- About Us
Words: Ouseph Chacko
Photography: Gaurav S Thombre
A brooding, low slung, ground-bound missile, all slack-jawed and sinuous muscle and a happily honest, fluorescent green brick. One is a clinical German and the other, well, someone clearly had one too many. One is trying to find that perfect balance between a sportscar and a limousine and the other, the centreline between a sportscar and a bus. Both will cost you a kidney and an oil rig, both share the same atomic bomb of an engine and
both are absolutely bonkers when you give them the stick. Yet, they couldn’t possibly be any more different.
Meet the unusual suspects – the AMG’s that aren’t focused on Nurburgring lap times and butchered rear tyres. So, what exactly are these two about?
Parked in the lobby of the Radisson Blu at Dwarka, someone’s poor Range Rover Sport is getting totally outshone by the bright green vortex around the G63 and even the incredibly beautiful shape of the S63 AMG Coupe is lost in the Hoover dam of AMG’s Jeep. The unkind call it a blinged-up Sumo but most are completely sucked in by its charms. A chap in the lobby asks me if I got it painted in this colour and then tells me I have great taste. I don’t know if he’s joking but I do know I’m mesmerised by it. Some cars have this happy aura. You know you’re in for a fun time and that’s exactly what the G63 AMG ‘Crazy Colour’ Edition (yes, that’s the name!) exudes.
Crazy colour or not, the G-Wagen is an old car. Developed for warfare at the suggestion of the Shah of Iran (who was a big shareholder of Mercedes-Benz at that time), civilian versions first appeared in 1979. It’s been updated at least a million times since, with better engines, more equipment and even LED running lamps – but, despite all that, the G-Wagen always stuck to its hardcore ladder frame spine. It is also the longest produced Merc in the world barring the Unimog, so no matter how much carbonfibre AMG slaps on, it’s simple, Lego-block shape and boxy interiors betray its age.
Perched on the first floor, the interiors are a mix of 1970’s and the 2000’s. You don’t see absolutely flat window panes and windscreens like these anymore, the dashboard is so slim, and you definitely don’t get this sort of build quality nowadays. If you remember the crisp clack that the W124 E-class’s doors made when you pulled them shut, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Yes, AMG has towed the interiors of the G63 into this century by screwing in sports seats with adjustable bolsters, while a sculpted steering wheel and a bucketful of carbonfibre on the centre console, tells you this G-Wagen has different priorities from attacking neighbouring countries. But it’s definitely old school and so very cool because it is.
Twist the key and the clown wakes up with a big explosion from its side exit pipes. The whole body does a muscle car shiver when you blip the throttle and in traffic it burbles and grumbles and always tugs at its leash. At traffic lights, the engine’s stop-start system shuts it off to – get this – save fuel! Have you ever heard of anything more comical than a twin-turbo V8 trying to save fuel?
But, driving the G63 in traffic is easy. Placing its right angles in tight spaces is child’s play and its slim pillars give you a panoramic view of scurrying rickshaws and dumbstruck pedestrians. Yup, driving the G63 is special. The 5.5-litre, bi-turbo V8 makes a mere 536bhp and torque is a piddling 760Nm and when you find your first piece of open tarmac, it’ll crack you up. Stomping on the throttle results in apocalyptic noises from the exhaust, the rear squats ever so slightly and you’ll get to 100kmph in 5.4 seconds. It’ll then violently fight its way through air, all the way up to an electronically limited 210kmph. Oh, and from the first floor, 200kmph feels like 2000. It could, apparently, be even faster if it wasn’t for the driveline. Merc engineers admit that the G63’s 7G-Tronic gearbox doesn’t slam in gearshifts as quickly as other AMG’s because so much torque and full bore gearshifts make the live axles flex!
In a straight line it is utterly stable, but you do have to make corrections to the slow, off-road biased steering to keep its bluff nose running where you want to go. Also, going fast in the G63 is very different from going fast in a GL 63 or an ML63 AMG. Those are more car-like to drive, while the G doesn’t let you forget you’re in something that is adapted to, and not originally designed to go north of 200kmph.
Its off-road roots dictate what happens when you get to a turn. The ladder frame chassis and live axles co-author the G63’s dynamic rule book and if you turn in too enthusiastically, the ESP has a heart attack and cuts in aggressively despite the four-wheel drive system and the ‘tie-the-building-down’ suspension. So, it isn’t fun to drive in the traditional sense of great steering feel and tight body control, its fun to drive because you don’t expect something so obviously utilitarian to be so fleetfooted and make muscle car sounds while doing it.
