I put the 2014 Mercedes G 63 AMG through the most extensive evaluation Truck Yeah! has done yet. It went to the city. It went to the country. It went off-road, it hauled ass, it had sex with a semi-truck, and drag raced an ULTRA4 buggy. And I pretty much hate it.
(Disclosure: I begged Mercedes-Benz to lend me a Geländewagen, because it's undeniably a benchmark 4x4 and I wanted to know more about it. They obliged, let me pick it up early so I could make a photo shoot in Vermont, and even told me not to worry when I discovered somebody'd dented the hood while the SUV was parked. Mercedes is pretty cool, but I'm gonna need a bigger bribe to laud this flying breadbox.)
What the hell does Geländewagen mean anyway, and why doesn't Mercedes stick awesome names like that on their tailgate instead fervently clinging to the boring letter-and-numbers routine?
Well the name means "over ze river und through ze woods" according to my oma. As for why it gets cut to "G-Class" in the Benz catalogue, probably the same reason oma throws a tantrum when I leave beer cans in her pool. ("Ve be keep ze place neat!")
Whatever, gam gam [Burns rubber on driveway].
My colleague Travis drove pretty much the same rig in 2013, and made some of the same observations I'm about to ("tacked on" luxury, "tank-like experience") but he somehow managed to get a "smooth and comfortable" sensation from the ride, which eluded me after over 1,000 miles at the wheel.
The Mercedes G-Class, exactly as you know it today, has been around forever. As we articulated last year; "If you look at a 1979 model and a 2013 from a (small) distance, you won't be able to tell the difference. It's been the same car for the last 34 years."
That's still true, and pretty much the only thing about the G-Wagen I like. Also, I suspect, the root of my unbridled loathing toward this thing.
To explain; I love old trucks. Their angular and primitive looks, their clunky exhaust notes reassuring you they could cough out a critical engine component at any moment, the nods and waves you get from adoring passers-by.
But this isn't an old truck, not really. It's a heinous perversion of an old truck. It's the "old truck" Chip Foose would design if he were kidnapped and tied up in a basement, only to be released by The Real Housewives Of McMansionville, Florida if he drew up their dream ride.
A cool off-roady brick was a great starting point. The side-exit exhaust doesn't to anything good for ground clearance, but it looks kinda cool. Then bodykit makes the G 63 look like something a high schooler inherited from a parent and then "upgraded" via plastic tack-on fins from AutoZone.
Come on, I can't be the only one who made a cardboard air splitter for my cousins twice-retired Dodge Caravan.
The G's chrome brush guard is quite literally decorative armor that happily advertises its uselessness in exchange for gleaming in the sun. Peek around the back of it and you can see how it's clamped together, put your fists on it and shake and you realize it wouldn't stand up to a good kick from a goat, let alone ramming a police blockade (which it sure looks like it's meant to do).
Did you like the way that 190E you drove in high school looked inside? You'll love the G-Wagen. The interior is as boxy and primitive as the outside, which makes sense. The infotainment system as an "iPad glued to the dash" does not. Seriously Mercedes, you couldn't have made that retractable at least?
The doors close with the sinister woosh – snick of a guillotine coming down on the neck of a heretic at dawn. But everything else rattles like an old Jeep. Pulling the door in from the driver's seat I noticed the interior panel shook freely, like it was missing a few screws to the door. Oh yeah, this was before I ran the truck through that toll booth gate.
Audio, Infotainment, Gadgets
The Harmon/Kardon stereo is pretty bangin', I've already complained about the awkward screen placement, and scrolling through the Mercedes COMAND software is like fumbling around your creepy neighbor's yard at night to retrieve a baseball... just when you're about to get what you want done some shit comes up and you're all bollocks'd up.
A little screen between the main gauges can be set to display mileage, gear, water temperature, and so fourth... but not a tilt and inclinometer [Hmph!].
And I never thought this would warrant attention in a car review; but the horn is unbelievably loud. I know because it insists on announcing itself when you go to lock the G from the remote.
Ah, the 5.5 biturbo (that means "two," "63" in the name means nothing) AMG V8. Yeah, it produces black hole-spawning energy that can overcome the very worst of aerodynamics to make a vehicle fast in a straight line. Even more impressive, it's actually not that bad on fuel considering its output. I turned out just shy of 15 MPG with a solid mix of highway cruising, NYC traffic, off-roading, and pedal stomping. My 90's Land Rover used to do, like, 12 on gentle highway drives.
