First drive: Merc G63 AMG
Merc's hot rod truck is now available in RHD. Another excuse for a spin…
Haven't we read about the 2013 G63 AMG before?
Yes. But this is the first one with the steering wheel on the correct side. That means that us Indians can now enjoy the visceral daftness of a G63.
Aha. Remind me - did anything change for 2013?
Outside, it still largely looks like it's been de-mobbed from the Death Star. But there are now indicators on the wing mirrors, LED running lights, and the grill and bumper are exclusive to AMG versions. Inside, it's had slightly more extensive re-jiggery. The dashboard and centre console are new and have a funny little 7-inch iPad mini-like screen floating above the climate controls and differential lock buttons (handily labeled 1, 2 and 3 just in case you forget which order they should be pushed).
What about the engine?
It's big. It's loud. It's stupid. This is a car that, in civilian flavour, was designed to handle 182bhp at the most when it launched in 1979. Now it's got a 5.5-litre twin-turbo V8 with 540bhp and 760Nm of torque.
How does that feel, then?
Well, it's certainly not been trampled on by the cloven hooves of common sense. At low speeds it's a case of prodding the throttle, coasting and repeating, just as you would in something rubbish and American from the sixties. Sustained contact with the accelerator just turns petrol into noise and too much speed.
But it takes to the city like a duck to Hoi Sin. But not because of anything tangible like performance or ride comfort (the lowered AMG suspension feels far too stiff for a 2.6 tonne truck). It simply has road presence by the bucket load. People leapt out of the way like it was a gesture of personal gratitude that you've not killed them.
Did you bother to drive it outside London?
We did. And it wasn't quite so good... It's has the murderous combination of dreadful grip and incredibly vague, antiquated recirculating ball steering. Arrive at a corner and you end up flailing your arms around, understeering a lot, then waiting with a puckered backside for the ESP to judder you out of trouble.
Then there's braking. Despite the panoply revisions AMG made, namely six-piston fixed callipers taken from the ML63 AMG, stability is still abysmal. And for some reason you also seem to draw up at a slightly different angle to the one you started braking at.
What about off road?
Are you joking? We'd ruin our rimz.
Just kidding. Even on low-profile road tyres the car's military heritage peers through. It's got a ladder chassis made from steel that's up to 4mm thick, there are proper live axles, it's got those three electronic differential locks we mentioned earlier. Even in AMG guise, there's plenty of fresh air underneath the front and rear bumper, affording it excellent departure and approach angles. Point it at something you couldn't walk up, gently squeeze the throttle and count the clouds while it slowly heaves itself to the top. No fuss or drama. It just goes.
But we'd hope so - this is the G's raison d'être. Back in the seventies, the Shah of Iran suggested to Mercedes that it should build a 4x4, so MB linked with Austrian military vehicle manufacturer Steyr-Daimler-Puch and started creating the "Geländewagen". They're still all hand-built same Graz-based factory they were made in back then and have seen service with 63 armies. Mercedes has even had to promise NATO that it'll carry on building them till 2025.
A hand-built car with a Mercedes badge. Bet that's not cheap.
The G63 starts at Rs 1.46 crore (ex-showroom, Delhi), which sounds like a lot. But actually it's shed loads.
So it's a stupid, expensive car you couldn't possibly recommend?
Quite. It's utterly pointless. It costs more than a proper luxo-limo, it isn't anywhere near as powerful as an AMG-tuned saloon, it handles like a high-top Sprinter, and it has the same drag coefficient as a 1969 Ford Torino (no really, we looked it up). Just buy a Range Rover and be done with it.
I sense a but...
But... It's indefinably brilliant. It's satisfying. It's hilarious. It's terrifying. It's incomparable... And we love it. Well, most of us do. People often say that there's a fine line between genius and lunacy. We're glad Mercedes is still snorting it.