Trucks & SUVs

New G-Wagon Proves There Really Is a Replacement for Displacement

Sometimes, older vehicles can still keep up with their newer counterparts. Even off-roaders: a used 4Runner is just as capable as a new one, for example. However, while used off-road SUVs can be bargains, their technology is also dated. This even applies to the Mercedes G-Wagon: the luxury off-roader has really only seen two significant refreshes since its debut. This includes the range-topping G63 AMG models. The new G-Wagon saw, among other changes, the AMG trim swap the old 5.5-liter twin-turbo V8 for a 4.0-liter version. But was this change for the better?

New Mercedes-AMG G-Wagon vs. the old one

Carwow host Mat Watson decided to find out if the new Mercedes-AMG G-Wagon was just as capable as the older model.

On the outside, the two SUVs are fairly similar. But that was done deliberately; Mercedes didn’t want to mess with the beloved icon’s image. And some things did carry over: Motor Trend reports the new G-Wagon has similar fender-mounted turn signals and the mechanical-sounding door locks. However, Car and Driver reports only 5 parts are shared with the old model. These are the door handles, sun visors, spare-tire cover, headlight-washer nozzles, and an engine bay bracket. And while the exteriors aren’t too different, inside and underneath the SUVs, it’s another story.

2020 Mercedes-AMG G-Class G 63
2020 Mercedes-AMG G-Class G 63 | Mercedes-Benz

The new G-Wagon still has a ladder frame, four-wheel drive, and 3 locking differentials. However, Car and Driver reports the SUV now has independent front suspension, instead of a front solid axle. The rear, though, still has a solid axle. The steering system was also completely changed for more precision. And that ladder frame is now stiffer and more rigid, according to Car and Driver. And, if you do want to take the G63 AMG off-road, there’s now an official AMG Trail Package.

The redesign also added more interior room. In fact, the whole interior received an update, with newer materials and technology, including an updated infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, according to Car and Driver.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G-Class interior
2020 Mercedes-Benz G-Class interior | Mercedes-Benz

And, as we stated previously, the G63 AMG also got some changes under the hood. Instead of the old 5.5-liter twin-turbo V8 and 7-speed automatic, there’s a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 with a 9-speed. But, while the new engine is smaller, it’s actually more powerful. The 5.5-liter made 571 hp and 561 lb-ft, while the 4.0-liter makes 585 hp and 627 lb-ft.

How they were tested

Carwow first tested the new and old G-Wagons’ acceleration, braking, and handling. The first test was a ¼-mile drag race, followed by two rolling drag races. The first rolling drag race was run with the SUVs’ transmissions in Automatic mode, followed by a race in Manual mode. The G-Wagons then tested their brakes in a 70-0 mph emergency stop. Handling was tested in a short slalom course.

Watson then went over both SUVs’ interiors, examining material quality, design, and space.

How did the new Mercedes-AMG G-Wagon do?

In overall performance, like the VW Amarok and GMC Syclone before it, the new Mercedes AMG G-Wagon showed that the bigger engine doesn’t always win. The new AMG G-Wagon ran the ¼-mile in 12.4 seconds, with the old one finishing in 13.5 seconds. That’s not surprising, considering the new G63 AMG has a 0-60 time of 3.9 seconds, 0.9 seconds less than the old one, according to Car and Driver.

In the first rolling race, the new G-Wagon surged ahead of the older one: its transmission down-shifted faster, and the engine has more power. The same result happened in the manual-shifting rolling race.

In addition, the old AMG G-Wagon was much noisier than the new one at highway speeds. The old SUV’s hood also flexed every time Watson revved the engine. It’s clear some chassis stiffening was necessary.

Surprisingly, in the braking test, the old one literally only lost by a nose. It was maybe a hood-length behind the new G-Wagon. That might be down to their fairly-similar brakes and curb weights. The redesigned model weighs 5783 pounds, according to Car and Driver, only 178 pounds less than the old model.

However, where the new G63 AMG really showed off its prowess was in the handling test. The old G-Wagon wallowed around, its old-school recirculating-ball steering almost hilariously imprecise. The old SUV does have stability control, but even turning it off didn’t make much of a difference.

2020 Mercedes G-Class
2020 Mercedes G-Class | Mercedes

The new G-Wagon, in comparison, performed significantly better. The IFS isn’t quite as good as a solid axle for rock-crawling, but it improves on-road handling and ride comfort. The new SUV’s stability control also includes a Sport mode and does its job much more smoothly than the old version.

That new on-road refinement carries over to the interior.

The new G63 AMG is much more luxurious

2017 Mercedes G63 AMG front interior
2017 Mercedes G63 AMG front interior | Autotrader

The old G63 AMG’s interior, while it did have some high-end features and materials, also showed the G-Wagon’s utilitarian roots. The infotainment screens looked tacked-on, and some of the plastics felt cheap. Like Car and Driver, Watson also noted the seats weren’t really comfortable for long-distance driving, and 2nd-row legroom was tight. Basically, the old G-Wagon felt like an old-school SUV dressed up like a luxury one.

2020 Mercedes-AMG G63 front interior
2020 Mercedes-AMG G63 front interior | Mercedes

In contrast, the new G63 AMG feels like a legitimate luxury vehicle. It has wide, well-integrated touch screens, for example. The leather seats feel higher-quality and are much more comfortable. Legroom has also improved, but the new G-Wagon still has just as much visibility as the old one. The 2nd-row seats can also recline now. And yes, there’s still a front-passenger grab handle.

The bigger engine doesn’t always win. But the better vehicle does.

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