Before you get tired of roar the exhaust (it does happen), the combination of that eight-cylinder twin-turbo melody combined with gut-sucking acceleration is quite satisfying and a little addictive. The G even had a neat little party trick where it could literally blow the sunglasses off my passenger's head while they were resting on top of her scalp. She loved that, over and over again (no she didn't). Luckily Mercedes made it up to her by having a little purse-holder net below the glove box. The perfect accessory to your tarted-up war machine.
Gearbox & Transfer Case
The AMG version of the G gets paddle shifters for the 7-speed automatic, which the gear box obeys with acceptable haste. Yes, it will let you rev and rev without upshifting for you if you want to blow your own car up.
Low range comes on at the click of a button in reasonable time as well. Electronically locking differentials work as intended; giving you great traction by forcing the tires to roll at the same speed. They're activated from a row of big, beautiful chrome buttons on the dash. Not real chrome of course, just some crappy plastic. But I thought they were pretty impressive until I touched them. Since most buyers never will... it works.
The brakes might be the prettiest thing to behold on the G 63. They're massive and thank goodness, because you're going to have to reel this thing way in every time you go to take a turn, even if you're going the speed limit. Which this rig doesn't really know how to do.
Ride & Handling
It's miserable, and I do not understand how anyone who's driven this could come to any other conclusion. It's bouncy, it's noisy, it's not a nice place to be.
Since you're perched on the seats like you're driving a damn stagecoach, every corner feels even more precarious than you'd think it would in a high-riding SUV designed in the days of the dinosaur. Mercedes knows this; that's why there are two giant stickers on the sun visors that read "DO NOT USE EXCESSIVE SPEED OR MAKE ABRUPT MOVEMENTS," like you're about to walk into a velociraptor cage.
Don't drive or take corners fast? So the Yokohama Advan street performance tires are... a joke? Yes, yes they are. A joke I find about as funny as a Patriots fan would watching Tom Brady take the field in flip-flops.
Hauling, Towing, Cargo Management
I've never seen a G-Wagen tow anything, but we're not allowed to buy the dressed-down "work truck" variants in the US. Anyway, Mercedes says the truck's good for 7,000 pounds which I believe it could pull or stop easily.
Inside, cargo room is ample (and so wonderfully square!) but be very careful loading your cornhole set in there because the interior panels and suede roof are fragile as hell.
Off-Road & Maneuverability
Finding my favorite off-road course in Vermont had been finally barricaded, I had to settle for some Class IV (unmaintained) roads and cow tracks where the truck did just fine.
In some wet, deep-grass savannaland with a few sneaky mud pits it plodded its way along fine in low range, never necessitating the use of the lockers. But there were a few moments of wheelspin, thanks to those street-sport tires this truck is frustratingly fitted with.
To test climbing, we made the G mount a loading ramp I would have estimated was at about 40º. No issues with entry or departure angle, but the low-hanging exhaust killed the breakover. Onlookers were sure "it'd scrape right over" but I wasn't willing to cause what I estimated would be thousands of dollars in new piping if we didn't make it.
Mercedes is somehow getting people to part with $130,000 for an experience that I'd liken to an old Jeep with a 454 V8 greased-and-rammed into the engine bay. Oh, hell yeah it rips if you jump on the throttle. But it can't corner safely, it's not comfortable, and just about everyone is laughing at you or giving you the finger when you roll by.
The G 63 does one thing really, really well; tells the world you're fuckin' rich and superior to everyone in earshot of its four side-exiting exhaust tips.
Yeah, nobody is happy to see a G 63 AMG. Peace-loving country folk shake their heads in disappointment, city traffic honks mercilessly and figures you've paid for your vehicle by stepping on the backs of the working man. And if you roll through the G AMG's natural habitat, Manhattan, you can't satisfy your attention-whoring efforts because even with every chrome accessory from the Benz store you're still never the biggest, shiniest thing around.
I still believe a diesel, cloth-interior'ed Mercedes-Benz G-Class seems like a great idea. A highly capable and proven off-roader wearing a classic design, what's not to like?
Forcing that humble, hard working farm tool to wear makeup and strut around with a 500 horsepower stick up its ass is just cruel. That said, I guess can't really blame Mercedes for giving the people what they want. And somehow, some way, rich people want this flying turd. As long as they're buying 'em, Benz is going to keep laughing all the way to the bank.
Images: Andrew P. Collins