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Mercedes-AMG G63 2017 review

2017 Mercedes-AMG G63
EXPERT RATING
7.9
Mercedes-AMG promises its G63 beastie is just about the most capable thing it's ever made, and that it'll monster anything we're brave enough to point it towards. It's also properly, properly quick.

Imagine for a moment that cars were celebrities. The Tesla Model X, for example, would have to be well-heeled eco-warrior Leonardo DiCaprio. The muscle-bound Hummer? That's got Vin Diesel written all over it. The Toyota Corolla? Tricky, but we'd have to go with… wait, what was his name again?

And the boxy behemoth that is the Mercedes-AMG G63? It can't be anyone but Arnold Schwarzenegger.

I mean, just look at. It's big, it's angular, it's tougher than a sack of German concrete, plus it's worth a sizeable chunk of cash. Hell, if it could talk, it would surely have a thick Austrian accent.

Proving you can, in fact, sprinkle the AMG fairy dust over just about anything, the G63 is hiding a whopping great V8 engine under its bonnet, and one that's capable of pushing this incredible hulk from 0-100km/h with hard-to-believe speed. It's properly, properly quick for a car that's shaped a bit like a shipping container.

But to simply talk about out-and-out speed would be to do the G63 a disservice, because Mercedes-AMG promises us this big beastie is just about the most capable thing it's ever made, and that it'll be able to monster anything we're brave enough to point it towards.

And as we're at the world's biggest cold-weather testing facility - a winter wonderland known as the Snow Farm, perched atop a mountain near Queenstown, NZ - there's no shortage of things to test our bravery.

At the world's biggest cold-weather testing facility there's no shortage of things to test our bravery. At the world's biggest cold-weather testing facility there's no shortage of things to test our bravery.

Mercedes-Benz G63 2017: (base)
Safety rating
Engine Type5.5L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency13.8L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$229,880

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   8/10

Take a deep breath; the G63 AMG will set you back $252,151 (drive-away) in Australia, which, let's face it, is a hell of a lot of cash.

That money will buy you blacked-out 20-inch alloys outside, along with a sunroof, a twin-tipped AMG exhaust and heated wing mirrors.

Inside, expect leather-trimmed seats that are heated and cooled in the front, a flat-bottomed AMG-stamped steering wheel and twin-zone climate control. The dash is wrapped in leather, too, and there are AMG touches wherever you look.

Entertainment is covered by Merc's 'Comand' system, run through a 7.0-inch, nav-equipped screen that pairs with a 12-speaker Harman Kardon stereo, and has a six-disk DVD changer and an 80gb hard drive.

Entertainment is covered by Merc's 'Comand' system, run through a 7.0-inch, nav-equipped screen. Entertainment is covered by Merc's 'Comand' system, run through a 7.0-inch, nav-equipped screen.

And it might be an AMG, but it’s also pretty damn capable, so expect a low range-equipped four-wheel-drive (4WD) system and three diff-locks (accessed by dash-mounted switches), that join an off-road-focussed traction control system.

Is there anything interesting about its design?   8/10

Boxier than a box factory, the G-Wagon oozes tough. Outside, the 20-inch rims frame the twin-tipped and side-mounted exhausts, that poke their silver noses out from underneath the polished silver side steps.

At the front, the old-school circular headlights sit above a strip of LED lights, which in turn bookmark the silver-wrapped grille that’s the centrepiece of the squared-off front end. At the back, a silver wheel cover hides the spare wheel bolted to the boot.

Inside, there's a new ruggedness to the familiar Benz interior treatment, with switches and dials controlling everything from the 4WD system to the three diff-lock options and some smartly placed grab handles joining the familiar multimedia screen and driving controls.

The 'diamond-trim' seats and door panels are leather wrapped, as is the familiar AMG-stamped flat-bottom steering wheel.

  • The G-Wagon oozes tough. The G-Wagon oozes tough.
  • "Boxier than a box factory". "Boxier than a box factory".
  • At the back, a silver wheel cover hides the spare wheel bolted to the boot. At the back, a silver wheel cover hides the spare wheel bolted to the boot.
  • The 20-inch rims frame the twin-tipped and side-mounted exhausts. The 20-inch rims frame the twin-tipped and side-mounted exhausts.

How practical is the space inside?   7/10

At near enough 1.9m tall and 4.6m long, there’s no shortage of real estate in the G63. Once they’ve climbed in, front-seat riders can send each other postcards, and they'll share two cupholders hidden beneath a movable armrest. There are three 12-volt power outlets, too, one in the front, the back and the boot, along with a USB jack in the front.

