The Mercedes-AMG G63 is a 571hp, £135,950 contradiction in terms. This rugged, body-on-frame 4x4 was first conceived as a military vehicle in 1972, but the subsequent boom in luxury SUVs – led by the original Range Rover – meant the Geländewagen found its niche as a civilian, not a soldier. Now, four decades on, the fully-loaded G63 AMG comfortably outsells the sensible G350 diesel, and is the chariot of choice for London’s high-net-worthiest. So what’s the appeal?
Let’s start with the looks. If, like me, you spent your formative years smashing Tonka toys into skirting boards, the set-square styling of the G63 will immediately appeal. Even the glass is flat. Then there are the AMG additions: the brash bodykit, 20-inch alloy wheels, side exhaust pipes and chrome ‘moustache’ in the grille. It’s a bouncer shoehorned into a Savile Row suit.
It’s worth noting that the G63 is very paint-sensitive, too. Opt for black and you’ll resemble a Russian mafia boss, while in white you could pass for Arab royalty. Alternatively, for an extra £16,000, Mercedes offers its G63 Colour Editions in five retina-popping shades: Tomato Red, Alien Green, Galactic Beam (purple), Solar Beam (yellow) and Sunset Beam (orange). The vibe here is ‘Snoop Dogg meets Premier League pro’, in case you were wondering.
Enough show, what about the go? Well, a 5.5-litre twin-turbo V8 ensures the 2.5-tonnes still feel unfeasibly, physics-defyingly fast. The benchmark 0-62mph is dispatched in 5.4 seconds, on par with a Porsche Macan S. However, the suburban-semi aerodynamics take their toll beyond that – culminating in a modest top speed of 130mph.
I’d suggest slowing down for corners, though. The G63 is no Range Rover Sport when it comes to generating lateral G forces; this is a chassis designed in the 1970s, remember. Its steering is woefully vague and it leans like a listing ship around roundabouts, washing out into tyre-munching understeer if you push too hard. Unusually, this is one car that’s more fun to drive away from the archetypal British B-road.
Herein lies the greatest contradiction. The G63 AMG – a vehicle with three differential locks and, on the right tyres, enough rough-terrain ability to defeat a Defender – excels in the city. You sit much higher than a typical SUV, for starters, towering over all those copycat crossovers. The square, wheel-at-each-corner stance means you can easily judge its extremities for parking or squeezing through traffic, too. And lastly (and more subjectively), people just seem to get out of your way. Go for a gap and it magically opens. Perhaps they fear a trio of mafia heavies in the back?
The G63, then, offers a driving experience unlike any other, all soundtracked by an AMG V8 that woofles, pops and snuffles like a bulldog gargling a Jägerbomb. Even a trip to Tesco felt like an occasion, complete with a hero’s welcome from boy racers in the adjacent KFC car park. Overlook its six-figure price tag and terrifying thirst for super unleaded, and you could even call it practical. A sensible alternative to a supercar, perhaps? I’m not going to tell you otherwise.
That said, I can’t recommend you buy a G63 AMG. It’s an anachronism, inferior to the class-leading Audi SQ7 in almost every respect, and nearly twice the price. So why do I still want one? Perhaps because, long after my battered Tonka toys had been stashed in the attic, I started listening to hard rock. And, like the heroes of my teenage years – Iggy Pop and Lemmy – this middle-aged Mercedes is growing old disgracefully. Yes, now I see the appeal.