First drive: the Brabus 6x6 takes on London
Remember when Hammond drove the original? This one has gold on the engine, gets to 62mph in 4.4 seconds, and costs £470,000...
Posted: 21 May 2014
What the hell is this?
Remember that 6x6 G63 G-class that Hammond drove in Series 21? Well, this is the Brabus version, which is more stupid in every way.
I want facts immediately
The car it's based on has a 5.5-litre 536bhp twin-turbo V8, with 560lb ft of torque. This, plainly, was not enough, so Brabus fitted two bigger turbochargers, upgraded the ECU, wrapped gold around the intakes to keep them cool, and popped on a new, rumblier exhaust.
This boosts output by 154bhp and 130lb ft to 690bhp, and 708lb ft. So roughly a 1.2-litre Golf's worth. That means the three-and-a-bit tonne 6x6 now gets to 62mph in 4.4 seconds, but the tyres limit its top speed to 99.4mph.
I note with interest that it's quicker to 62mph than a Maserati MC Stradale.
Correct. And a Porsche 911 Carrera. And a Lotus Evora. And a Jaguar F-Type. And a Bentley Continental GT V8.
Ho. Lee. Eff. So what does it feel like?
Well, the trouble with a truly unique experience is that literally nothing compares to it. But it does have one remarkable trick. Around London - or rather several feet above it (it's 2.21 metres tall) - it was as smooth as an escort's compliment. Really, you don't notice that it's 3775kg, and 5.9 metres long (70cm longer than an extended wheelbase Range Rover), nor do you notice that it has fifty per cent more wheels than everything else on the road.
Yeah, I suppose it doesn't look that mad from inside
The interior definitely helps. Like everything else that comes out of Brabus' Bottrop workshop, it's a bit... kinky. There's diamond stitching and leather and carbon fibre everywhere, but it still feels factory-Mercedes. Helped in no small part by the fact it is. Apart from the surface materials, the Brabus-only hardware amounts to a pair of paddle shifters (no, really), and a sill panel with the company legend backlit by, er, tasteful blue LEDs.
But really, postured on some ventilated and heated seats - which we imagine didn't make it in the original 6x6 G-class, commissioned by the Australian army - it could be a C63 AMG. Prod the throttle, there's a big rumble, and you're off with no great disturbances in the force. It's a confidence trick par excellence.
But surely the girth's a bit tricky?
Well, yes. It's 2.11 meters wide. Which several roads around London aren't. But remember, this has five locking differentials, with power split 30-40-30 across the axles, and 37-inch tyres that can self-inflate and deflate (controlled by an overhead panel that tightened Hammond's trousers). So mounting a curb doesn't really trouble it.
Corners, on the other hand, do. We had to three-point turn around about 40 per cent of London's Soho because the steering lock's terrible. And if you can find a road wide enough to pitch it into a bend, there's plenty of lean. That said, the unique spring and Ohlins damper setup makes it a lot more obliging and controlled than you'd suspect.
Right, but I've really got to find out about that acceleration...
It's... odd. If you floor it, it vibrates like you've driven into a ball of static electricity. Then, once the power's filled up every inch of the drivetrain, the wheels join in and it takes a great bite out of the horizon. Like the first four seconds of the 0-62mph sprint are all admin, then the final 0.4's actual acceleration.
It is. Nothing that weighs 3.7 tonnes should be this fast. Add in the vagaries of its steering, and it really feels like you're trying to steer a mudslide.
Steered many mudslides?
None. But you know what I mean.
Not really. But anyway, doesn't go in for hidden meaning, does it?
Absolutely not. The G-wagen appellation's never been more apposite. Brabus has fitted a special front spoiler, carbon fibre bonnet scoop, mirror-polished underbody guard, dark-tinted LED lights, a sort of apocalyptic sun visor thing, and an automated LED-lit side-step that drops down to help you heave yourself inside. It tends to make people look at you like they're being told two very important pieces of information at the same time. That or mouth a word we think is anchor.
What's the deal with that box thing on the back?
Brabus was using the 6x6 to promote its new London dealer on Park Lane, and the PR folk couldn't get it removed in time. This car's actually been sold, so we only had a few hours between its promo duties and flight to the Middle East. Also, apologies to the new owner if it now smells of fear.
I want to feel the constant rapture of girth, weight and height
You'll need £470,000. And a fair bit for fuel - during our rumble around town we managed about 11mpg.
5461cc, V8, 6WD, 690bhp, 708lb ft, 11mpg, 0-62mpg in 4.4secs, 99.4mph, 3775kg, £470,000