“The End of an Era – A Retrospective”
The year is 1972 and the Shah of Iran, then a prominent shareholder of Mercedes, suggested that Mercedes design a military type off road vehicle that could capably operate in adverse environments like the Iranian Desert. It would be nearly a decade before we civilians would see and buy, what would become known as the Geländewagen aka G-Wagon. Over the next four decades the base ethos of the G-Wagon has changed very little, a highly capable and reliable utilitarian type vehicle, designed to take people to unheard of places and bring them back home, hence why it includes features like three locking differentials.
However, what has changed over this time is Mercedes efforts year over year in, at least visually if not practically, shedding the utilitarian personality of the G-Wagon for one that is more luxurious and pampering. The exercise has been so sophisticated for Mercedes that G-Wagon has become a status symbol of affluence. The reason I reminisce about this storied journey is that in its current iteration, the G-Wagon (specifically the G63s) is likely as close to perfection that G-Wagon will come in its current form in North America. Under the hood lies a 4.0-litre V8 biturbo engine delivering 577 hp and 627 lb-ft of torque. A 9-speed AMG SPEEDSHIFT 9G-TRONIC transmission translates this power into forward motion that catapults the G63s to 100km in a mind boggling 4.5 seconds. The translation of nearly 6,000 lbs of mass from a standstill to speed is a thrilling exercise of sound, g-forces and quick hand eye co-ordination. Despite a ladder-type frame, the updated suspension (independent front suspension) in the G63s gives it surprisingly good on-road driving dynamics. Since 2019 the G-Wagon rides 2.1 inches longer and 2.7 inches wider. This gives the G63s a muscular wide stance as compared to the previous generations and also adds to a more stable ride. The suspension can also be adjusted depending on your desired needs, sporty driving dynamics or comfort on long journeys. With the G63s’ DYNAMIC SELECT, at the touch of a button the driver is able to adjust the suspension to the three settings of “Comfort”, “Sport” and “Sport+” – which allows damping to be controlled individually for each wheel and is dependent on the driving style, the road surface condition and the selected suspension setting.
The increased measurements of the G63s not only assist on road manner but also in the interior, which is very well appointed, comfortably holds any size occupant, thanks to nearly 2 more inches of leg room up front and a whopping 6 inches in the rear. The G63s dons nappa leather with rhombus-shaped quilting with AMG badging. The seats are comfortable for all day driving or heavy duty off-roading alike. The infotainment and the digital instrument cluster combine to create an almost seamless display that’s over two feet across (12.3 inches each). The Mbux system is highly configurable if not a bit complex for the novice user. The most interesting feature of this luxury SUV is the super high drive height. You realize instantly that despite all the creature comforts the G63s is purpose built for a role most of these purchased vehicles will never be used for, extreme off-roading. Ground clearance is 9.5 inches, with 7.3 inches of travel for the independent front suspension and 8.8 inches for the live-axle rear. At 30.9, 29.9, and 26.0 degrees, the approach, departure, and break-over angles. When driving the G63s you cannot help to be reminded of these impressive numbers. This vehicle will go nearly anywhere you want to go. One of the key reasons, mentioned earlier for this ability is the three locking differentials and the unrivaled traction they provide. Together with a low range that nearly halves the reduction of the previous gear (2.93:1 compared with 2.10:1), producing insane amounts of low end torque, crawling and pulling power.
The G63s is about as iconic a vehicle can be. It is instantaneously recognizable and garners admiration from on lookers like a supercar. Having been behind the wheel of one for a week I understand why people love it so much. On the one side it sticks out like a sore thumb where ever you go, but in a good way and that’s likely why most G-Wagon owners buy it. However, on the flip side from a driver’s perspective, the newer version of the G-Wagon actually presents as a vehicle that you can get behind every day of the week and not be punished and quite comfortably drive and carry out your daily tasks. These same things mean that the likelihood of any owner, ever really putting a G-wagon through its paces in environments that it was designed to tackle over 4 decades ago only seems further away. For those few that can afford to make this potential choice, with an as tested sticker price of just shy of $234,000.00, I say Glückwunsch (Congrats).