Is it off-roadable? Great ground clearance, three differential locks and a low ratio transfer case tell you that it has the requisite hardware and then you notice it’s shod with performance tyres the size of hot air balloons. So, it will probably go quite far off-road with a lot of wheel spin and trumpeting from its pipes but honestly, you’ll have to be as loony as its colour to actually take it off-road.
So, the G63 AMG is a confused off-roader and a confused sportscar and the suspension is always bumpy. Why then, is it so appealing?
I love it because it is so non-conformist and so confidently anti-social. It’s brash, it’s loud and it kicks rational thinking to the ground and takes a dump all over it. In a world full of carefully thought out, platform-shared, market research driven, value for money, four-wheel generics, the G63 AMG is the proverbial middle finger. The violent green just makes sure you get the message.
Kick back, relax and enjoy the flight because the S63 AMG Coupe feels like the San Francisco Symphony orchestra after the G63’s Metallica; like a Vipasana centre after a crowded local train. It is everything the G63 AMG isn’t. It is low, it is rear-wheel drive, it is cultured and its svelte shape makes the air it’s slipping through work for it. But what exactly is it?
AMG says it is the replacement for the CL63 and it’ll rival the likes of fat cats like the Bentley Continental GT and the Rolls Royce Phantom Coupe. While it isn’t as big as those cars, the S63 Coupe is no pushover – it is 241mm shorter than a long-wheelbase S-Class saloon and yet is still over sixteen feet long! It is all the more beautiful for it though – the impossibly long hood starts with 94 Swarowski crystals embedded in the headlamps and flows through a slippery shape all the way to its unique tail lamps. Its seductive shape is a huge part of the S63 Coupe’s appeal but sometimes, especially from the front, it looks a lot like a broad CLA 45 AMG.
Open the pillar-less door and slide down into its superbly comfortable armchairs; you’ll be looking at a dashboard very similar to what you get in the new S-Class and that means faultless quality, worth every bit of the Rs 2.6 crore Merc is asking for it. Activate the massage seats, revel in the tactility of the climate control switches as you set desired temperature and get a feel of the sculpted three-spoke AMG steering wheel. The S63 Coupe has a lot more equipment than the full-size Indian S-Class. There’s a glass roof that turns opaque at the touch of a button, there’s active parking assist and it even has Merc’s Magic Body Control (that scans the road ahead and tells the suspension what to do) as standard.
I’ll leave the superb Burmester audio off for now because I want to hear the engine. The 5.5-litre V8 under the hood is similar in specification to the G63’s but its character is vastly different – it’s a gentleman to the G’s brat. There’s no garrulousness, no torque rock, just a distant ‘braap’ on startup and a quiet, soothing idle.
Because the engine is in a more suitable car, AMG has allowed it to make more power – 576bhp and a stonking 900Nm of torque that helps the S63 Coupe get to 100kmph in 4.2 seconds. I’m not going to use all of it right now, so I feed in some of that long travel throttle and it glides off the line with surprising vigour. Merc says all the weight-saving measures from the sedan – its aluminum body and front structure – are carried over to the coupe and this, along with that torque and a quick shifting seven-speed MCT gearbox are why this two-tonne car has a nice spring in its step. And, like the full size S-Class, the coupe is excellent at masking speed. You always find yourself travelling much faster than your innocent license intended you to and what’s astonishing is the sheer effortlessness of it all.
It would be a great intercontinental car if it wasn’t for the way the AMG Sports suspension with Magic Body Control deals with our roads. Even set in ‘Comfort’, it feels a bit lumpy and isn’t S-class like. I suppose the suspension has to be like this to keep this car tied down and make it feel like an AMG. Still, I can’t shake the feeling that Mercedes engineering has met its match in Noida’s PWD. This car also doesn’t like sharp edges and the S-Class sedan definitely rides better.
For a car this size it handles superbly. The wheelbase is shorter than the S-Class sedan and this makes it all the more agile. Sure, it’s not as agile as a Panamera but its brake-based torque vectoring helps get its seductive shape around corners incredibly well. The air suspension does a fantastic job of minimising squat, dive and roll and when you turn the ESP off and give it a bootful of throttle, the rear swings out gracefully. It’s so stable and comfortable letting its tail out that you can ride out the slide on full power, using the wonderfully fluid steering to aim the nose in the right direction. But honestly, it isn’t a sideways kind of car and though it’s comfortable doing it, it looks inelegant. It’s like asking your grandfather to do the moonwalk.
No, the S63 AMG coupe is at its best when you take advantage of its utter effortlessness and indulge in its sumptuousness. It’s more spacious than a 911, quicker than the Continental GT and cheaper than most of its rivals from Aston Martin and Bentley. So, as strange as it is to call an AMG a bargain, it’s exactly what the S63 Coupe ends up being – an elegant bargain.