The Mercedes AMG G 63’s development is credited to a suggestion in the late 1970s by the then significant shareholder of Mercedes, the Shah of Iran. Since then, the Geländewagen has carried the leader of the Vatican in what was called Papa G or the Popemobile. It was tested across the world on terrains that included the scorching sands of the Sahara, the frozen wastes of the Arctic Circle and the German coal fields of Brandenburg.
As the years have rolled on, the G has received numerous updates and upgrades, from an automatic transmission to auxiliary fuel tanks, diff locks and even a woodgrain finish.
The current incarnation of the G 63 has lurched into a space of ludicrous social status and almost deity-like aspirational value; it constantly elicits wolf-whistles and attention from everyone, and I do mean everyone. From my work colleagues who mostly ignore the avant-garde selection of metal sushi that I drive, to the production team on the film sets, who are used to all manner of decorative paraphernalia appearing with me. First-world issues.
To test the G 63, I head out to Robinson Lake near Krugersdorp, where uranium concentrations are so bad that the fence around the area comes with radiation hazard signs. The updated model has had major space updates, which allows me to carry all the equipment needed to survive this post-apocalyptic part of Gauteng.
The area around the lake is a mix of hard, yellow earth and rough and bouncy veld — perfect for testing a car renowned as the place where luxury meets offroad performance. Driving through this changing terrain, the twin display screens of the truck provide information at an alarming rate — from wade depth to climbing angles and power distribution to all those bits of information off-road geeks enjoy. There is no air suspension as the designers believed it would not survive extreme terrain.
Leaving Robinson Lake and blasting on to the tar road back towards nonradioactive civilization, the G 63 handles, turns, stops and impresses in every moment. Its thrust is ballistic.
All of these bits are thanks to the constant evolution of the Geländewagen — its designers have still managed to stoically adhere to the traditional pillars that define this vehicle as a piece of history. The doors need to be slammed hard enough to jar your fillings and there is a fire extinguisher under the front seat. Now, though, you have energising comfort control, massage seats, lateral support and inflatable air chambers.
If that’s not enough, you have a bouquet of nice smells to suit your day-to-day driving, mood lighting to soften the harshness of the outside world and gearbox that is frankly unbelievable as it thumps you past the 100km/h mark in under 4.5 seconds. It weighs over 2.5 tons but even with its happy consumption habits, it’s an addictive ride that forces a grin, even for the onlookers.
The G 63, with all three diffs engaged or not, off- or on-road tyres, dominates and scoffs at anything that resembles rough terrain. It’s as effortless as pointing at an incline, switching on the cameras and striving forward. It does not hesitate or falter. It out-launches supercars and presents very little body roll for its titanic curb weight. Mercedes have taken the old G 63 and transformed it into the ultimate luxury apex off-road predator. It snarls, snaps, climbs and will chew through anything you throw at it, such as the uranium in our soil.
If there was one vehicle I would want as my companion at the end of the world, the AMG G 63 would be it. It has comfortably scaled the peak of luxury, ambience, versatility and presence and can now proudly stand with the best the SUV market has to offer and dominate it with disdainful ease.
It does cost a few bar, however.
Price: R3 017 044 (base model)
Engine: 4.0-litre V8 Biturbo
0-100: 4.3 seconds
Top speed : 221km/h