Another day, another round of teasers for Skoda’s first performance SUV
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£250,000 when new
Whoa. Yup, that’s the reaction this tends to get, especially if it’s looming large in your rear-view mirror. Spawned from the bonkers AMG 6x6 project - a £400k Tonka toy that found over 100 buyers - this massive tyre-dipping exercise is still a concept. As a nod both to the G’s famously boxy shape and the added off-road ability, it’s ‘squared’, Merc suggesting the G500 4x4² is the most extreme 4x4 money can’t yet buy. It might have lost the 6x6’s third row of wheels, but it retains that car’s portal axles and wider track for its steroidal looks. It doesn’t look very… concepty. You’ll see it at the Geneva Motor Show in a few weeks’ time, and the official line is firmly ‘design study’. That said, it’s difficult to imagine Mercedes-Benz not taking orders at the show from crazy-wealthy survivalists who might otherwise have to do with a jacked-up pick-up or Jeep come the apocalypse. Unlike the 6x6 it’s not an AMG project, even though over 50 per cent of G-Class sales wear Affalterbach badges. Instead the G500 4x4² has to ‘make do’ with a 4.0-litre bi-turbo V8 petrol engine with 416bhp and 450lb ft of torque. Isn’t that AMG’s engine? Very much so, especially from the side-pipes which bark a suitably menacing snarl to match the wild looks. If you’re tall enough to peek under the bonnet you will indeed see that it’s essentially the same ‘hot V’ bi-turbo 4.0-litre engine that powers the AMG GT. Obviously it’s been tweaked a bit, as the G can’t quite create the g-force that GT does. Instead, Mercedes-Benz’s people have added a wet sump and different pumps to allow it to work properly at the sort of insane inclines this wide-bodied, high-riding monster is capable of. Isn’t the ‘normal’ G-Wagen pretty tidy off-road already? For some, ‘brilliant’ just isn’t enough. Those portal axles allow the ground clearance to more than double - from 210mm to 450mm - while the breakover and angles of approach and departure allow this G500 to conquer absolutely everything. It will wade up to a metre, too. Useful. Featuring the three diffs and seven-speed auto of the regular car, where you’d usually have to slow down and crawl in a regular G, the G500 4x4² just powers, up, down, over and through. And - if you’re going fast enough - it’ll even jump stuff. It lacks its 6x6 relation’s party trick of self-inflating tyres, but choose the off-road wheel and tyre package with beadlocks and you can drop the tyre pressure to 0.5 bar if you need to negotiate, say, a major desert. You’ll need to get out and pump them up again once you reach tarmac. Or you could just have your minions deal with it while you tear off in one of your supercars. How is it on road? Surprisingly handy. Those wider axles do wonders for the G’s roll control and stability, while the huge rolling circumference of the tyres means it rides decently, too. The steering requires a bit of guesswork and faith, but the G 500 4x4² actually turns after a slight seat-chewing pause. It’s all surprisingly sharper to drive than the regular G-Class, so long as you remember those massive, detachable, carbon fibre wheel arch extensions protrude way out either side of the narrow cabin. You never forget the 2.25m height, while the breezeblock-into-a-hurricane aerodynamics does result in some interesting wind noise at times. There are Comfort and Sport choices for the suspension, the latter working on just one of the two dampers that each of those gigantic wheels feature. It does little other than jiggle your bits around unnecessarily. Leave it in Comfort and it adapts in the bends if you’re chucking it around, anyway. Sounds like it’s ready for production. Doesn’t it? It may be billed as a concept car, but this G drives like the finished article. No word on pricing or indeed performance figures as yet, but given its likely audience, figure on at least £200k and potentially much more. Even so, we want one. A lot.