BOSTON — Ah, I finally get it. Now I understand the G Wagen. I had to drive it for a week and phone a friend who actually owns one, but it all makes sense.
The Mercedes-AMG G 63, also known as that huge, boxy Mercedes that’s often mistaken for a German Jeep is a two-row, extremely luxurious SUV that sells for around $200,000. I can’t count the number of non-car people who told me they really liked my Jeep while I was driving the G, which would probably break the heart of the hard-working designers back at AMG headquarters in Affalterbach.
At first glance, the G 63 is ridiculous. Even given its bulk, it’s not particularly roomy inside. The Platinum White leather interior is impeccable, of course, and the seats feature a hot stone massage function and are some of the most comfortable you’ll find this side of a Rolls-Royce. Every touchpoint is exquisite, even the massive grab handle in front of the passenger that’s emblazoned with “G manufaktur” thanks to an $8,250 cosmetics package.
You’ll want to sit up front, where you’re afforded a high vantage point, looking down on other, lesser SUVs, and because the rear seats don’t have much leg room. I don’t know where all the space has gone, but I suspect it’s to accommodate the myriad powertrain and suspension components that launch this rig in an astonishing 4.3 seconds.
Though the interior rivals an S Class in luxuriousness, the real magic is under the hood. The G 63 is equipped with a buttery smooth handcrafted 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 making 527 horsepower and 627 lb-ft of torque, a powerplant that was glorious when I drove it in the Aston Martin Vantage a few years ago, and an engine that may be the pinnacle of internal-combustion.
Paired with a dynamite 9-speed dual-clutch transmission and an exhaust note that can wake the dead and then make them smile with glee (at least the dead gearheads), the G 63 takes the laws of physics and smashes them into oblivion, making this gigantic SUV a shockingly good sports car. It’s not the magic carpet ride one might find in a Rolls-Royce, but it handled the crashing potholes of Boston with aplomb, even with 22-inch black forged wheels (a $4,650 option, to go with the $1,950 AMG Night exterior blackout package).
But the G isn’t an objectively good car. It gets atrocious fuel economy, and I didn’t even achieve the 14 mpg combined that it rates. Though the trunk is roomy, the back seats don’t have a ton of space. Perhaps most importantly, it’s ostensibly an off-roader, complete with three locking differentials and countless different offroad modes and features; with its low-profile summer tires and delicate paint, not many G Wagens are going to see anything approaching off-road in its life.
And inside, though swathed in gorgeous leather and a look-at-me multicolored ambient light scheme that wouldn’t look out of place in an Ibiza nightclub, and despite costing $200,000, the infotainment panel sitting proudly atop the dashboard isn’t even a touchscreen. Worse still, it doesn’t support wireless Apple CarPlay. Do you mean to tell me that I spent $200,000 on this glorious luxury monster truck and have to use a knob to control Apple Maps?
That’s the thing about the G Wagen, though. None of that matters. The imperfection is what makes it perfect. I spoke to a friend of mine who owns one, and he explained that it’s not about the ride and it’s not about the tech. It’s the automotive equivalent of a wristwatch or a bespoke suit. Pulling up in the G 63, especially in my test unit’s eye-popping South Sea Blue metallic paint scheme, makes a hell of a statement.
I wouldn’t opt for the South Sea Blue paint, though. It’s just a touch too flashy for me — though if I lived in South Beach, I might feel differently. I saw an all-white G 63, much like the example in the photos here, and rather liked that setup. All black is an option, too, a perfectly cast as Roy Kent’s ride in Ted Lasso. But you can, theoretically, get it in nearly whatever color suits your fancy.
Except for the fact that the G 63, built at Magna’s assembly plant in Graz, Austria, is incredibly difficult to acquire. Mercedes stopped taking orders entirely for a while, and, as best I can tell, there wasn’t a single Mercedes-AMG G 63 in the test fleet for all of 2022. Then this one showed up, I had it for a week, and now I understand.
The G is the SUV for people who want a G. Not for other people to look at, and not so people think they’re hot stuff (though some people probably buy them for that, posers). It’s for people who want to look at their Omega Speedmaster and smile because it was the first watch on the moon and then walk outside to their G 63 and grin because a glorious noise is about to bark from the ridiculously unnecessary side-pipe exhaust.
The G 63 is an automotive oxymoron, a vehicle that has perhaps no reason to exist, yet thrives in spite of it. Normally I’d say you can’t put a price on a smile, but it turns out that you can in the car industry: $202,850. Worth every penny.