My mom — a retired first-grade teacher born, raised and still living in suburban West Michigan — loves her Ford Focus SEL. But now she wants a balls-out, body-on-frame military truck that looks like it was designed by a steroidal architect locked in a room with a block of granite, a hammer and chisel, an eight ball of coke and a lot of chrome. So, to paraphrase: like son, like mother.
Mom and Dad came to NYC for a long weekend. To some thirtysomethings this would seem like a huge burden. But, because I (a) love spending time with my folks and (b) make questionable decisions, instead it was an opportunity to very politely ask Mercedes-Benz to loan me their $150,000, 563-horsepower, 6.5-foot-tall, 5.5-seconds-to-60 bank vault on 20-inch wheels. Far as I know, my mom had never ridden shotgun in a Teutonic luxury truck dressed in hell-beast’s clothing.
And since I had never driven one, and it’s Mother’s Day season, it was the perfect opportunity to enlist my mom to help with this review. Here’s everything she said, with some additional notes from her know-it-all son.
“When you beeped the horn and I saw [the G63] for the first time I said, ‘Oh my god, holy shit, look at that!’ I couldn’t believe it. I was expecting a car, not a tank. I didn’t know what to think of it. Just that I didn’t expect this. I love it!”
Actually, I didn’t honk. When my parents stepped out of the coffee shop where we were meeting I simply revved the 5.5-liter V8 to get their attention. The G63’s twin-turbo V8 utilizes side-exit exhausts, which is psychotic, and, along with nearly shattering an entire block’s worth of windows, brought a huge grin to mom’s face.
The G63 is so, so fun to drive — that is, once you grow accustomed to not being able to turn the tall, heavy behemoth at more than, say, 12 mph. The truck’s track is relatively narrow for its height, producing a decidedly top-heavy feel from behind the wheel. So instead of carving corners, I took Mom (and Dad — but today is about Mom) on a nice, leisurely drive through the Hudson River Valley on a rainy Sunday afternoon, unashamedly scaring all wildlife within a 40-mile radius back into hibernation.
“It’s beautiful. It’s comfortable. There’s so many gadgets. If I was able to have a car like this it would make sense to drive it anywhere, [but] I can’t imagine driving one of these to work every day. Tell everybody to get out of my way — I’d pull into the school parking lot and impress everyone! (Laughs)”
In constant passenger-vehicle production since 1979, the Geländewagen (essentially German for “off-road vehicle”) has gone mostly unchanged. It features three (!) electronically locking differentials — quite the rarity — and exceptional levels of luxury. But it definitely maintains its truck-ness. The AMG version, with its twin-turbo V8, has a gnashing, ridiculous, fantastic presence. So would Mom buy one?
“If I had the money? Sure! Because I like it. A lot. I think for someone who could afford this, I don’t know why they wouldn’t consider it. It’s a little hard to navigate in tight traffic, so it probably wouldn’t be the best car for New York City.”
Our G63’s matte paint and off-white leather with matching trim was so ostentatious, so flashy, that it would have fit in on the set of a music video, or parked at a Shah’s weekend palace. Instead we drove it to a refined dinner at Harvest on Hudson, an excellent restaurant overlooking the river, where we parked comfortably among other high-dollar metal. But boy did we stand out.
“I think it looks awesome. I love the colors of it. It looks big and powerful and yet sleek, and it looks important. For me it’s pretty easy [getting into and out of it] because I’m tall. I think a short person would not have such an easy time. The front is really comfortable. I love the lumbar support, the heated seats, the legroom. Going over the bumps and such, the suspension is really good.”
“I said, ‘Oh my god, holy shit, look at that!’ I couldn’t believe it. I was expecting a car, not a tank.
Actually, from the jaded auto journalist’s perspective, the suspension is near board-stiff. But it should be. Though the G63 can feel supple while cruising, it’s essentially a 35-year-old truck with thick sheet metal, body-on-frame construction and doors that close like Fort Knox. Still, there’s an air of dignity and comfort that seeps into the cabin. It rides harshly, yet somehow it’s so cushy. And sweet mercy, is it fast — I floored the long, skinny pedal often —
“I LOVE that. I would never do that, but I love the power it sounds like it’s making. I think it’s fun. It sounds…it sounds mean.”
I love it too. I love how crazy this thing is. I love that Mercedes still finds a reason to sell it. I love the chrome brush guard. I love being so… elevated — and so did Mom.
“I like being able to see out a lot better [than a small car]. The view is a lot bigger and…it’s just bigger all around.”
I’d say that there’s no such thing as a completely perfect, totally practical city vehicle. By that logic, this wholly impractical, savage-but-docile beast, which did the job splendidly, might be my choice. It insists on being at home in any setting by way of pure brute force. In tight Brooklyn and Manhattan streets, its off-roading proximity alerts were a godsend, keeping our matte-black craziness mere inches from bikes and trucks and curbs. Like Mom says, it’s a little weird getting through tight spaces.
“You’re such a good driver, Nick.”
Thanks. You’re such a good mom.