Hands-on: Mercedes G63 AMG review

Rappers aren't known to frequent the picturesque town of Buckingham. And we're not well known for spittin' bars. Which is perhaps why, as we roll through the picturesque middle England town in a Mercedes G63 AMG, we get so many stares.

Rendered in a spectacular matte black colour scheme complete with black wheels, the G63 AMG - the maddest of all the G-Classes (G-Wagen if you're true Merc cognoscenti) - really does look like a rogue extra from a Jay-Z video. Or is that Jay Z? We forget.

Anyway - we ought to be in Miami or Beverley Hills, but instead we're in Bucks bigging it up. We got 99 problems but this brute ain't one. What's the verdict?

Go big or go home

We've tried out a G-Wagen before. The G350 BlueTec intrigued and amused us in equal measure. But at close to one-hundred grand for what's the basic V6 version, we couldn't help but speculate that if you were going to do your G-Wagen properly you may as well go the whole hog and get the AMG version.

READ: Mercedes-Benz G-Class G350 BlueTEC pictures and hands-on 

"Go big or go home," as a rapper probably wouldn't say. So when Mercedes handed us the keys to this most pimped-up of all its SUVs, we knew we were in for an entertaining time. Quite how amusing that would be we hadn't really bargained on.

If you're used to modern SUVs, the G63's going to come as something of a shock. The basic G-Wagen shape and format has been around for more than 30 years, during which time it's been comprehensively re-engineered. And the inside looks as though Merc has transplanted the interior from one of its saloons into a military vehicle.

But despite this it's still narrow and tall. Very tall. You might think those side steps are for show. Not a bit of it - you'll need to step on them to step in and up on to the G-Wagen's lofty seats. Forget a Range Rover. If it's commanding driving positions you want, you need one of these.

It's a little known secret that modern cars actually feature no true straight lines. The reason they look like such great bits of rolling sculpture is that every line has a subtle curve to it, which typically accelerates along its arc. Not so the G-Wagen. The car was built for the army originally, to be truly rugged, bashed about and have its parts replaced easily. Which is why the sides of the doors are completely flat. Stepping into the car and shutting them is like closing a barn door behind you. Even more so with the side-hinged boot door.

More leather than DFS, but slightly better quality

But if all this military talk is making you think the interior's going to be some kind of stark black hole, you'd be wrong. As we said, it's like someone's transplanted the E-class interior in here.

READ: Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG pictures and first drive

There is leather everywhere. Our test car came with red leather seats and door trims. Which given the all-black exterior and black plastics, added a welcome bit of colour - but we reckon is probably a bit gauche for the typical rapper.

Still, it's luxurious. And given such archaic underpinnings, the G63 doesn't lack for tech. You'll find the same gauge pack, stumpy gear shifter, Afalterbach embossings and tablet-like multimedia screens as you do in other AMGs. It's just that in the G63, you're sitting about 3 feet higher up. Only the stuck-on passenger grab handle and huge, upright windscreen really give the age away.

READ: Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT Coupe pictures and hands-on

Like piloting an out of control bouncy castle

Fire it up - an appropriate phrase for the G63 - and the G-Wagen booms into life. No one's going to mistake you for being in the diesel version. Thank not just the V8 Bi-turbo engine that's familiar from other AMGs, but the near-hilarious quad exhaust pipes, which rather than exiting through pipes at the back of the car, split two pipes to each side, poking out from under those side steps.

"Just watch the steering," shouts the man from Mercedes as we trundle out of the car park. It's yet another reminder of the G's age as it uses the recirculating ball - not rack and pinion - steering rack, meaning the steering requires a lot more arm twirling than you might expect of a modern car.

Which makes for what you might describe as an exciting ride and an even more exciting passenger experience. Because the AMG V8 someone's shoehorned in under the hood gives the G63 the explosive power typically associated with firearms.

Yet because you're sitting on the car, miles up in the air, and because it's a 4x4 with genuinely incredible off-road ability, and because of that slow steering, driving the G63 fast down a country lane is a little bit like trying to pilot a bouncy castle on wheels.

The first corner we came to - perhaps quite a lot faster than we ought to have - and that steering became evident. We turned the wheel and not much really happened, so in a panic we turn quite a lot more and e-v-e-n-t-u-a-l-l-y the G's nose turns in and the body pitches sideways as we lurch around the bend.

Heart rate now a bit higher, each corner continues in the same vain until the point where we slow down for fear of ending up in the ditch. Some might call it fun.

No end to the hilarity

Of course, it's not that bad - what's really happening is that because you're sitting so high, the pitch is hugely magnified and your senses tell you the car's trying to topple over. It won't of course. And even if you do drive it into a ditch, the reality is that the G-Wagen would probably be able to drive out of the other side and into a field… Whereupon it would carry on crossing the field at a similar rate to the way it gobbles up tarmac.

If you want to truly go off road, the G63 will take you places you'd not believe a car could. Just ask the armies of eastern Europe. But that's assuming it's safe to call the G63 a "car car".

We kept coming back to the same word when driving this car though - "hilarious". It is simply an hilarious experience - the engine sounds hilarious, the steering is hilariously slow, the body roll is hilariously frightening. But if you do ever drive a G63 and don't find yourself laughing, you really need to check you have a pulse. It's bad, but in a really good, fun way - if you catch our drift.

Fun comes at a price

Big smiles on faces tend to come at a cost. And the price of all this hilarity? Well, that's the point you might actually stop laughing because the G63 AMG starts at £122,140.

Add things like the TV, blind spot assist systems, carbon detailing, matte paintwork and black wheels - all of which we had in our test car - and you'll need a rapper-sized bank balance not to whine at handing the man from Merc £144,140.

Still, the G63 isn't exactly a rational choice. You buy it to make a statement, and a statement you certainly will make. It's somehow much cooler than more modern SUVs, including Merc's own ML and GL models. Which is perhaps why it's such a prized rich-person's play thing in places like Beverley Hills and South Beach and why Mercedes can get away with charging such an astronomical amount for it.

Given that the basic G-Wagen costs close to £100,000 in the first place, we'd recommend you just push the boat out, go the whole hog and get this AMG if you're in the market for one. Do so, and we guarantee it'll be a long time before you stop laughing. Or stop noticing the bewildered stares of passers by. Especially if you drive it through that famed rappers' playground - and various farmers' ditches and fields - that is the town of Buckingham.