2019 Mercedes AMG G63

PHONEX — I’ve always had a soft spot as well as a passion for old vehicles. I guess they are a fresh breeze of the past, blowing through our minds to remind us of truths of times long forgotten. Some of those vehicles were nothing more than shooting stars, debuting to raves then quickly flaring into oblivion, to be completely forgotten. Others, like the Mercedes-Benz Geländewagen, introduced in 1979, are an immediate conflagration, developing a rock-star presence and a cult-like following that burns on. The word “legendary” could easily preface its name.

The 2019 Mercedes-Benz AMG G63, or G-Wagen as it’s affectionately known, has been thoroughly redesigned for the first time since its introduction 40 years ago. Much-need changes, both inside and out, include state-of-the-art safety and technology upgrades.

Still, the design team in Graz, Austria — where the vehicle has always been produced — has done a superb job of remaining true to the G-Wagen’s well-proven virtues, and implementing a gorgeous reinterpretation of the unmistakable design including its slab sides, upright boxiness, flared wheel arches and familiar grille. By comparison, most vehicles rarely go beyond five years without a redo.

Originally a purpose-built military vehicle commissioned for the Shah of Iran back in 1979, the very upright, slab-sided, go-anywhere brute of a non-civilian utility vehicle quickly drew the admiration and desire of well-heeled consumers from around the world.

Today, nearly half of all G-Wagens are sold in California, the majority of those in Southern California shuttling rock stars, celebrities, and professional athletes who don’t mind the attention or making an impression by standing out from the crowd.

For 2019, the G-Wagen is offered in just two flavors: the G550 powered by a bi-turbocharged 416-horsepower V-8 ($125,494), and our high-performance AMG G63 ($148,495) 4.0-liter V-8 bi-turbocharged delivering 577 horsepower and 627-lb-ft of torque. This setup has the G63 sprinting from zero to 60 mph in just 3.0 seconds, It is limited to a top speed of 137 mph, or 149 mph with the optional AMG Driver’s Package. Power is delivered through the AMG SPEEDSHIFT TCT 9-speed automatic transmission and permanent all-wheel drive.

When considering the G63 weighs in at around 6,000 pounds, that capability is even more impressive. That’s an amazing amount of power, with its glorious exhaust notes delivered via the dual-flow exhaust system featuring side pipes below the rear doors. The twin tailpipes in high-gloss chrome emit the typical AMG V-8 sound.

The standard exhaust flap can be adjusted in two stages using the switch in the center console or, depending on the selected driving mode, to make the exhaust note more sporty or discreet. Additionally, via a switch on the center console, the driver can choose between three different sets of damping characteristics, namely "Comfort," "Sport" and "Sport+," and thus individually influence the driving experience from very comfortable to taut and sporty.

Outside, the new G-Wagen is slightly bigger all around and is significantly larger inside vs. the previous generation. It’s just over two inches longer, and five inches wider, with most room showing up for rear seat passengers who get almost six more inches of legroom.

Inside there are new twin 12-inch high-res color displays (the infotainment screen is standard but the digital instrument cluster is an extra $850). The gorgeous “designo” espresso brown/black Nappa leather is standard, but adding the diamond quilt stitching, Nappa leather dashboard, AMG badging in the headrests and floor mats, and active front seats with massaging, rapid heating and ventilating seats adds an additional $7,200. Additional upgrades on our test G63 included the AMG night package and an AMG carbon fiber engine cover, and pushed our vehicle’s sticker price to over $164,000, including shipping and delivery charges.

The vehicle’s switchgear is as close to Tiffany jewelry as one would hope to ever find in any vehicle and is simply gorgeous. Hallmarks of the G63 also include the grab handle in front of the front passenger and chrome-highlighted switches for the three differential locks.

During the week I had the G63 in my possession I spent as much time behind the wheel as possible, including a day trip from Phoenix to Tucson, Ariz., and back. First, know that the G63 is supremely comfortable and quiet, defying its military battle-ready, war-zone capability. Seats are fantastic, with heating/cooling, massage feature and side bolster seat enhancement. Large windows and surround camera view afforded excellent visibility.

Passing performance on the highway happens so quickly with the massive horsepower and torque, it renders driving intoxicatingly effortless, yet every emotional sense is heightened to its maximum. Yet the handling might have been its strong suit, and the sense of safety and security like few vehicles I have ever driven.

Even with its dismal fuel economy (I averaged just 13 mpg), outrageous ergonomics, over-the-top price, and continuous “look at me” styling, if I had to drive just one vehicle for the rest of my life, this would be the one.

Vital Stats
Base Price: $147,495
Price as Tested: $167,295
Powertrain: 577 horsepower 4.0-liter bi-turbocharged V-8 with 627 lb-ft torque connected to a 9-speed automatic transmission and full-time all-wheel drive
Fuel Economy: 13-mpg city – 15-mpg highway – 14-mpg combined
Seating: 5

Where Built: Graz, Austria

Crash Test Results: The Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen has not been crash tested by either the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Competes With:
Land Rover Range Rover
Lexus LX
Lincoln Navigator

Fab Features:
Built like a bank vault
Incredibly opulent interior
Massively powerful engine

— Jim Prueter