What type of vehicle do you want if you plan to tackle dirt trails, rock fields and rolling slickrock expanses? Why, a 4x4, of course! Not necessarily, says Mercedes-Benz. You may want to add a pair of wheels and capitalize on the sheer power and might of the new G 63 AMG 6x6.
The standard G-Class is already one of the meanest-looking off-road vehicles out there. Despite the big Mercedes three-point and luxurious interior painting a story of comfort and elegance, the vehicle just begs to be ridden over rock, through murky water and into thick dust clouds.
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Yet, the standard G 63 AMG looks so ordinary when compared to its new brother – like Danny DeVito standing next to Arnold Schwarznegger. Not only do six wheels just make a car look as apocalypse-ready as possible, but the G 63 6x6 gets other additions, such as a pick-up bed and extra-high clearance. Whether it be the smoldering rubble of a fallen metropolis or the shifty, mucky ground left in the wake of a landslide, this six-wheeler is going to eat it up and excrete it out without making a pit stop.
Mercedes describes it succinctly: "A look at the key data of the G 63 AMG 6x6 makes it clear that this model's off-road world begins at a point where anything less than a vehicle with caterpillar tracks would have to capitulate."
That data begins with a 544-hp AMG 5.5-liter V8 biturbo engine with 560 lb-ft (760 Nm) and continues through the SPEEDSHIFT PLUS 7G-TRONIC automatic transmission with three drive modes, transfer case with low-range ratio, and rear twin drivetrain that combine to deliver power to the half-dozen wheels. To ensure that the engine has plenty of fuel to push the massive rock crawler into remote lands and back, the 96-liter (25.4-gallon) main tank is augmented with a 63-liter (16.6-gallon) auxiliary tank – and you thought your SUV was expensive to fill up.
Five differential locks are managed by an integrated logic that keeps traction no matter how uneven and slick the terrain gets. The differential locks are activated with the usual three switches. In stage 1, the two inter-axle differential locks in the transfer case and in the through-drive through the center differential are active. In stage 2, the interwheel differential locks in the two rear axle differentials are additionally activated. In stage 3, with the front axle differential locked, all five differential locks are active.
In order to get as much handling as it possibly can from the 8,488-pound (3,850-kg) beast and its 13.8-foot (4.2-meter) wheelbase, Mercedes splits the torque 30 - 40 - 30 between the front and rear two axles. The tires putting that torque to work stand 37 inches tall and benefit from a pressure control system with onboard air compressor. Pressure gauges monitor tire pressure, and the driver can adjust it on the fly from inside the cabin. So when transitioning from sand to rock, there's no need to jump out of the car to adjust pressure. Two-part beadlock wheels keep the tires rolling, even at low, sand-friendly pressures of 7.25 psi (0.5 bar).
If you look at the G 63 6x6, you'll notice that its wheels are not centered on the axles. This is due to what Mercedes calls the "real technical highlight" of the off-roader. Using a series of portal axles, which were developed for the military and debut on a civilian vehicle for the first time, the wheels sit lower, raising the body by 250 mm (9.8 in) when compared to the series-production G-Class. This gives the model 460 mm (1.5 feet) of ground clearance and a fording depth – or "dive depth" as Mercedes playfully refers to it – of a full meter (3.3 feet), up from 600 mm (2 feet) on the G class. In other words, jutting rocks and deep pools don't require re-routing. And even if the driver does get a little overconfident, Mercedes has armed the underbody with three-part stainless steel protection.
Because the portal axles sit at the same position in regard to the chassis as on the standard G 63, the 6x6's chassis is only slightly revised. It uses independent axle suspension with hard spring rates on the front and first rear axles and a soft rate on the second rear axle. The vehicle also makes use of rally-tested, adjustable gas-pressure shock absorbers.
Despite looking tougher than any vehicle without camouflage and anti-tank artillery, the G 63 six-wheeler comes with the usual upscale interior. It is clad in diamond-quilted designo leather with contrast topstitching. The four seats are electrically adjustable, heated and ventilated. Alcantara and leather dress various parts of the cabin and a dual-screen rear seat entertainment system keeps the passengers busy while the G 63 rolls to the trailhead. Even the load area gets some decorative love, featuring solid bamboo.
Mercedes refers to the G 63 AMG 6x6 repeatedly as a "show vehicle" but also calls it "near series" [production]. It says that response will dictate the vehicle's chances of seeing small-series production. However, an Autocar report that came out two weeks before the official press release indicated Mercedes plans to commission Magna Steyr to build a limited number of six-wheelers, with pricing falling in below the SLS AMG Electric Drive but above everything else in Mercedes' line.
It can be seen in action in the video below.