Stuttgart, Germany - Just over a month after Mercedes-Benz revealed its all-new G-Class SUV, the fire-spitting AMG G63 version has broken cover.
Under the characteristic square bonnet of Merc's legendary offroader, also known as the G-Wagen, now resides a 4.0-litre biturbo V8 petrol engine. It's smaller than the 5.5-litre biturbo V8 used in the previous G-Class but up-powered from 420kW to 430kW, while torque takes an even bigger leap from 760Nm to 850Nm. This gives the ballistic bundu basher a sportscar-like 0-100km/h sprint time of just 4.5 seconds - remember this is 2.5 ton SUV - while top speed is an electronically governed 220km/h, or 240km/h with the AMG Driver's package.
While the vehicle's grown to offer substantially more passenger space inside the cabin, it's also been put on a diet. While retaining its robust ladder-frame construction, the big Benz has lost some performance-muzzling weight with the introduction of several grades of steel into the bodyshell as well as new aluminium fenders, bonnet and doors - all while torsional rigidity's been increased by 55 percent.
To save fuel the engine deactivates four of its eight cylinders under partial load, which according to Mercedes limits the G63's thirst to 13.2 litres per 100km (but we'd reckon on a much higher figure in real-world driving).
Power's fed to all four wheels via a Speedshift 9-speed auto transmission with AMG-specific software to achieve very short shift times. The 4Matic all-wheel drive is a rear-biased system with a 40/60 split for greater on-road agility than its predecessor which had a neutral 50/50 split.
The new G-Wagen's legendary offroad skills have also been improved. The vehicle retains its three locking differentials but for the first time the front axle has an independent, double wishbone suspension while a solid axle with a five-link suspension is used at the rear. Ground clearance has been raised 6mm to 241mm, while the approach, departure and breakover angles are all improved. The water fording depth is also increased from 600 to 700mm.
The AMG Ride Control suspension with adaptive adjustable damping is standard equipment. This fully automatic system adjusts the ride stiffness at each wheel to the driving contitions.
The electromechanical speed-sensitive steering used in the G63 for the first time has a variable ratio that lightens the steering up at low speeds and reduces servo assistance at high speeds.
Also making its debut in the G63 is a system that allows the driving characteristics to be set to one of five onroad and three offroad driving modes, adapting parameters such as the response of the engine, transmission, suspension and steering to suit conditions.
The new-generation G-Wagen has been criticised by detractors for its barely-perceptible styling change which sees a slight rounding of its classically boxy edges, but others have praised Mercedes for not messing with the iconic shape. You decide.
The G63 is visually distinguished by its flared wheel arches which create space for wider wheels. It also gets running boards as standard, and distinctive trim elements on the front and rear bumpers. Red brake callipers, perforated brake discs and 22" wheels available for the first time round off the vamped-up visuals.
Also available as an option is a striking AMG Night package with dark-tinted headlamps, tail lights and rear and side windows, along with matt-black wheels.
The completely redesigned cabin boasts a modern interior with the shape of the round headlamps reflected in the side air vents, while the tweeters on the dashboard are inspired by the indicators. The new instrument panel has analogue tubes as standard, but is available with a fully digital widescreen cockpit with two 31cm displays under a shared glass cover. The driver's able to choose from three different views: Classic, Sporty and Progressive.
Mercedes-Benz South Africa can’t yet confirm local launch dates, but the new G-Class will go on sale in Europe and the USA later this year.