What happens when you combine a modern 5.5L V8 and two turbochargers with a ladder frame chassis from the mid ‘70s? Some might say you end up with a modern hot rod. For Mercedes-Benz AMG, they ended up with the G63.
G is for Geländewagen
Let’s rewind to 1972 when development began for the G-Class. For those who are unaware, the G-Class was actually developed as a military vehicle from the ground up for the German Army forces. It was Initially assembled entirely by hand in 1975 before beginning production in 1979 where the first civilian version was also offered so that everyone could have a piece of that brute military pie. Developed for tough terrain conditions and heavy use – the G-Class utilises a body-on-frame structure as opposed to a unibody or monocoque construction that is more commonly used with passenger vehicles that we are familiar with today.
Known as the W460 chassis, the G-Class was initially offered with both petrol and diesel engine variants and a range of body configurations including 2, 3, or 5 door as well as a pickup version. Over the next decade, the G-Class received further refinements such as air conditioning, power windows and an automatic transmission option. However, the W460 remained severely underpowered with the ‘fastest’ variant needing 14 seconds to reach 100km/h.
Replacing the W460, the W463 and W461 were introduced in 1990 and 1992 respectively. These two chassis numbers allowed the G-Class to head down two very different routes. While the W461’s design remained focused on military use, the W463 started the shift away from ‘utilitarian’ to ‘luxury’ and was aimed at consumers who sought more creature comforts and improved driving dynamics. To fit in with other passenger vehicles on the road, additions to the W463 include leather upholstery, wood trim, climate control, a smoothed-out exterior, and colour-coded fender flares.
Aufrecht, Melcher and Großaspach and the M157
AMG, the high-performance subsidiary of Mercedes-Benz, tinkered with the Mercedes-Benz M278, a 4.7L biturbo V8, by increasing displacement to 5.5L and boost pressure to create the M157. AMG’s M157 variant of this engine was fitted to several other AMG badged vehicles such as the SL63, E63, and S63 and produced between 386kw and 430kw depending on the application.
AMG also involved themselves with the W463 chassis G-Class and developed seven different performance models. Under the hood of the G-Classes that wore an AMG badge were motors ranging from a 3.6L naturally aspirated inline six-cylinder through to a 6.0L biturbo V12 producing over 450kw. Amongst these very special engines is the M157, found in the G63 between 2013 and 2018, and it is coupled to a quick shifting seven-speed automatic transmission.
The G63: A crazy combination of chassis and motor
Not only did AMG install an insanely high-performance powertrain into the G63, but they also added other enhancements such as 6-piston front brake callipers, a revised suspension package, side-exit exhausts, paddle shifters, and a raft of exterior changes to give the vehicle an overall brawny look. It’s mind-boggling when you remind yourself that all of this is bolted to a chassis that was intended for military use over 35 years ago, but how does it actually drive? I have been curious for a very long time.
I am incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to experience this stunning example presented in Obsidian Black Metallic with ‘designo’ single-tone leather trim in red and black piano lacquer wood trim. There is an audible ‘clack’ as you open and ‘thunk’ as you close the doors – it feels vault-solid and it is one of the most satisfying sounds to hear. The interior is well appointed and feels modern with heated and cooled seats, climate control, Harman Kardon premium audio and a large centre display. As you turn the key, the biturbo V8 makes its presence known with a deep and angry rumble through the exhaust pipes.
Driving the G63 is where the experience really becomes interesting and the mechanical chaos becomes apparent. If you are expecting the G63 to drive like other passenger vehicles, it would require a little bit of driving before you feel acquainted with its unique characteristics – the steering feels slow and vague, and the ride is unexpectedly bouncy at times.
Under heavy acceleration, the G63 defies logic. You are thrusted back into the seat while your right hand is rapidly grabbing the paddle for the next gear. The chassis feels like it squats down and leans to one side as you thunder away, requiring you to firmly grip the steering wheel to keep it pointing straight – it’s truly wild. It’s a very strange sensation to drive a car that feels both ponderous and rapid at the same time, making for a challenging drive.
So what do you do with a car this outrageous? Like most luxury items, or anything that’s fun, objectivity and common sense does not prevail over emotion. The grin that never left my face while I was behind the wheel answered the question for me – it oozes so much charm and drama that I can’t help but love it!