Parked at the Hemlock Trail trailhead in Saratoga Springs, a small layer of snow on the ground, I dismounted the orange G63. Gravel trails befit this tank, but today it stopped well short of a Camel Trophy expedition. Moments later, a Land Rover LR4
pulled up in the parking lot, and a jolly man and his dog hopped out. We exchanged pleasantries, he asked about the distinctive color (“I’ve never seen it in orange!”), and we laughed about having never maximized the potential off-road abilities of our luxury overlanding vehicles. Ha! Consider it! At this price tag? Never!
Mercedes-Benz AMG G63 Specs
handcrafted AMG 5.5L V8 biturbo
AMG Speedshift Plus 7G-Tronic
563 @ 5,500 rpm
561 lb-ft @ 1,750-5,250 rpm
And such is the good life. The G-Wagon — essentially unchanged in design since the ’70s — is a vestige of practical times past and an homage to excess. It’s a truck with three locking differentials and designo leather seats and a sound system that quite literally pumps enough decibels to get too loud (protect your ears). It drives like a tank, yet dutifully relays every road undulation and imperfection to the driver like a sportscar. And its biturbo V8 guzzles gas with the best of the One Percent (I averaged 12.3 mpg on my 650 miles driven). But o’ how those dual-side exhausts sing! And o’ how that square, boxed off look is cool! And o’ the off-roading potential! I could drive it to Baja! Peru! Over the Andes! Through the Amazon! Valet at Bar Marmont!
Reality check: with a person of any significant height in the front seat, the back seat does not exist (it’s best to think of the truck as a coupe). There are two cup holders (both in the rear seats). To shut the doors fully takes an act of God (no kid strength here). Any corner taken at over 20 mph feels like a potential topple (on/off-ramps included). And the steering is so damn tight (on the positive, a great forearm workout).
And yet, like few other cars ever have (a Maclaren 675LT, a Bentley Continental GT3, Range Rover SVR), it made me feel things I never hoped to feel: I felt like a badass dude with a super cool car. Plus, kudos should be given to Mercedes-Benz for achieving the truck feel. Slamming shut the doors, peeking over the front grille guard and those frog-eye blinkers, glancing over the three locking differentials while adjusting the stereo, the grand hiss of the pneumatic seat adjustments (electronic adjustments are far inferior), the near-vertical front windshield, and that damn tight steering and suspension, the Germans enwrap you in pure truck and leave you with only one proper thought to think: “I am driving a tank. And I am powerful.”
Best Fit: one of two people: the extremely deep-pocketed adventurer, or the badass.
Grade: B+, with deductions for the chiropractor costs of loosening my lower back post-drive.