New wings here, new sponsors there - this is the class of 2019
You are here
What on earth… We know. The Mercedes-Maybach G650 Landaulet is what happens when you equip a Geländewagen with the 6.0-litre, biturbo V12 from the S65, the portal axles from the G 500 4x42 and the rear seats from a Maybach S-Class. Then stretch the wheelbase by more than half a metre and fit a Landaulet-style soft-top. And yes, it still has three diff locks. The 650 is, quite simply, outrageous. Erm, why? Why the hell not? People love the G-Wagen. Mercedes is selling more than ever (including over 1,000 4x42s to date…), most of them AMGs (AKA, the expensive ones). So it seems there’s no shortage of people willing to spend vast sums of money on a car that was conceived in the mid-Seventies, hasn’t changed all that much since and is thus in many ways objectively worse than modern SUVs. But since when has the G-Wagen been about objectivity? Walk us through it, then.
It has presence, the G650. And so it should – at 5345mm long and 2235mm tall, it’s substantially longer and taller than a long-wheelbase Range Rover. The portal axles also give it much ground clearance, like the 4x42. The G650 adds sidesteps that deploy electronically when you open any of the G’s four doors, then retract once you’ve clambered aboard. Development boss Pamela Amann tells us this is because when she went to look at an early prototype modelled on a 4x42, she was wearing a pencil skirt and thus couldn’t physically clamber up and in. The problem was solved in the short term with a small step-ladder. The front is typical G-Wagen, albeit beautifully trimmed. Behind the two front seats there’s a glass partition that can be raised, lowered, or made completely opaque with the push of a button. Said button is in the back, as is the button to raise and lower the roof which, interestingly, isn’t fully electric. A motor does the heavy lifting, but first you have to manually unlock it with a couple of fantastically mechanical-feeling handles above the partition screen. Mercedes tells us this is entirely on-purpose, because it’s in-keeping with the nature of the car. And the back? Better than the front. The chairs are a direct lift from the Maybach S600, so they heat, cool, massage and move about on request. The 578mm wheelbase extension means there’s enough room for a six-footer like myself to stretch his legs out properly, too, towards the console (designed to look like the G’s dash, but a bespoke part) on which the twin screens are mounted. A small wind deflector means bluster is kept to a minimum and the positioning of the seats relative to the windows, folded roof and spare tyre mean you feel surprisingly cocooned. You barely notice the gawping, the waving, the hurled expletives… The seats even take the sting out of the G’s ride. No G rides well, but as you’ll remember Chris Harris saying in his review of the 4x42, all the serious suspension work that’s gone in to make it better off-road has had the perhaps unintended effect of making it more comfortable and controlled on it. The 650 rides OK. For a G. Ultimately an S-Class is (much) more comfortable, but it can’t scale tall pointy things. What if I want to drive it? Don’t. I mean, it’s quite entertaining in a perverse kind of way – because it’s massive and way, way quicker than it need be (0-62mph in less than six seconds, 112mph-limited top speed), but the steering is imprecise and curiously willing to self-centre at every available opportunity. Even while stationary. Rearward and over-the-shoulder visibility is poor because of the partition, and placing it is tricky because there’s more than a foot of invisible carbon-fibre wheel arch either side of the bonnet. And it attracts attention. A lot of it. Mostly positive, admittedly, but if you live your life behind tinted glass this isn’t the car for you. Bet it’s expensive. Naturally. €630,000 before taxes, which in Germany means €749,000 all-in. The price, then, like the car itself, defies rationalisation. This is a car without competition. You can’t help but love (or loathe) it for its absurdity, however objectionable you might find it. Specs: 5980cc biturbo V12, 621bhp, 738lb ft, 112mph, 0-62mph in less than six secs, 3,350kg Wait for the next issue of Top Gear magazine for the full story. Images: Dennis Noten