Range Rover Sport 2018 review: SVR
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Ever wondered where the ‘G’ came from in all of Mercedes-Benz’s SUV nomenclature?
For almost 30 years, Mercedes-Benz’s G Class (‘G’ is short for Geländewagen, or cross-country vehicle), has been quietly yet steadfastly regarded as Stuttgart’s most formidable flagship off-roader, and its legacy has been passed down the line to every high-rider that the company builds via their nameplates.
A surge of retro-tinted popularity for the big, bluff 4x4 wagon in recent years, though, exposed the G’s more agricultural roots, not to mention its almost complete lack of basic safety measures and an inability to meet modern emission standards.
Its annual worldwide sales of around 20,000 is a drop in the metaphorical bucket in the wider Daimler empire, so surely the easiest course of action was to bid it a fond farewell.
Mercedes-Benz, however, has gone and done the exact opposite, and in the process has reinvented one of the most amazingly flexible machines not only in its category, but in the automotive world in general.
|Mercedes-AMG G-Class 2018: G63 AMG|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded|
|Price from||No recent listings|
The new G 63 – which lands in August – will cost $270,700 before on-road costs, which is a not inconsiderable jump of $25,000 over the old car. However, the changes wrought under the new G 63's skin makes the price adjustment absolutely worth it – and the wait list is long and growing.
You’ll also get 21-inch wheels with 275mm wide tyres, huge six-piston front and single-piston rear brakes on 400 and 370mm rotors, a trio of lockable diffs and adaptive damping.
Also standard are items like heated and vented seats with self-adjusting bolsters, an AMG steering wheel, alloy pedals, sat nav, Apple CarPlay, a raft of adjustable driving parameters for off-road and on-road work, and a complete suite of active driver aids.
Everything from active lane keeping, adaptive cruise control, sophisticated AEB (forward and reverse), blind spot warning with pedestrian detection and more has been added to the G-Class, thanks to significant revisions under the skin.
These include revised chassis rails, rack and pinion steering that replaces the ancient articulating ball set up of the old car, a new multi-link front suspension system that replaces the previous live axle, and a brand new centre locking diff that’s preceded by a nine-speed automatic.
The body is completely new, despite its looks, and the interior has also been completely redone. It might look all but identical to the old car, but it’s thoroughly new in every respect.
Probably the single most interesting thing about how the G 63 looks is just how faithfully Mercedes-Benz has replicated the shape of the previous G wagon. It’s within millimetres of the old car’s dimensions in every direction, and not an element has been missed in the update.
The indicators on the front guards, for example, hark back to the first car, and are designed to be completely waterproof. On the new car, they’re also designed to collapse into the body of the car should a pedestrian be unlucky enough to come into contact with one.
As well, the boot and door hinges on the old car are the rolled type you might find on a piece of furniture. The new car echoes the look of the hinges, but they’ve been redesigned for greater strength and better fit.
There’s no middle ground when it comes to its striking/strange looks (take your pick). It’s hugely bluff, with straight lines in every direction and not a piece of curved glass to be found anywhere.
Inside, it’s a more contemporary space, with a distinctly Mercedes-Benz flavour throughout. The three locking diff switches remain in the same location but are now digital, while turbine-style air vents are added in the midst of a machined alloy trim piece.
Our Edition One tester – available as a $19,500 extra - is awash in red-tinted carbon pieces, which even covers the classic ‘Jesus’ handle on the passenger side. The huge interior space means that it’s hard to get a sense of a prevailing design, as such, but it’s an effective combination of legacy and modernity.
On one side, the G 63 is an amazingly practical rig, but the seismic shift towards luxury has dented that practicality somewhat.
Merc has tried to bring as much of its modern interior in as possible, including leather seats and suede headlining. It seats five and offers ridiculous amounts of headroom, even with a sunroof fitted. The down side? If you’re out bush, dragging mud and dirt back inside would be a travesty.
A rugged baseball-stitch leather graces the dashpad and door tops, while brushed alloy surrounds the turbine vents now common across all new Mercs.
Along with that old school-esque leather and grab handle comes the new-school 10.3-inch twin screens from the S- and E-Class. Two cupholders sit side by side in the front, with a deep split-lid centre console bin that hides two USB ports inside it.
There's also a 12-volt point with the cupholders as well. I’m surprised there isn’t another 12v point up front somewhere else, though, given its 4x4 origins.
The front seat bases are weirdly short under the thigh, but the seats sit just low enough in the G to make it comfortable.
Real world legroom isn't what you'd expect, though; while the rear seaters get an additional 150mm of legroom, it’s still not overly generous when combined with tall front seat occupants. It’s also a bit awkward to access thanks to relatively narrow door apertures.
Speaking of the rear, there’s a single USB back there with air vents as well, and it will fit three across pretty comfortably. You can also lash two baby seats into the provided ISOFIX points.
Overall, the new G is longer by 101mm, wider by 121mm and taller to the tune of 40mm, while the boxy dimensions mean that it’s easier to access all of the available space.
