Test drive review: The ridiculously quick Mercedes-AMG G63
Mercedes-Benz has launched its tenth product for this year in India in the form of the all-new Mercedes-AMG G63 and it is the only G you can buy in India right now. The SUV has been around since 1979 and has not changed much over the years. But this time, the Mercedes-AMG G63 is all-new. The SUV makes close to 600bhp, is frighteningly quick and insanely expensive at Rs 2.19 crore, ex-showroom. At one point in time the G63 was also the best selling AMG in India. But now with the proliferation of fast SUVs like the Porsche Cayenne Turbo, Range Rover Sport SVR, BMW X5 M and its own in-house rivals like the GLS 63 AMG, not to mention super-SUVs like the Lamborghini Urus and Bentley Bentayga will the Mercedes-AMG G63 still draw footfalls into AMG Performance Centres in India?
“What it has become is an off-road icon and a certified status symbol from New York to New Delhi”
The Mercedes-AMG G63 has become larger and more civilised
With this AMG model, it all begins with the same list of changes applied to the standard G (unavailable in India) for the 2019 model year. Visually, the Mercedes-AMG G63 pops thanks to those huge wheels, a uniquely G-Wagen grille, a fascia with enlarged air inlets, flared fenders, red brake calipers with drilled rotors, abundant AMG and V8 badges, and exposed side-exit exhaust tips.
The new Mercedes-AMG G63 has been comprehensively re-engineered – only the door handles, the spare wheel cover, and few other bits are shared with its predecessor – but it still looks very much the same. The edges are a bit softer now and the pillars are a bit thicker, but all of the important G cues are there: the cool bits of trim strips around the body, a spare wheel hanging off a massive side-hinged rear portal, square-cut doors (now with rounded edges) but still with exposed hinges, a clamshell hood and marker lights on top of the fenders. Without seeing the old and new side-by-side, most people will be hard pressed to identify many differences. The most important mechanical parameters remain: it’s still a ladder frame and it still has three locking differentials. Despite being significantly larger than before, it now weighs up to 65kg less than before, thanks to a body made from a mix of high-strength steels and aluminium panels.
0 to 100kmph in just 4.5 seconds!
On the new Mercedes-AMG G63 the most important change is the adoption of a twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 engine. Like other applications of that mill in AMG cars, it’s hand-built in Germany. With 577bhp and massive 850Nm, it beats the outgoing G63’s bi-turbo 5.5 litre engine by 14bhp. Add in the fact that the new G63 has gone on a big diet plus the faster nine-speed automatic (versus its predecessor’s seven-speed unit) and the sprint to 100 improves by almost a second, now down to just 4.5 seconds. With a top speed that’s limited to 220 kmph, which it gets to very fast!
“How can so much mass sprint so quickly and so easily? That’s the magic of the AMG versions of the Geländewagen”
Of course the new Mercedes-AMG G63 is more powerful, quicker, faster, but most importantly it is better to drive than ever before. Mercedes and AMG have made some significant changes to improve the ride and handling package on the G-Wagen while developing the SUV, which show once you’re on the road in the real world.
The engine, body and chassis now work together
Immediately noticeable on the road is how much less nervous you feel when using all that power. Now the engine, body and chassis all feel like they work together as one harmonious unit. Much of that comes from improved stiffness, with G-Class rigidity up by 55 per cent. The body shell is steel, while the fenders, doors, and hood are aluminum. A laser-welded roof panel and an underhood brace connecting the top of the damper mounts help increase torsional rigidity. More importantly there is the new independent front suspension and rack-and-pinion steering, which are better able to cope with driving fast. The front and rear differentials are a now further apart and the front one resides in an independently suspended front axle, which is the primary reason for the G’s dramatically improved ride quality. Without a big log axle crashing around up front, the new G rides far more like a modern vehicle, soaking up bumps without making occupants feel like they’re doing the off-roading they almost certainly will never do. The new suspension setup was developed in partnership with AMG, which shows from the time you hit the road.
“Gone is the squirminess and vagueness of before; it now feels like engine and vehicle work together rather than battling for dominance”
Better on road behaviour
On twisty roads is where I really sense that the Mercedes-AMG G63 has evolved. Dial up Sport + to stiffen the dampers and the new front end bits really do help pull this beast through bends with more commitment. Gone is the squirminess and vagueness of before; it now feels like engine and vehicle work together rather than battling for dominance. It does still roll around of course, but everything now feels a lot more under control. The AMG also gets front and rear anti-roll bars that make a game attempt at reducing body roll. Switching the dynamic dampers into firmer settings gets you more cornering ability, but you’re always aware of the G’s towering height and its off-road mission. Because the steering rack has a variable-ratio system, the G63 enjoys lots of easy maneuverability without too much lock-to-lock effort especially at low speeds, while also experiencing plenty of straight line stability on the highway. The four-wheel-drive system now sends 60 percent of the engine’s torque to the rear wheels versus the old model’s 50:50 split, which helps liven up the handling. Stopping the big AMG is easy, too, with a very progressive pedal and the massive brakes do a fantastic job of stopping this mammoth.
The focus on going fast on pavement has not diminished off-road performance. The Mercedes-AMG G63 will still out-perform most of its super-SUV rivals when the going gets tough, equipped as it is with three lockable differentials and ridiculous amount of ground clearance. The G63 has different off-roading tech to help: There’s a Slippery mode in the Dynamic Select options, and then when you lock one of the differentials, you can then further select Sand, Rock, or Trail modes to further customise all the electronics (damping, throttle response, transmission, steering) depending on the type of terrain you are about to tackle. You also benefit from an electrically selectable low-range, tilt and inclination sensors, 360 degree cameras and a water sensor that closes the lower engine air intakes when you go splashing through puddles.
A modernised G-Wagen
Your Mercedes-AMG G63 can make short work of any terrain you throw at it, while you enjoy the comfort of the now significantly upgraded cabin. To start with, there’s more leg and elbow room in both rows, a more modern dash design and more tech, including 12.3-inch displays for the instrument cluster (from the new generation Mercedes-Benz E-Class) along with the Comand infotainment system. You wrap your fingertips around a flat-bottom wheel that feels just as satisfying and sporty as the ones in other Mercedes-AMG cars, cosseted in remarkably supportive sports seats. Carbon-fiber trim adorns everything, while options like contrast-colored stitching and Alcantara further dress up the cabin. Also on offer are red accents on the wing mirrors that go with the 22-inch black wheels, plus red-contrast stitching on the seats.
The Mercedes-AMG G63 is better to drive quickly on winding roads and no matter how you drive, the improved interior and furnishings make it a more appealing overall package. However, it’s still tough to recommend buying the G63 purely as an on-road performance machine; for less money, there are many quicker and more refined options out there that also deliver a more well-rounded luxury experience. But as a way of making a statement, as a way of flaunting your get-out-of-my-way presence, and for the peace of mind that you could, if necessary, scale nearby mountains, the new Mercedes-AMG G63 remains one-of-a-kind in the absolute best way.