5.4sec, a tenth quicker than before, but the top speed is once again limited to 130mph, though to be honest, its aircraft hanger aerodynamics (how many other cars on sale have a flat screen?) slow the rate of go noticeably by 100mph. That said, there’s plenty of performance here to humiliate most cars on the autobahn.
But if you’d rather sub ‘all’ for ‘most’, there’s always the G65 AMG. At around £214k, this 604bhp V12-powered mentalist is the most expensive car AMG makes, and almost double the price of the G63. The 0-62mph time is only 0.1sec quicker, though the (still-limited) top speed is up to 143mph, and the fact that its tooled up with 734lb ft of torque suggests it might be reasonably handy when it comes to overtaking.
And how does the Mercedes G63 AMG handle?
You’re implying that it does, a conclusion probably best not jumped to. The G-class is an army truck, a farm vehicle, an old-school off-roader in the mould of the Defender with a separate chassis and live axles. There’s only so much AMG can do, especially when a corporate edict requires it retain its off-road ability.
The steering is slower than a tortoise with a club foot and delivers only a modicum of information about the woeful lack of grip the chunky Yokohama tyres generate. You can’t switch off the ESP, and that’s a good thing – it will keep you out of the scenery at least half a dozen times on even a modestly brisk drive.
At least if you do end up in the shrubbery, the G-class can haul itself out again, thanks to those tyres and its three differential locks and low ratio. Unlike most performance SUVs, this is one that genuinely can do the off-road thing.
Anything else worth knowing?
The interior is massively improved, and now features a modern Mercedes dashboard and Comand multimedia interface. The safety kit has improved too. The old car’s electronic architecture was based on the long-since-replaced C-class, but updating it allows fitment of gadgets like adaptive cruise control, blind spot assistance and voice control for the sat nav. The G65 gets some swanky leather upholstery from Merc’s Designo range, an option on the G63.
From the outside you’ll recognise the G63 by its 20in rims, LED daytime running lights, double-louvre AMG grille and new bumpers, which feature huge air intakes.
Judged by any sort of rational criteria, the G63 AMG must rank as one of the worst performance cars we’ve ever driven. Imagine a Land Lover Defender with the cabin and drivetrain from an XJ Supersport, and you’ve just described the UK equivalent.
However, we don’t live in a rational world and we can’t help feeling grateful that cars like this exist, and that sensible companies like Mercedes are prepared to make them. Though dynamically flawed, the G63 is entertaining and full of character, that stuff that utterly rubbish cars tend to do well at. Buy one as an über-cool luxury cruiser, and you’ll cry with laughter on those odd occasions when you open the taps. It’s huge fun in its own way, but whatever you do, don’t mistake it for a serious performance car.