The rear door opens right-to-left, and the spare wheel hangs from it. Loading stuff in is pretty easy, thanks to a lowish load height and those squared off dimensions. There are also cargo tie-down points and a thick rubber mat which helps bags and boxes stay put.
The rear seat bases flip up and forward to accommodate the seat backs, which does make for a stepped load area.
The delineation between genuine off-road chops and serious on-road talent used to be so much clearer. Now, though, with the advent of fast SUVs like BMW’s X6 M, the Porsche Cayenne and Range Rover’s Sport SVR, the performance line is blurred across both tarmac and dirt.
The G 63 adds another name to that list, though on first impressions, I’d suggest the big Merc tops the class when it comes to taming the dirt. Its breadth and depth of ability in loose, steep terrain is nothing short of otherworldly; never have I experienced a stock 4x4 breeze over genuinely nasty terrain with such quiet disdain.
Its on-board sensors were registering inclines of up to 46 degrees, and some of the tracks couldn’t be walked up, yet the G 63 – wearing optional 20-inch wheels and all-terrain tyres at road-going pressures – simply glided up steep, shale-strewn inclines as if they were a suburban driveway.
It could then pack that ability away in a box and reveal a turn of pace that reminded us of the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk.
The G 63’s side-outlet exhausts add snarling menace and ominous thunder to an already incredible 4.0-litre V8 soundtrack, while the sheer turn of eye-watering pace available in something that physically can’t go faster than 220km/h thanks to air resistance is both hard to comprehend and yet so easy to access.
The revised suspension architecture has turned the Geländewagen from ridiculously poor to positively sublime as well, with shockingly useful steering feedback and incredible body control for a 2.5-tonne brick, not to mention its laugh-out-loud speed.
It’s possible to feel each corner of the car working independently on its adaptive dampers to keep all of that mass and inertia sunny side up, too, while visibility from the hectares of glass means there’s an uninterrupted view of the rollercoaster ride you’re on.
It’s not all sunshine and speedboats, though. The near-vertical windscreen creates painfully intrusive wind noise issues even at moderate speed, while the nine-speed automatic can be a little overprotective of itself when hunting for a lower gear.
As well, the G 63’s sheer slab-sided structure means it’s a lot more susceptible to side-winds and drafts, while the volume of air inside the cabin means it heats up amazingly quickly.
Its 430kW/850Nm are delivered in a ramrod straight wall of fury and force that’s as easy to access as dipping your right foot, and the nine-speed traditional auto plays along beautifully, as well.
Someone forgot to tell this engine that turbos don’t add character, and while the superseded 5.5-litre naturally asprated bent eight will go down as a classic, the four-litre is a superstar.
The G 63 uses locking diffs in the front, centre and rear of the car, all independently controlled via switches on the centre console, while its sophisticated driving mode system allows a dizzying array of traction options in the dirt and on the tarmac.
Ground clearance, by the way, is 238mm (up by 3mm), and wading depth is now 700mm (an increase of 100mm). Approach angle remains unchanged at 27 degrees, but the departure angle is improved by 2.6 degrees to 29.6 degrees.
The official figure of 11.9 litres per 100km on the combined fuel economy cycle sounds impressive enough, but you’ll need the patience of a saint and a lack of headwinds where you live to achieve that kind of economy on a regular basis.
Our, erm, enthusiastic testing loop of just over 150km never saw the on-board fuel economy gauge drop below 20.0L/100km… though admittedly the 'Sport' drive mode was our default position.
The G-Class has picked up a few more litres of capacity in its new saddle-style fuel tanks, and can now carry 100 litres of fuel. This gives it a theoretical range of 840km.
3 years / unlimited km warranty
ANCAP Safety Rating
Active lane keep assist, active braking assist, traffic sign recognition and nine airbags are standard, while adaptive cruise control and blind spot warning is available as part of the 'Distronic' package.
A camera array with a 360-degree overview as well as viewable low-mounted front and rear cameras, parking assist, trailer coupling assistance via the rear view camera if a tow bar is fitted. Not all specs are yet confirmed, and nor is an ANCAP rating.
Servicing the big G at 12 months or 15,000km isn’t likely to be cheap, though, even with Merc’s fixed price plan in place. Prices for the new version will be confirmed at local launch, but the current G 63 costs almost $4000 over three years to maintain.
On the surface, the G 63 seems like a ridiculous car to get excited about. It’s expensive, likes a tipple, has looks that can really polarise and isn’t the roomiest for rear seat passengers.
It’s the sheer breadth of its performance window, though, that is its strongest attribute. There are fast cars, and there are cars that excel off-road. There are cars that can tow and carry gear, and there are cars that are easy to drive. The G Class doesn't just cover the bases, but excels in all areas.
While we need time on local soil to confirm these early blushes, suffice it to say the Mercedes-AMG G 63 is an amazing achievement, and it’s a worthy successor to the Geländewagen legend.
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