TRACK TESTED: The 2021 Mercedes-AMG G 63 Is a Silly, Smile-Inducing SUV

TRACK TESTED: The 2021 Mercedes-AMG G 63 Is a Silly, Smile-Inducing SUV

Muscle cars are alive and well

  • The G-Class is one of the most iconic SUVs on the road, with the first-generation model staying in production for more than 40 years.
  • AMG has worked its magic on the current G-Class for G 63 duty, upgrading the engine, brakes, suspension and more.

For better or worse, there's nothing else on the road today quite like the Mercedes-Benz G-Class. A traditional SUV in the age of car-like crossovers, the G-Class remains true to its utilitarian roots. That's actually where the "G-wagen" nickname comes from — it's a shortened form of Geländewagen, or "terrain vehicle" in German. With door locks that sound like rifle bolts and latches so robust you actually have to slam the door a little to get it to close, the G-wagen has substance in a "this feels expensive" sort of way.

And that's just the regular G 550. We got our hands on a Mercedes-AMG G 63, which gets an extra 161 horsepower and all manner of fun AMG-tuned bits. Naturally, we headed straight for our test track to see what it could do.

2021 Mercedes-AMG G 63.

2021 Mercedes-AMG G 63.

Testing the 2021 Mercedes-AMG G 63

The G 63 has been worked over by Mercedes' AMG performance division. Although both the G 550 and the G 63 employ a 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8 engine, the former can only claim 416 horsepower and 450 lb-ft of torque, whereas the latter boasts 577 horses and 627 lb-ft. Both models also use a nine-speed automatic transmission, retuned in the G 63's case for crisper shifts.

2021 Mercedes-AMG G 63.

2021 Mercedes-AMG G 63.

Other upgrades include sport-tuned adaptive suspension and larger brakes, the latter aided by larger wheels with slightly sticker tires (Pirelli Scorpion Zero all-seasons in size 295/40 R22 at all four corners). Now, this is still a big, heavy (5,839 pounds on our scales) SUV, and there's no fighting physics. But part of what makes it fun is precisely that it's a brick on wheels. It's an old-school off-roader that shouldn't drive like a hot rod. But it does.

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Test Car
1/4 Mile
2021 Mercedes-AMG G 6311/1/214.2 sec12.5 sec @ 109.5 mph120 ft 0.72 g
2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 3924/6/214.7 sec13.3 sec @ 97.4 mph144 ft 0.72 g

For comparison's sake, we've also listed the G 63's spiritual rival, the V8-powered Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392. The Wrangler is down on power and costs much less than the G-wagen, but it was developed with a similar "let's stuff a big engine under the hood of a 4x4 and see what happens" ethos. The G 63's 4.2-second sprint from zero to 60 mph matches cars like the Mercedes-AMG C 63 S, Toyota GR Supra and even the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat. It keeps up with the Supra through the quarter mile too. Given the sheer amount of firepower under the hood, it's no great surprise that the G 63 is this quick. Four-wheel drive and a launch-control start don't hurt either.

Braking isn't quite in sports car territory, but 120 feet is about what we would expect from a midsize sedan, not an AMG-infused off-roader weighing nearly 3 tons. Most impressive was the consistency in which the G 63 stopped, holding at 120 feet through three runs and only increasing to 124 feet after further stops. That's what you want to feel in a vehicle this big. Tires matter, too. Just take a look at the Wrangler. Though it weighs hundreds of pounds less than the G 63, its all-terrain tires don't perform nearly as well in brake testing as the Mercedes' street-oriented tires.

Handling and roadholding are easily the weakest aspect. Even with better tires, the G 63 couldn't beat the Wrangler's skidpad figure. The G 63's stability control is aggressive, cutting power if you put much angle on the steering wheel. It's to prevent the tall, heavy G-wagen from tipping over. The steering itself is slow and devoid of feeling. Our test notes list "terminal understeer" in the margins.

2021 Mercedes-AMG G 63.

2021 Mercedes-AMG G 63.

Why did we take this thing to the track?

Frankly, because we could. It's a hilarious machine. It has a brush guard and turn signals on top of the fenders. The spare tire is still mounted on the rear door, which opens to the side instead of upward like on just about every other SUV on sale today. The wide tires and slow steering mean the turning circle is about as wide as Pluto. It's a climb to get in and out of, and the live rear axle means it doesn't ride as well as other luxury SUVs. So what? It just adds charm.

The side exit exhaust is more muscle car than luxury SUV, emitting a snarl and burble that sounds much gruffer than the 4.0-liter displacement would suggest. You want to keep dipping your right foot to hear the engine rev out, listening to it crackle on overrun. It really puts a smile on your face. Given the G-wagen's other capabilities, the AMG tune is a cherry on the top that makes you feel nigh unstoppable on the road.

There are far more comfortable SUVs out there. There are faster and better-appointed ones. But there's nothing that offers what the G-Class does, even if what's on offer isn't for everyone's tastes.

Edmunds says

The G 63 isn't a vehicle that makes sense on paper, but you can't quantify personality or the ability to put a smile on your face. They really don't make them like this anymore.

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