Some things just don’t make sense. Ducky Dale didn’t get the girl in Pretty In Pink (even though he’s such a nice guy!), I can’t seem to lose weight despite cutting my carbs down to crying-shame levels, and the 2019 Mercedes-AMG G63 — a nearly 6,000-pound SUV — can accelerate to 60 miles per hour quicker than many sports cars.
How brilliantly absurd.
The G-Class is all-new for 2019, save for a couple of iconic, carryover bits like the door handles, spare tire cover, headlight washers and sun visors. Yet it still retains the same shape, and is bursting with over-the-top charm in its most raucous AMG G63 guise. And now, it’s a lot easier to drive.
Fast and furious
While this review concentrates on the bonkers Mercedes-AMG G63, managing editor Steven Ewing took a spin in the standard, $124,500 G550. The G550 is better for folks who might actually go off-roading, what with its less-aggressive wheel/tire setup, and it still packs hearty V8 punch and a world-class interior.
The G63, meanwhile, starts at $147,500, and it’s a bombastic, grandiose, completely unnecessary thing. It’s powered by an AMG-built, 4.0-liter, twin-turbocharged V7, pumping out 577 horsepower and 627 pound-feet of torque. That’s a full 161 horsepower and 177 pound-feet more than the G550. And with 22-inch wheels wrapped in summer tires, the G63 is more beast-in-the-street than it is devil-in-the-dirt.
If the old G-Class had one glaring problem, it was the steering. Unchanged for generations, the recirculating-ball setup was kind of scary, with terrible on-center feeling and irregular weighting. For 2019, it’s been replaced by a more traditional, electronically assisted rack-and-pinion system, so the G63 reliably goes in the direction I point it. This more modern steering setup even has two different modes: Comfort feels a bit too light for a vehicle this large, but Sport adds an appropriate amount of weight, and it’s my preferred setting for all situations.
Another big improvement is the independent front suspension. The cold, hard fact is that most G-Wagen owners stay far away from the dirt, and an independent setup provides a much more comfortable ride.
The AMG G63 has drive modes for Slippery, Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Individual, but I spend most of my time in Sport+ for maximum throttle response, the stiffest suspension and the snappiest shifts. It’s an intoxicating experience; the G63 rears up when I mash my foot on the accelerator, the V8 engine and side-exit exhaust roaring and crackling.
The nine-speed automatic transmission is a joy. I can operate it from the paddle shifters, but in the Sport and Sport+ modes, it’s programmed to downshift on braking, so when I come out of a turn or get back on the gas after a brief slow-down, power is right there waiting for me. Sure, the transmission hesitates a bit in Comfort mode, but I love that the programming, not just the shift speed, gets more aggressive when I want it to.
Taking all of these improvements together results in a G63 that is much easier to control when putting the pedal to the metal, and much more comfortable to drive on the daily. It’s not going to win any handling competitions — it’s got too much body roll for that — but it does a decent enough job when the road gets twisty, with excellent acceleration and whomping-big AMG brakes to shut it all down securely.
A modern tech upgrade
The G-Wagen comes up to the 21st century in terms of technology, as well. The older version came with blind-spot monitoring, parking assist and adaptive cruise control, but the 2019 model adds forward-collision warning, lane-keeping assist and rear cross-traffic alert.
Inside, tech is handled by a pair of 12.3-inch screens, one functioning as a configurable gauge cluster and one housing the COMAND infotainment system. COMAND is controlled by either the dial on the center console or by using the two thumb pads on the steering wheel, swiping across it much like a smartphone. I really like that I don’t have to take my hands off the wheel to say, change a radio station, but the central dial works just as well, with a nice, clicky, tactile feeling to it.
It’s a bit of a bummer that the G-Wagen doesn’t get Mercedes’ newwith its slick navigation with augmented reality overlay; COMAND is a little too complicated with menus and sub-menus galore. The good news is that and Android Auto are along for the ride, so I can use my own smartphone-mirroring tech for a cleaner infotainment experience.
More spacious, more comfortable
The G-Class got a whole lot bigger for 2019, growing 4 inches in length and nearly 5 inches in width. That’s a huge bonus for rear seat passengers, who get a whopping 6 inches more legroom.
To access the cargo space you still have to swing out the heavy, rear door. But once open, you’re met with a huge cargo hold. However, the load floor isn’t flat and I often have to close the door twice — don’t be shy, you really need to slam it.
Speaking of doors, those who enjoyed the rifle-action sound of the old G’s locking mechanism will not be disappointed. That wonderful audible treat is still there, leading me to lock and unlock the door more than necessary just so I could hear the satisfying ker-thunk of this thing battening down for the evening.
Inside, my G63 has the optional Comfort Seat package that provides multicontour seats with bolsters that move depending on your cornering force. Go around a turn with gusto and you get a little hug. It’s a little gimmicky, sure, but it’s a luxury I’ve come to enjoy in a Benz. To say nothing of the massaging seats, which are great, but seem to turn off too quickly. You don’t tell me when my massage is done, Mercedes. I tell you.
Go big or go home
While I’d personally opt for a G550, since I’m more of an off-road gal, there’s no denying the allure of the G63. I’d spec mine with the 22-inch AMG forged wheels ($3,950), the Seat Comfort package ($2,200) and 360-degree camera ($400). I’d leave things like the reconfigurable gauge cluster on the table in an effort to save some money, and all-in, I’d be at $154,050, not including $995 for destination — a bit less than the $158,320 price of the SUV you see here.
There are plenty of luxury SUVs available these days, but none have a reputation as outrageous as the G-Class. A Range Rover will do similar off-road tricks (but not as well), and a Lincoln
Navigator or BMW
X7 offer more space inside for people and cargo. There’s also the upcoming 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class,
The 2019 Mercedes-AMG G63 is not for the shy. It’s loud, it’s brash and it sticks out like a neon tube top at a polo match. It’s essentially a perfect match for my personality, but I understand that some folks may find it a bit over-the-top. But hey, those people can opt for the more sedate GLS-Class. For the audacious among us, go for the G.