The $200k Mercedes G63 AMG’s Problem Isn’t With the SUV
Mercedes finally updated the G-Class in 2018 after seeing the outgoing version off with a 6-wheeled pickup and portal-axle version. With the newest model came a new AMG version, the Mercedes G63 AMG. The G-Wagon has always been an impressive off-roader and luxury symbol, but now it’s joined in the high-end luxury SUV market by numerous contenders. And in reviewing the latest G63 AMG, Doug Demuro may have uncovered the SUV’s biggest problem.
What’s improved on the Mercedes G63 AMG
As Demuro and Carwow reported, although the newest Mercedes G63 AMG looks very much like the old model, only a handful of parts have carried over.
The new SUV is 5” wider, which means more passenger and cargo room. The headroom remains excellent, due to the G63 AMG’s boxy, old-school design. That was one of the old G-Wagon’s selling points, and Mercedes made sure to retain it in the next-gen. This means, even though the central locking system is all-new, it still sounds like a gun being cocked when the doors lock.
Mercedes did update the G-Wagon’s interior materials and technology to a level befitting its $150,000 base price, though. This includes a digital gauge cluster, 360°, and overhead cameras, and an infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
In addition, the new Mercedes G63 AMG has independent front suspension, although it still has a solid rear axle. This, combined with the increased width and updated steering, makes the SUV significantly more stable and comfortable on the road. It also handles much better than the outgoing model, thanks in part to adjustable suspension, which includes Sport and Sport+ modes.
Previous G63 AMGs struggled somewhat to deal with their extra power. The latest model, though, doesn’t, despite having even more power. The out-going 5.5-liter twin-turbocharged V8 made 571 hp and 561 lb-ft, while the current 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8 makes 585 hp and 627 lb-ft.
But the redesign, which included reinforcing and stiffening the ladder frame, eliminated the hood twisting that plagued older G63s. These refinements, plus the added power, also make the new Mercedes G63 AMG almost a full second faster to 60 than the old one, according to Car and Driver.
Mercedes hasn’t forgotten the G-Wagon’s off-road roots, though. The latest G63 AMG still has 3 locking differentials and a low-range transfer case. The SUV’s ladder frame has also been stiffened and reinforced. And despite the AMG models’ larger wheels and brake rotors, they can still venture off-road. There’s even an optional Trail Package that adds a front skidplate, off-road-optimized suspension, and rear mudflaps. The brush guard on Demuro’s SUV, though, seems to be part of the separate AMG Night package.
However, although the G63 AMG is much-improved over the old model, some issues still remain.
The Mercedes G63 AMG’s remaining problems
Unfortunately, while the G63 AMG’s infotainment system did receive an update, it’s not quite Mercedes’ latest system. The center screen, for example, isn’t a touchscreen. And Demuro found the digital gauge cluster to be a step behind the ones in other Mercedes’ products.
In addition, although Mercedes kept faithful to the G-Wagon’s looks, that has some downsides. Although the SUV is now wider, it’s still only 3.5” longer than the compact Toyota Corolla. This means the rear legroom is still rather tight.
Also, the external rear-mounted tire means the tailgate is fairly heavy, and it’s not power-operated. Neither are the rear seats, something that’s common on other luxury SUVs at this price point. And while the cargo space’s layout simplifies loading, Automobile Magazine reports the Range Rover’s is significantly bigger.
There’s also a problem with the Mercedes factory matte paint. Matte paint is notoriously difficult to maintain, even without going off-roading and having rocks fly everywhere.
But the Mercedes G63 AMG’s biggest problem isn’t a mechanical or design one. It’s the problem with the price. The base G63 AMG starts at $156,450. Add in the Trail and Night Plus packages, and you’re looking at almost $163,000.
To be fair, other luxury SUVs, like the Porsche Cayenne and Range Rover SVR, do retail around that price. However, demand for the G63 AMG has led to dealers severely marking the SUV up. As of this writing, the one Demuro drove is being offered at just under $220,000.
How it compares to the competition
At the moment, the DBX isn’t out yet. But, even if it were, both it and the Urus would likely experience the same dealer markup that the G63 AMG is dealing with. In addition, both the DBX and Urus, although off-road-capable, don’t have the G63’s 4WD or locking differentials. Therefore, the Mercedes’ biggest competitors are the Range Rover and Porsche Cayenne.
Although the 670-hp $161,900 Porsche Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid is the only Cayenne that can match the G63 on power, the 541-hp $126,500 Cayenne Turbo is actually just as fast as Mercedes. In fact, its 3.9-second 0-60 time matches the G63 AMG’s, and Carwow found it can match the G63 in off-road speed.
That being said, the current Cayenne doesn’t have low-range 4WD, only AWD. It also doesn’t have a locking differential. And, although its adjustable suspension can match the G-Class’ ground clearance, the Mercedes has better approach and departure angles. The G63 AMG can also ford water almost 7” deeper than the Cayenne can. In terms of technical off-roading, the Mercedes G63 AMG wins out.
The Range Rover SVR is cheaper than the G63, starting at $114,500. Its 5.0-liter supercharged V8 makes similar power: 575 hp and 516 lb-ft. It is slightly slower, going 0-60 in 4.3 seconds. However, both Automobile Magazine and Car Magazine found the Range Rover’s ride more comfortable than the Mercedes’.
In addition, although the Range Rover doesn’t have the G63’s 3 locking differentials, it does have a two-speed transfer case, and it can ford even deeper than the G63, up to a depth of 33.5”, vs. the G63’s 27.6”. The AMG does have about 1” more ground clearance, though, and a better departure angle.
Which is the one to get?
Ultimately, Doug considers the new Mercedes G63 AMG a better buy than either the Cayenne or Range Rover. He specifically references the new model’s updates, which make the high-performance SUV less of a compromise than it was before.
That being said, both the Porsche and Land Rover are still excellent alternatives. If you aren’t venturing terribly-far off-road, the Cayenne offers the same speed at a lower price. And if you can live with the Range Rover’s reliability issues, it’s also an effective off-roader.
But if you can avoid dealer markups, the Mercedes G63 AMG seems truly worth its price tag.
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