In addition to the modernised front axle with its vastly improved new steering, there’s a new rigid rear axle that’s placed by four trailing arms with the continued use of a Panhard rod to prevent any undesirable lateral movement. There is body roll and it can be substantial if you’re really working the Goodyear Eagle F1 rubber fitted to AMG models, but the roll-rate is suitably commensurate with steering inputs, allowing you to work points that feel far more consistent.
Likewise, with such a high centre of gravity to fight against, it’s not long before the front tyres are chirping with understeer, but the thing about this new G-Class is that you can accurately predict when that point will arrive and drive accordingly. Play by its rules – be patient on corner entry, basically, and smooth – and you can get the G63 to adopt a satisfying rear-led balance as you knead progressively more torque into the road surface.
It’s old-fashioned, if slightly cantankerous, fun – farcically quick too – and the decision to adjust the torque split from 50:50 to a rear-biased 60:40 certainly hasn’t hurt the dynamics.
Ride quality is dramatically improved as well. All G-Class models will use adaptive suspension switchable through several modes, and while there remains a consistent low-frequency jostle, it’s subtle enough that you might now put this car to work as a long-range cruiser. Barring the odd clunk from a differential and not inconsiderable wind noise at speed, usability and refinement are now an important part of the G-Class package.
But let’s return to the subject of torque, because it’s remarkable that it has taken so long to get to the heart of the matter. In the case of the G63, that heart is Mercedes-AMG’s M178 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8. Tuned for duties in a two-and-a-half-tonne off-roader, it develops 577bhp at 6000rpm and a bewildering 627lb ft at 2500-3500rpm, making it more potent even than its dry-sumped sibling in the AMG GT R supercar.
Top speed is 137mph, though it is a 0-62mph of 4.5sec that widens the eyes. The engine operates through a Mercedes 9G-Tronic torque-converter transmission with quite outstanding aural pomposity, and while not quite as serrated as the 5.5-litre M157 unit, its more hulking tone matches the old boy for sheer volume.
Cruise anywhere remotely near a parallel structure and there’s no doubt the exhausts exit to the sides, and so for all its new-found sophistication, this is still a machine those of a retiring disposition will tire of quickly. The G500 and G350d variants will differ in this sense, but neither is yet confirmed for the UK.
Is the G63 a true off-roader?
Then there is this car’s off-road party-piece. For those of a certain linguistic persuasion, the mere act of being seen in one of these cars will mean they have themselves entered ‘G-Mode’. As far as Mercedes is concerned, the term refers to the driving program initiated when one of the car’s three 100% differential locks or off-road reduction gear is engaged.
In the interests of increased precision on unforgiving terrain, the damping, steering, gearbox (avoiding premature upshifts) and throttle-response characteristics alter to give the G-Class the best chance of scaling whatever obstacles lie ahead. You won’t find ‘push-button’ settings such as hill-descent control in here because Mercedes wants to retain an old-world feel.
During testing, the G-Class development team found the Range Rover to be hamstrung by its hyperactive electronics on the most extreme terrain – it would simply freeze on the spot. This is one reason why the G-Class relies on the dependability of three locking differentials (it’s the only production car to boast a full set, says Mercedes).