Over the course of a year, I have a lot of different cars and trucks parked in my driveway. My neighbours have come to expect this and are usually not surprised when my personal truck disappears and some exotic vehicle of one kind or another is parked in its place. But rarely do they stop and talk about the new one. I live in a neighbourhood where a car is a car — something to get you from A to B.
Late last year, I had a white-with-black-trim 2020 Mercedes-Benz G 63 SUV out on loan and that one sure got people talking. Folks out walking their dog stopped to chat. Another dog walker, who was also pushing a baby carriage, wanted to know if I’d traded in my truck for it and I had to say no.
Why the curiosity? The design is beautiful. The SUV looks like a military vehicle that came to life in the Second World War. It’s very retro (but very modern at the same time). There are buttons in the door handles (which take a little getting used to) and a stainless-steel cover for the spare tire and wheel mounted at the back (which means you have to remember to leave room if you back in somewhere and want to open the rear door). You have to slam the doors to shut them properly. This model comes equipped with 21-inch wheels. The red brake calipers stick out a mile and, frankly, are quite sexy. This design is simple, but exotic. In short, it’s very attractive.
This review originally appeared in the Toronto Star
The 4.0-litre, twin turbo V-8 engine is mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive, which produces 577 horsepower and 627 lb.-ft. of torque. It goes from a dead stop to 100 km/h in 4.5 seconds. The brakes work well too.
As the interior is where we spend all of our time when we’re out in the car, it’s the most important part of any review. First, you’re surrounded by leather. Seats, dash, steering wheel — heated, by the way — you name it and it’s covered by leather. All of the now-standard safety features and ride modes and the off-road settings (I couldn’t test its ability here — I live in a city — but I did drive over a curb in that parking lot…) are right there for you, as are the infotainment and speaker systems (590-watt Burmester surround sound, FYI).
There are two 12-inch screens, one with the gauges and the other for infotainment functions. And the sound the door locks make when they snap shut as you pull away is absolutely unforgettable. The “trunk” space is more than adequate — we did the weekly shopping and my wife was more than satisfied with the amount of cargo space. And then you have lane-keep assist (it really jerks you back into line if you start to wander), blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic assist and so on. And there’s a skylight.
Now, let’s take this car out for a drive. Once inside, the seats are oh, so comfortable. You could drive to Nova Scotia (if you could — COVID, you know) and arrive without an ache brought on by 1,800 km behind the wheel. The headrest is the best I’ve ever experienced.
I took my wife out for a ride or two and she was somewhat critical about a few things. “I don’t like the sun visor. I’m a tall girl and I like my seat all the way back and when I turn the visor to block the sun coming in the passenger window. I don’t like the console. It looks like a touchscreen but it’s not. I don’t like all the snappy buttons down here. I know it’s old school but we’ve moved on from this.”
Gee, I’m glad I didn’t ask her how she really felt.
She wasn’t completely negative. “I like that I can control my heat and air-conditioning and that you can control yours. That’s a plus. I really, really like the ambient lighting system and the colour green is my favourite.”
Her observations are valid, although I tend to see more good than bad in this G wagon.
I do have two nitpicks, however: There is NO back seat room. It looks like a big car till you get into it. My wife and I are both tall and we both like our seats all the way back. As she said: “If my mother is with us, she would sit in the front and I would have to sit in the back and I just couldn’t.”
And it inhales gasoline: combined fuel economy (average) is between 16 and 17 L/100 km. The start/stop function is of some help, however.
Other than that, and if I happened to have $200,000, the good far outweighs the bad and this vehicle would be in my driveway permanently.
2020 Mercedes-Benz G 63 SUV
BODY STYLE: Small SUV (4-door, five passenger)
DRIVE METHOD: Front engine, all-wheel drive, nine-speed automatic transmission
ENGINE: 4.0-litre, twin turbo V8 (577 hp, 627 lb.-ft. of torque)
FUEL ECONOMY: 18.093 L/100 km city/15.681 L/100 km highway
CARGO VOLUME: 38.1 cubic feet (can grow, as back seats can fold down)
CURB WEIGHT: 2,485 kg