Mercedes-benz's G550 and G63 shred on-road and off

Mercedes-benz's g550 and g63 shred on-road and off

But if you want to drive from Perpignan, the southernmost city in France, to Barcelona, one of the most vibrant cities in Spain, you have to cross them.

The Pyrenees are a mountain chain that act as a the border between Spain and France. They’re jagged and intimidating, and the narrow passes that traverse them are high and narrow.

But if you want to drive from Perpignan, the southernmost city in France, to Barcelona, one of the most vibrant cities in Spain, you have to cross them.

If you’re us, you want to take a few days to do this, so you can take in the local scenery, savor the local cuisine, and crawl up and over boulders like a Catalan Goat.

Mercedes-Benz’s all-new G550 and G63 AMG makes an ideal companion for such a jaunt.

 

You will be excused for not noticing that the G-Wagen is entirely new, because it looks exactly like the outgoing model.

Tricks of perspective camouflage the fact that the new truck is not only a couple inches longer and nearly five inches wider, but that it has been stretched between the wheels as well by nearly a couple inches.

You are immediately taken in by the G’s familiar silhouette, which looks like a cave painting of an SUV-small box, big box-albeit one worn down by time and touch to surprising elegance.

It is bossy, yet classy, and it has a commandeering presence that even the ultra-luxe Bentley Bentayga sadly lacks.

Its newly beveled front headlamp surrounds look best when the car is painted a dark color like the pine pitch Black Forest green of our G550 tester. The available brush guard does not look good in any color.

If vegetation is a problem in your indomitable $125,000 (G550) or $150,000 (G63) SUV, you’re doing something wrong.

 

It is on the inside that the G exhibits its most drastic improvements over its older sibling. Much older. Did we mention that the G was first developed nearly forty years ago as a military transport for the Shah of Iran? For this function, comfort was not requisite. Nor apparently was rear legroom or an ergonomic seating position. A couple years ago, we took a previous-generation G a two-day road-trip from Los Angeles to Death Valley, and when we emerged back in LA, all four occupants required chiropracty.

 

This new truck was a delight during our several hundred mile trek, no matter if we were squirting along seaside Barcelonan avenues, skirting the edge of a cliff seeking a lookout point in a French park, or backing up a mountainside in the Basque steppe (yes, we did that, with aplomb.) With vast increases in rear legroom, infinitely adjustable and massaging seats, Benz’s latest iteration of its COMAND infotainment system and giant 24” LCD double-dash, the materials, features, and ergonomic execution now match the G’s hand-built origin and steep price tag.

Given its six-figure cost, it makes sense the G has become known as a posh boulevardier. It happens to look great on a street like Rodeo Drive or Ocean Drive or Peachtree Drive, an ancient/modern anachronism, an instantly recognizable, vintage-look, brand-new vehicle.

But this thing has an all-wheel-drive system with triple-locking differentials, meaning that it can send power to its four wheels with a deliberateness that allows it power up and down grades impassible to anything lacking cannon-fired grappling hooks. Use the new G-Mode when you lock any of the diffs to further the technological wizardry-the system algorithmically toys with the steering, braking, and transmission for even more control. 

Low-speed off road maneuvers are the G’s métier. And it’s exceedingly comfortable around town and on the highway.

But this is not necessarily a truck that you want to take along a winding mountain pass. Because it is tall and upright, and styled as if by a cudgel, side-winds tend to catch it. And despite Mercedes’ body control technologies, turning is an event.

It’s not like keeping a dinner plate spinning atop a mop handle, but it’s more like that than you necessarily want it to be. You can elect not to drive in these places in this car, or do so only for short periods of time. Plus, the sybaritic and imperious pleasures of this vehicle generally excuse any behaviors that make you feel as though you might be swept off the earth by the next valley gust.

Fortunately, the G is loaded with safety features, including the suite of proprietary driver assist technologies that Mercedes has developed to allow the truck to-under certain circumstances which do not include twisty European mountaintop roads that were, up to very recently, narrow horse paths-start, stop, stay in its lane, avoid crossing a lane, and avoid (or become prepared for) hitting another person, car, or animal.

These all work about as well as these things work these days, which is to say, pretty well in concert with an engaged and attentive driver of decent skill, and not so well if left to their own (which they’re not meant to be.) Thank you, robots!

 

The G is also fast as hell. The 577 hp twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 in the G63 will rocket that brick to 60 mph in less than four-and-a-half seconds. (5.7 seconds for the 416 hp version of the same engine in the G550.)

This feels even faster, especially in the AMG version, because of the rumbling exhaust pipes that emerge, hotrod-like, from under the running board just beneath the back doors. (Yes, running board, like in the 1920s.) Side-pipes take bossiness to a fresh level. Except because of their dangliness, they limit the ground clearance for major off-roading.

But you probably won’t need to drive through a river or up scarred bluff like we did, and if you do, and you crack off the pendulous exhaust, we’re sure you had very good reasons. The G550 does not have sidepipes.

Still, we like its smaller wheels and horizontal (instead of vertical) grille slats better, and its cheaper like us, so we’d probably be tempted by that one when it goes on sale here late this year. Of course, you know which one we’d ultimately choose.

SCORECARD:

Performance: A-

Comfort: A-

Cargo Capacity: A

Lust Factor: A

Overall: A

BOTTOM LINE:

The G is a one-of-a-kind truck. It commands respect for its core assets: menacing classic good looks and prodigious off-road capabilities. But it’s also a trendy commodity, and a truly profligate toy in a category rife with extravagant waste. It is possible to love the G and not be it’s fan, but it is almost impossible to not love it.

SPECS:

Price (Base, estimate): G550 $125,000; G63 $150,000

Powertrain: 4.0 liter twin-turbocharged V8 416 hp/450 lb-ft or 577 hp/627 lb-ft

Fuel Economy: 12-14 city/hwy mpg

Favorite Angle: 90-degrees

Source: Pluse ng

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