Expert Reviews

Test Drive: 2013 Mercedes-Benz G 63 AMG

Sometimes, a vehicle will leave me speechless. Usually, it’s because it is just such an amazing piece of engineering, while other times, it is due to the fact the vehicle is utter, utter crap. However, periodically a vehicle leaves me dumbfounded because I have no freakin’ clue what to make of it. This, ladies and gentleman, is one of those times. Perhaps it is a cultural divide, or perhaps it is the fact I do not possess a duffel bag large enough to carry the cash required to acquire such a vehicle. Whatever the reasoning, the 2013 Mercedes-Benz G 63 AMG is a bit of an automotive enigma, and I love it for that fact.

The G Class, aka G-Wagen, aka Geländewagen, is a truck Mercedes-Benz first introduced to the market in 1979.  Although it was designed for potential military applications, there has also been civilian versions since its inception.  The G has spent the past three and a half decades earning a cult status from hardcore off-roaders, the celebrity elite and Military's the world over. This may be part of the reason that even after all these years, and the introduction of the GL-Class SUV, the pricey G-Class soldiers on.

For 2013 Mercedes-Benz has given the G-Wagen a complete exterior and interior facelift, but don’t worry G-Class fans, it is still a giant box. This tall upright shape provides a commanding view over, well, just about everything on the road short of a semi truck. The rear passenger windows seem to stretch from the ceiling to the seat cushion and offer rear seat passengers a lot of open air motoring; just make sure they are belted in so they don’t fall out the window. These massive windows do translate into great sightlines, though, especially with the rear seat folded. But raise the highly perched rear seatback and rearward visibility is not so great, especially when factoring in the rear-mounted spare tire. Luckily, there are parking sensors all over the truck and a rearview camera.

The rear seating area is quite cramped for a truck this size, but the cargo area is quite large. Front passengers will have to fight over the sole netted mesh cup holder, unless of course you open up the glove box to reveal the massive cup holders built in the glove box lid that are at least a quarter inch deep.

The interior has every surface covered in leather, wood or alcantara. The steering wheel, although power tilt and telescopic adjustable, still stays in a very truck like position and angle. I absolutely love the ‘designo Exclusive Package’ seats that are available in one of three cross-stitched colour options (the G-Class has no less than 14 different front seat colour combinations in total).

Fun fact – the heated seat and cooled seat functions can be operated at the same time.

The real beauty to any AMG product is always the engine, and here, the G 63 does not disappoint. Under the squared-off hood resides a 5.5L twin turbocharged V8 grunting out 536 hp and 560 lb-ft. Sending power to all four wheels is AMG’s Speedshift Plus 7G-Tronic transmission. In Comfort mode, the transmission happily stays around 2,000 rpm and effortlessly moves this beast around. Although this is a more responsive AMG transmission than found in the regular G 550, inputs from the paddle shifters were always delayed and slow reacting, even in sport mode. My guess is that this is to ensure you don’t blow a hole through one of the three lockable differentials or dislocate the driveshaft clean off the truck with all that turbocharged torque.

Even with 2,550 kg of German steel to haul around, power is immense, immediate and always there. Mercedes-Benz claims that the G 63 AMG will officially go from 0–100 km/h in 5.4 seconds, but I think that is a bit conservative. Every time I fired up the Geländewagen, the mood struck me to unleash all 536 ponies for no other reason than to hear this AMG engine roar. After a week in the G-Class, I have concluded that every vehicle on the market needs dual side dump exhausts. The sound penetrating the cabin from the twin-blown V8 engine is euphoric. Nothing better than dropping the hammer on the highway and hearing that noise reverberating back into my cabin as it splashes off of the vehicles I pass. I spent most of the week with the rear windows open, even though it was very cold out, just to hear that sound.

Fun fact – the G 63 smells like various burning oils after driven hard. I think it raises the truck’s testosterone levels a few points.

Being what this truck is, I am not going to comment on fuel consumption other than to say that if I had a two-four of beer, and gave one bottle away for every litre of gasoline this truck used per 100 km, I would be left very, very thirsty and pretty well sober.

Even with the full AMG treatment and sporty 275/50R20 tires shod at all four corners, there is only so much sport that can be extracted from a vehicle with dual rigid axles. The G 63 handles no worse than the average family sedan, but any lunatic cornering is quickly quelled by the voice in your head thinking the truck will tip, roll or just continue straight. Further dissuading spirited driving is a bloodcurdling scream of trapped wind noise that invades the completely un-aerodynamic windshield at high speeds.

The steering is heavy at low speeds and provides the kind of feedback expected in a hardcore off-road truck. The ride is rough on all surfaces, and especially so on the highway, where it gets downright choppy. The AMG brakes, on the other hand, are most impressive and stop this urban tank with alarming authority.

But, as much as I try, evaluating this G 63 AMG on its merits alone is a futile effort. AMG has taken a truck whose sole purpose is off-road prowess, and then installed an engine, tires and exhaust system not meant for off-roading. It is a pure image truck lacking any real practical reasons for ownership. But when was the last time any of us bought a vehicle without a little emotion involved? It is pricey, heavy, inefficient, cramped and out of date, but man, is it ever awesome!


Model Tested 2013 Mercedes-Benz G 63 AMG
Base Price $149,900
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $2,095
Price as Tested $159,495
Optional Equipment
$5,000 (designo Leather Exclusive), $2,500 (designo mocha black)