Four years ago, I rode as a passenger in the G 63 AMG 6x6, easily the most awesome and ridiculous thing I’ve ever sat in. That 544bhp 5.5-litre AMG biturbo V8 six-wheeler boasted five differential locks, portal axles and weighed a colossal 3,850kg. It threw common sense out of the window, but coming at a time when ‘green cars’ were the order of the day (and still are) it was a breath of fresh air – even if its emissions weren’t. The mad as a hatter Benz was easily the most politically incorrect vehicle on the road and around 100 were built between 2013 to 2015, and then production ceased. We all thought Mercedes had had its fun, but instead of consigning that monstrous G-Wagen to the history books, the Stuttgart carmaker went back to the drawing board and created this, the G 500 4x4². With massive 325/55 tyres wrapped around 22in wheels, a ride height of over 2.2 metres, and measuring 2.1 metres wide, this juggernaut is supposed to be the more practical of the two…
Its cartoonish ground clearance of 450mm is more than twice that of the standard G 500, and it’s 299mm wider than it too – but it does use the regular Geländewagen as the starting point, albeit with a chassis that borrows heavily from 6x6. For instance, it packs dual strut spring and damper units (with adjustable damping control and two modes – Comfort and Sport) but the highlight is the complex axle geometry. Like the 6x6, the 4x4² gets a set of portal axles that increase the approach and departure angles from 36 and 27 degrees to 52 and 54 respectively. Breakover angle goes from 21 to 47 degrees and its fording depth climbs 600mm to 1,000mm. Basically, nothing can stop this Merc, it’ll just drive over everything.
But when challenged with a quick stop at the grocery store, it flounders. So, when you’re out of milk, the 4x4² is probably the last vehicle you’d want to take to the shops. It’d probably be easier to build it from scratch than to back it up between two parked cars; judging distances requires a lot of blind faith (it has cameras and sensors but you sit so high up you can’t tell where the carbon-fibre fender flares end). Even though it takes all your strength to climb into the leather and Alcantara-clad cabin – and then you literally fall out of it when it’s time to exit – you can’t help but like what is without a doubt one of the most outrageous vehicles you’ll find on the road. It’s pumped up and powered by an all-new 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 making 422 horses and 610Nm of torque and takes the off-road ability of the G-Class to another level altogether.
It pushes the boundaries of performance to new extremes, something you find out quickly when you venture off the beaten track. It was designed to flatten rocks and dunes with aplomb, and it does.
The power is sent to all four wheels, permanently, via a reworked version of Merc’s seven-speed automatic complete with a separate transfer case with three mechanical differential locks that can be operated on the move. With that incredible ground clearance, wheel articulation, and a host of differential lock combinations, nothing can hinder your progress off road. It has more than enough torque to climb steep gradients, and it devours rocky paths as if it were a smooth blacktop. It showcases its merciless driving dynamics in all conditions and is quite the attention-seeker – nothing quite shouts out ‘look at me’ more than this. Unless you have the 6x6.
Up in the drivers’ seat, you have a commanding view – the other cars below look like toys and each and every one has its occupants’ faces pressed against the windows staring up in amazement as you roar past.
The ride is generally compliant and it’s genuinely surprising how it shoots off for the horizon when you work that twin-turbo. The low-end torque and snappy seven-speed propel it with real force, but should something this big be that fast?
Regardless, it never gets tiring. With each prod of the throttle, the side pipes – every bit as extrovert as the 4x4² looks – come to life with a menacing growl and then quieten down when you’re cruising. It’s too big, too tall and too heavy to be considered sporty but is more fun than the standard G 500. That used to be ‘mighty’ but comes across as tame and tiny in comparison.
The hydraulically operated steering is rather vague and you have to push the brake pedal hard to bring it to a stop. This, along with its sheer dimensions and the difficulty of just getting in and out of it would put many off the 4X4². But it’s a vehicle that you just can’t help but like, purely because of how outrageous it is.
Nobody needs this; you won’t want to drive it in a busy city centre, or take it to the mall, or try to squeeze it into a parking bay at the local supermarket, but it’s here – and it’s brilliant.