Mercedes G63 AMG 2018 - Rehash or Revolution
Let me start by saying, I do not like the G Wagon. Untold times I have seen one of these slithering their way around the shinier bits of London, and untold times I have been filled with an inexplicable and expletive laden rage. I dislike the styling, the absurd price tags, and the simply preposterous G65 AMG. This list could go on, but I shall keep it brief (for now).
So that's it, I dislike this car and everything it stands for. The end.
Well, not quite. The new for 2018 G Wagon has had a significant redesign; a far cry from it's 1970's military origins. The engine for instance, has shrunk to 4.0 litres, retained 8 V-arranged cylinders, grown two turbos and gained 40 horsepower and 66 lb/ft of torque for a total of 577hp and 627 lb/ft of torque respectively. The front suspension is fully independent whilst the rear features a five link suspension set up, with adjustable dampers front and back as standard. Mercedes' AMG 4Matic all wheel drive system now splits 40/60 front to rear rather than the 50/50 split of old. The gearbox has sprouted two extra gears for a total of nine ratios to choose from. 0-60 is dispatched in 4.4 seconds and the top speed is limited to 137mph; however if you cross Mercedes' palms with silver for the AMG Driver's Package, this can be increased to 149mph.
Sounds jolly good. But how does it stack up in the real world?
My first encounter with this grey, Germanic giant was when I returned from work one evening to see it parked somewhat outside my house. With considerable alarm and disgust I stormed into the house to find my motoring journalist mate clutching the keys to a 2018 G63 AMG. 'What,' I thundered, 'is that monstrosity you have parked outside my house?'. As it turns out he had not in fact taken leave of his senses and purchased a vehicle that starts at £143,305 (this model, with options, was around the £150k mark), but he in fact had it on test that week. Naturally, I had to go and take a closer look.
It is an absolute beast. As you can see in the first picture, it towers over other vehicles imperiously; as if it is moments away from simply devouring other motorists should they displease it. Inside, it's very Mayfair vodka bar; mood lighting festoons the door pockets, under the seats and the front foot wells. Heated and cooled leather seats cocoon you in Germanic luxury both front and rear; to my delight I discovered that you can cool and heat your seat simultaneously. The steering wheel is sufficiently chunky yet surprisingly small for a vehicle of this size; I was rather hoping for something akin to what you might use to command the rudder of a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier. Second gen G Classes are fitted with a brand new infotainment system, all touch screen of course.
It all looks very premium, very shisha bar, very Mercedes. But what is it like to actually drive?
At this point, I must confess I wasn't actually driving at the time. Somehow I feel actual motoring journalism outlets would not be particularly pleased at the prospect of some bloke with driving skills bordering on non-existent. So, I was not at the helm. However there is a lot I can tell you.
Previously, the big thing that dominated AMG Mercs was that glorious, thunderous V8. Admittedly I have always admired the noise the G Wagon makes; that low pitched, rumbling yet somehow quite subtle burble as it slithers past. Fortunately, despite the addition of two turbos this noise is very much alive and well. Mooching about town those glorious side exit exhausts would occasionally reward you with a satisfying crackle as you lift off after spirited acceleration. This is exhaust crackle done right (says a lot about modern cars when a G63 AMG crackles considerably less than an A45 AMG, but that's another rant for another day). Despite my considerable disdain at this vehicle, I was actually rather enjoying it all; I was beginning to see why people like this so much. The occasional gasp and visible excitement of pedestrians was testament to the sheer presence this car commands. It was all going so well, then..
Then we went over a roundabout, and was presented with a cyclist. I have never known a vehicle to wallow, squat and generally make a fuss whilst passing something with far from exuberant control inputs before. It seemed to move on every single axis about four feet; the body roll was absolutely astounding, made worse by the lurching caused by the traction control flickering on and off. I am aware that this is a soft car designed for off roading, but even with sport mode engaged it handled with the panache and grace of a wardrobe falling down a flight of stairs. Other instances of similar behaviour yielded the same results; the slightest whiff of a corner would send it leaning at a simply alarming rate. Whilst it has received extensive updates and refreshes in it's life, it simply cannot disguise it's 40 year old design.
So, handling isn't so good. But what about straight line speed? Well, after getting on a straight bit of road, I can report thusly; my god, this thing is fast. I fully believe that 0-60 time mentioned earlier; this thing accelerates at an alarming rate given its' size. Unsurprising, given it has more power than a Ferrari 458. You ride a seemingly unending wave of torque to the soundtrack of that roaring V8, and you notice the speedo is climbing at a very brisk pace. Braking is taken care of pretty sharpishly too, thanks to those gargantuan drilled rotors front and back. However due to the boxy design, physics quickly blunts that relentless acceleration, meaning it quickly runs out of puff at higher speeds.
I have struggled with this car. It has brought a great deal of conflict and challenged many thoughts I have with vehicles of this nature. The blend of old school styling and modern day tech is a pleasant mix; my absolute favourite this is the very militaristic, reassuring thud when you shut the door. Very specific, very satisfying. I dislike the styling, although the new LED lights front and rear are quite tasty, and I will concede they do look very good around town. I cannot stand the ostentation of it all, although I do respect the sheer presence this vehicle commands.
On an objective scale, do I rate this car? Power delivery and exhaust note aside, it is far too showy to be of any practical value. You cannot realistically drive anything long distance due to the constant battle of aerodynamics and that nearly vertical windscreen, it handles with the rigidity of a wet towel and a surprising lack of rear legroom. And I'm sorry, but for £143,000+ you really do expect more all round capability. I'm sure it's excellent off road but let's be honest, that's unlikely to happen. That being said, it is very luxurious with many creature comforts, it is a vast improvement over the previous versions and you can't help but smile with the ridiculousness of it all.
In conclusion then, I still do not like the Gelandewagen. However I dislike the new one far, far less.