Familiar styling hides a comprehensive overhaul for the latest Mercedes-Benz G-class. It really is all-new under the skin, and with it comes a vast improvement in driving dynamics, comfort and technology.
Engine, transmission and 0-100kph time
The G63 gets the 577bhp variant of AMG’s now familiar hand-built, 4-litre twin-turbocharged V8. The maximum output is developed at 6000rpm and torque of 627lb ft is produced from 2500 to 3500rpm.
Mercedes’ nine-speed automatic transmission makes another appearance here under the AMG Speedshift Plus banner and naturally, the G63 uses permanent four-wheel drive. The system features locking front, centre and rear differentials, controlled not via fiddly touchscreen controls but by three large and satisfying buttons front and centre on the dashboard. There’s a low-range transfer ’box, too, selected with a button on the centre console while the car is in neutral.
Visually similar, the latest G is, nevertheless, very different to its predecessor under the skin. You still get a ladder-frame chassis, but the suspension attached to it is all new. At the front are a pair of double wishbones mounted to the frame in place of the old live axle, while the rear suspension is still a live axle, albeit controlled with four trailing arms per side and a Panhard rod.
The steering is now rack-and-pinion rather than recirculating ball, and the body sat atop the frame is lighter and stronger than before, formed from steel and clad in aluminium wings and doors, with an aluminium bonnet and tailgate. The net saving is around 170kg overall, though the G63 still comes in at 2560kg – not far short of a long-wheelbase hybrid Range Rover.
What’s it like to drive?
The new G is vastly better to drive than its predecessor (the ‘O.G.’?), without losing any of its character. The biggest step forward is probably the steering. What was once terrifying is now quite acceptable, and that’s about as much as you can hope for from a car with the dimensions and mechanical layout of the latest G. Before, you’d get a mix of remoteness, inconsistency and imprecision in the rack, but once through an unresponsive dead zone around the straight ahead the steering can be used to plot a relatively reliable course from corner to corner.
With little feedback you have to build up trust that the G will negotiate the next turn, particularly given the extra brake pressure you need to haul off sometimes considerable speed, but the newfound predictability and relatively early onset of scrubbing and squealing noises from the front axle give decent indication of how much the tyres have left to offer.
Price and rivals
G63 pricing starts at $193,970, which is by anyone’s definition quite a lot of money, but no longer seems quite so unreasonable given how much has changed beneath the G’s surface – view it simply as a high-end SUV, akin to Range Rovers, Bentaygas and Cayenne Turbo Ss, and the price begins to make more sense.
Objectively all three of those rivals are better to drive, both handling and riding with more composure and doing so more quietly and smoothly than the G63 can muster, but for character the Mercedes is in another league. The old G-class had character, too, but you had to be seriously committed to the cause, so appalling was it to drive. The new one doesn’t carry such an enormous caveat.
It should cause some red faces at Land Rover, too. While JLR flounders over the Defender’s replacement, the latest G-class demonstrates that it’s entirely possible to mix the ability and character of an age-old model with the performance and technology required of new cars.
This article originally appeared at evo.co.uk
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