2016 Mercedes-Benz AMG G65

MOAB, Utah — It’s a military vehicle in most of the world including the U.S. Marine Corps and in the civilian market it’s hugely popular with the likes of the Russian mafia, professional superballers who can consistently hit 3-point falling away jump shots, cardiothoracic surgeons (for some odd reason) and heavily armed gun toting bad guys in action movies.

The G-class, otherwise known as the Geländewagen (German for “off-road vehicle”) has been built in Graz, Austria, largely unchanged since 1979.  Each handmade G-Wagen takes 10 days to build and only 54 are produced each day.

It has always been an expensive vehicle ergo the entry-level G550 starts at  $119,900 and an incredible $217,900 for the AMG G65 trim level that lands in Bentley territory. While only a few thousand are sold in the U.S. each year, even at those prices they fly out of dealerships with a waiting list to get one.

I recently had the opportunity to spend time behind the wheel of the G-Wagen in and around Moab Utah driving each of the three offered models and, to be clear, even with the tarted up demilitarized luxury version, the ergonomics of the military vehicle are thinly disguised: a huge step up into the cabin, comfortable but erect seating position and minimal legroom both front and back.

Each of the models were finished in exquisite red Nappa diamond quilted designo leather seats and door gussets, anthracite poplar wood and carbon fiber trim. Mercedes engineers also equipped the vehicle with their latest technology integration operated via a flat-screen display just above the air vents on the center dash.

The base G-Wagen is powered by a new, twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V-8 that delivers 416 horsepower matched to a seven-speed automatic transmission. Power was more than adequate with sweet melodic exhaust notes.

We spent most of our time in the massively powered 621 horsepower 6.0-Liter biturbo V-12 engine that also included dual chrome-tipped side pipes, outrageous 21-inch twin 5 spoke alloy wheels, matte-finish silver paint and a chrome polished brush bar up front.

But colossal amounts of horsepower and huge tires do nothing for the G’s primitive driving and handling dynamics. The steering response is nothing if not imprecise causing the vehicle to wander almost aimlessly on the highway. The brakes were disappointing, the vehicle’s high center of gravity contributed to excessive body roll and there was little in the way of confident handling.

And, if those deficiencies weren’t enough of a buzz kill the G65 with its massive horsepower was oddly not fast. We felt little difference in the way of performance between it and the 4.0-liter V-8 and we actually liked the sound of the smaller engine better.

Still none of these issues, the12 MPG gas mileage or price deters celebrities, mobsters or the elite from lining up to buy one. Why? Because it just looks so badass and of course, one has to maintain their reputation.

Vital Stats

Price: $119,900 - $217,900
Price as tested: $221,675
Seating: 4
Engine: 6.0-Liter biturbo V-12
Horsepower: 621
Fuel Economy: 11/13 – city/highway

Fab Features

The awe of exclusivity
“Superpower” like off road capabilities
Chrome tipped side pipes

— Jim Prueter