Exterior:Obsidian Black Metallic
Interior:designo Black / Black Exclusive Nappa Leather
The 2019 Mercedes-AMG G63 throws sensibility out the window. It accelerates like a sports car but its burdened by the extra weight of its formidable off-road kit; it’s got the goods to theoretically take on just about any off-road obstacle but it rides on sticky summer tires that struggle to find grip on anything but tarmac.
The Mercedes-Benz G-Class was initially designed for military and off-road use. But somewhere along the line, people who had never ventured onto a dirt road started buying them for the style and image. As appealing as the original G-Class was, the design was far too authentic to its military roots for the civilian world. Over the years, Mercedes-Benz applied the proverbial lipstick to a pig to make it more palatable. And it worked, to a point.
But as the rest of the SUV segment became more civilized, it was inevitable that the G-Class would follow. The question then became: How? Would it become a neutered SUV or retain its off-road and military credibility? The answer lies somewhere in the middle.
The redesigned 2019 G-Class has a more modern independent suspension setup that allows it to ride more smoothly and steer more precisely around turns. The interior, which is larger this year, keeps many of the styling cues of the original but now features less noise and modern infotainment and electronics.
Even though the new G-Class is now thoroughly domesticated, Mercedes-Benz says it’s still one of the most potent off-road SUVs on the market. The 2019 version comes with locking differentials that can lock all four wheels together to spin at the same speed to minimize wheelspin and find every bit of traction on slick and slippery surfaces.
Overall, we’re happy to see this SUV stick to its rough-and-tumble roots while bringing about just enough polish to keep it appealing. It’s upright styling easily makes it stand out among the crowd of more sleekly styled SUVs. But if you’re looking for a more practical SUV, you might want to consider getting Mercedes’ GLE or maybe even a Land Rover Range Rover.
However, those with the means to welcome a little irrationality into their lives are sure to love Mercedes-AMG’s high-performance SUV. Like a SEMA concept come to life, the G63 is stupid-fun in the best ways possible. Sure, a Mercedes-AMG GT is a better on-road performance car and the less powerful Mercedes-Benz G550’s standard all-season tires offer greater off-road performance (real off-roaders will want to slap on knobbier all-terrain rubber, though), but there’s something innately satisfying about driving a nearly three-ton SUV that’s capable of out-accelerating many sports cars.
With a starting price of $147,500, the G63 costs a cool $23,000 more than a G550. Is the AMG-badged box really worth the extra money over its lesser Benz branded sibling? That depends. While the standard G is plenty powerful and luxurious, the AMG model’s extra power, dynamic improvements, and more sporting looks give it an appeal that’s matched only by the more expensive, $178,500 Land Rover Range Rover SV Autobiography Dynamic. (This G’s $166,095 as-tested price, however, narrows the price gap.)
The G63 has all the trimmings of a luxury machine, though, and it sports standard equipment such as soft leather seats, heated and power operated front seats with memory, heated rear seats, tri-zone automatic climate control, a power sunroof, and a 12.3-inch infotainment screen with navigation and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility. Noticeably missing, however, are features such as a proximity key or power cargo door, neither of which are optionally available. Blame the exterior door handles, which the latest G63 shares with its predecessor, a vehicle whose origins date back to 1979. A time well before the advent of keyless entry, let alone proximity keys.
Despite its familiar looks, the 2019 G63 shares only the aforementioned exterior door handles, headlight-washer sprayers, and spare tire cover with its forebear. Mercedes’s flagship SUV stands out for its simple, purpose-built design, and the latest iteration of the G63 benefits from 6.0-inch wider front and rear tracks.
A number of AMG-specific cues such as the addition of the performance sub-brand’s now-ubiquitous Panamericana grille, a more aggressive lower fascia hidden behind a chunky bull bar, flared fenders, burly side exhaust pipes, and a set of 20-inch wheels and tires make the G63 look even more audacious than its G550 counterpart. The G63 we’re testing, however, takes things a few steps further, courtesy of a $2,300 coat of Designo Cardinal Red paint, and the $3,950 22-inch wheel and tire package.
It’s no less charming inside the G63, which combines modern Mercedes amenities with classic G cues such as an upright windshield, shallow dashboard with prominent buttons for the locking differentials, and a large grab handle fore of the passenger seat. That said, the G63’s cabin marks a far greater departure from tradition than its exterior. Alongside new features such as cup holders integrated into the center console and a fold-down rear armrest, the G63 also benefits from a big 12.3-inch dashboard-mounted infotainment screen, a meaty three-spoke steering wheel, and an array of attractive metal, plastic, and leather pieces. We’re particularly fond of the air vents and door-panel grab handles, which possess craftsmanship and quality worthy of this SUV’s six-figure price tag. Adding to this tester’s interior’s appeal is $1,300 in Designo open-pore ash wood and a steering wheel wrapped in $500 of leather and faux-suede. Meanwhile, the engine wears a $1,500 carbon-fiber cover.