Back-seaters get pockets on the rear of the front seats, and there's 480 litres of luggage space in the boot. Braked towing capacity is a healthy 3.1 tonnes, and you can strap an extra 200 kilograms of stuff to the roof.

The G63 AMG hasn't forgotten its off-road roots, either, with 21cm of ground clearance and a 60cm maximum wading depth.

The G63 AMG hasn't forgotten its off-road roots, either, with 21cm of ground clearance and a 60cm maximum wading depth. The G63 AMG hasn't forgotten its off-road roots, either, with 21cm of ground clearance and a 60cm maximum wading depth.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   9/10

While there are plenty of manufacturers who have swapped displacement for turbocharging in an effort to trade power for fuel consumption, not so the mad-hatters at AMG, who have opted to bolt their turbocharger onto the G63’s massive 5.5-litre V8 engine.

That means very healthy power outputs of 420kW at 5500rpm and a whopping 760Nm at 1750rpm, fed through an AMG-fettled seven-speed automatic transmission, and sent to all four wheels. And that’s enough to propel the 2550kg G63 from 0-100km/h in an impressive 5.4sec. Keep the right pedal pinned and you’ll climb all the way to 210km/h.

How much fuel does it consume?   8/10

No prizes for guessing that the G63 is unlikely to win any eco awards anytime soon. Fuel use is rated at 13.8L/100km on the combined (urban, extra-urban) cycle, with emissions a claimed 322g/km of C02. 

The main tank will drink 96 litres, with a reserve tank that will hold an extra 14 litres.

What's it like to drive?   9/10

Climb, and we mean climb, into the cabin, and you'll find yourself looking down on the world below from a not inconsiderable height. All the better to see the series of tracks just waiting to be conquered.

And so we set off on a route that would carry us up a rutted and icy track, climbing up and over one of the Snow Farm’s smaller mountain peaks. Even with two of the three diff-locks engaged, and the four-wheel drive system jammed into low range, the icy surface has the wheels scrabbling for traction, the big G-Class sliding momentarily before finding grip in a pile of loose snow, the big V8 growling as it tries to work out what's happening.

There’s something unashamedly agricultural about the way the G63 goes about its business, with the steering requiring plenty of turns as we navigate this rocky path, passengers and cargo bouncing in the cabin as we scramble along.

  • And so we set off on a route that would carry us up a rutted and icy track. And so we set off on a route that would carry us up a rutted and icy track.
  • There’s something unashamedly agricultural about the way the G63 goes about its business. There’s something unashamedly agricultural about the way the G63 goes about its business.
  • The icy surface has the wheels scrabbling for traction. The icy surface has the wheels scrabbling for traction.
  • Passengers and cargo bounce in the cabin as we scramble along. Passengers and cargo bounce in the cabin as we scramble along.
  • Even the ice-slicked tracks of the Snow Farm presented nothing that even felt like a challenge. Even the ice-slicked tracks of the Snow Farm presented nothing that even felt like a challenge.

Speaking of that V8, it’s almost a shame to keep its 420kW locked in this icy prison, and you can feel it straining at its leash. But the slippery surface means you apply the throttle with all the force of a butterfly’s wing flap, and it's like the engine is angry with you as a result.

In full credit to the big G-Class, we only scratched the surface of what it is likely capable of, with even the ice-slicked tracks of the Snow Farm presenting nothing that even felt like a challenge.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

3 years / unlimited km warranty

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   7/10

The G63 arrives with six airbags (dual front, front-side and and full-length curtain airbags) which join an off-road tuned traction set-up and acceleration skid control system, along with blind-spot assist, active cruise control and parking sensors front and rear.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   7/10

A three-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty is the go here, with service intervals pegged at 12 months or 20,000km.

Mercedes' capped-price servicing program limits maintenance costs to $776 for the first service, $1,552 for service two and $1,552 for service three.

Verdict

A big and tough bruiser, and one that likely feels more at home off road than on, it's hard to immediately figure out the scenario in which the G63 AMG makes sense. And yet somehow that makes us like it even more. If cool is currency, the G63 AMG is rich, indeed.

Does this booming box on wheels match your dream of off-road supremacy? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

EXPERT RATING
7.9
Price and features8
Design8
Practicality7
Engine & trans9
Fuel consumption8
Driving9
Safety7
Ownership7
Andrew Chesterton
Contributing journalist

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