First Drive: 2013 Mercedes Benz G Class reviews mercedes benz luxury cars first drives
2013 Mercedes-Benz G 63 AMG. Click image to enlarge

Manufacturer’s web site
Mercedes-Benz Canada

Review and photos by Peter Bleakney

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2013 Mercedes-Benz G550
2013 Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG

La Clusaz, France – Question: What do you get when you take an old mountain goat, inject it with nuclear anabolic steroids, send it to the groomers, squeeze it into a Versace jacket and hang some bling around its neck?

Answer: Either a really weird old goat or the 536 hp 5.5L biturbo V8-powered 2013 Mercedes Benz G 63 AMG.

Yes, Mercedes’ iconic Geländewagen off roader, still looking like the packing crate that the packing crate came in, is alive and well despite, or probably due to, barely changing since 1979. It’s fantastically at odds with everything the modern personal automotive conveyance tries to be.

First Drive: 2013 Mercedes Benz G Class reviews mercedes benz luxury cars first drives
First Drive: 2013 Mercedes Benz G Class reviews mercedes benz luxury cars first drives
2013 Mercedes-Benz G 63 AMG. Click image to enlarge

Originally developed with Austrian military vehicle manufacturer Steyr-Daimler-Puch (on a suggestion from the Shah of Iran, no less), the ladder-framed G-Wagon had no pretentions of chi-chi-civilian duty. If you had suggested to the original engineering team that in three and a half decades a 612 hp twin-turbo V12 version of their off-roader with on-board TVs would extract $300,000 from the world’s wealthiest, you would have likely witnessed some spectacular Teutonic spit-takes.

But with Range Rover plowing a successful furrow into the luxury SUV field, Mercedes followed suit through the eighties, giving the G-Wagon an automatic transmission, leather, wood, ABS, power-windows, permanent all-wheel-drive and electronic locking differentials.

In 2004 M-B handed the G over to in-house performance nutters AMG, from whose garages has sprung a series of progressively hotter versions of this all-terrain vehicle.

Despite not seeing a major makeover since 2001, the G-Class has experienced a sales resurgence of late. Worldwide sales leapt from 4330 units in 2009 to 6600 in 2011, much of this due to emerging luxo markets in Russia, India, China and the Middle East. Last year a Middle East oil sheik allegedly ordered 300 G 63 AMGs to distribute amongst his friends.

For 2013, the G-Class sees a comprehensive makeover that includes refreshed front and rear styling, a completely new dash and the availability of Mercedes-Benz’s latest tech and safety systems.

First Drive: 2013 Mercedes Benz G Class reviews mercedes benz luxury cars first drives
2013 Mercedes-Benz G 550. Click image to enlarge

The G 550 continues with its 382 hp 391 lb-ft naturally-aspirated 5.5L V8 but now gets a 7G-Tronic transmission, while the G 63 AMG ditches the previous 500 hp 5.5L supercharged V8 for a more efficient 5.5L twin-turbo V8 that kicks out a thunderous 536 hp and 560 lb-ft of torque. The latter also comes with auto start/stop and is mated to the AMG Speedshift 7G-Tronic gearbox. Aggressive body bits, 20-inch alloys and bad-ass side pipes suggest this ain’t your average Home Depot tool shed on wheels.

The aforementioned V12 G 65 AMG is not available in North America, nor is the Professional version that dispenses with much of the luxury. We also don’t get the 3.0L turbo V6 diesel engine.




About Peter

Peter Bleakney is a Toronto-based automotive journalist. He is also a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).