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Garage Review: Mercedes-AMG G 63 (2019) is ridiculous retro

Imagine if you could power your Atari retro gaming console with the latest PlayStation 4 computing power. Would make playing Space Invaders quite a bit more manic and entertaining, wouldn’t it?

That is, in automotive terms, what Mercedes-Benz has been doing for nearly two decades, with its AMG-powered Geländenwagens. Outrageously charming performance SUVs, which proudly stand in contrast to all the superior judgement and cold logic we’ve come to expect from German automotive engineers.

The G 63 AMGs have always been comically dangerous to drive, with an ageing design completely overwhelmed by the abundant supply of V8 power. Problem is, people love the two-box styling and military build quality of these Geländenwagens, and the AMG versions are especially popular. So much so, that Mercedes-Benz had no issue spending R&D funds on a thorough modernisation of the G 63.

Anchoring the new G 63’s engineering upgrades are independent front-suspension and steering geometry which features a proper rack rather than the recirculating ball so it responds in milliseconds, instead of full seconds. With AMG’s latest 430kW 4.0-litre bi-turbo V8 providing the side-exit exhaust acoustics, you’ll be immensely grateful for improvements in overall front-end suspension balance and directional stability with this latest Affalterbach fettled Geländenwagen.

It’s an alarmingly fast vehicle in metric terms: 0-100kph in 4.5 seconds and perhaps even more impressive, once all that 2560kg of inertia becomes an avalanche, is the roll-on acceleration through the gears. With nine-speeds and 850Nm, G 63 AMG overtakes a convoy of coal burdened Eskom transport trucks with a huge margin of safety.

But does it still charm? It most definitely does. The pseudo 1970s styling and disparaging aerodynamic principles mean it does become a touch loud around 200kph and cruising fuel consumption is crushingly heavy, but the latest AMG Geländenwagen shames most supercars for presence. Top speed might be only 220kph, but it gets there in the time you take to sneeze, and someone else blesses you…

Then there’s the build quality. Reminding you of its purpose as a military vehicle, despite the AMG autobahn dragster drivetrain, are G 63’s three locking differentials. Crawl underneath and you’ll notice a massively overstructured ladder frame and suspension components that look like they belong on an armoured truck, instead of a passenger vehicle. Handbuilt, to last a lifetime, there’s a unique quality to these Geländenwagens.

AMG’s done brilliantly to make G 63 less anxiety inducing to helm around into sweeping high-speed curves, without completely sanitising the experience. High-performance SUVs are ridiculous but none more so than a G 63, which also – ironically – is one of the few which has low-range gearing and a trio of differential locks.

In the realm of supercar baiting SUVs, which could crawl up an impossibly steep shale incline, G 63 AMG is truly the first amongst equals. Lance Branquinho

Specifications

  • R2 890 000
  • 3982cc, 8cyl turbo petrol 4WD, 430kW, 850Nm
  • 13.2l/100km, 299g/km CO2
  • 0-100kph in 4.5secs, 220kph
  • 2560kg
  • Tester’s notes: Top speed not that impressive. How it gets there, though, is another issue altogether…
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