MERCEDES-BENZ has been building various versions of the G-wagen (Geländewagen in German, which the manufacturer now refers to as the G-Class) for 33 years, mostly by hand in the Graz, Austria factory. The whole class is a bit uncommon, but endures due to its rabid fanbase, and a steady stream of orders from various militaries around the world.
A few years ago, the Australian Army tapped Mercedes to produce a new utility vehicle suitable for the rugged Outback, and the G 320 CDI was born: A frankly ugly, six-wheeled ground pounder that could be modified for various carrying tasks and drive through or over anything.
Not content to rest on their laurels, the engineers at Mercedes decided to see just how far they could push the G 320’s formidable design, and in 2013, rolled out what at the time was just supposed to be a concept car: The G63 AMG 6×6.
The massive six-wheeler, which Mercedes bills as “the most spectacular cross-country vehicle of all time” on its website, soon proved that anything has a price – in this case, about $480,000 – as clamor from well-off customers convinced the company to put the beast into production, albeit in very limited numbers.
The specifications of the 6×6 almost defy belief. First of all, the vehicle is huge: 5.875 meters in length, 2.21 meters high, and 2.11 meters wide, standing on 37-inch wheels, and weighing 3,775 kg empty. Ground clearance is nearly half a meter, making for a bit of a climb to the driver’s seat.
Its military progenitor is equipped with a 3.0-liter V6 diesel developing 220 horsepower, but Mercedes decided that was a bit tame to achieve “the last word in forward-thrusting power for the beaten track.” The Graz engineers turned to Mercedes’ motorsport arm AMG (hence the inclusion of “AMG” in the vehicle’s designation) and borrowed a twin-turbocharged 5.5-liter V8 diesel, which churns out 536 hp and 760 Nm of torque.
The G63 AMG 6×6 was likewise given a transmission upgrade from the military version, which carries the NAG1 five-speed automatic. The 7G-tronic seven-speed automatic transmission has a transfer case that can vary the ratio from 0.87:1 for road driving and a 2.16:1 low range for driving on unpaved landscapes; power is distributed in a 30:40:30 ratio between the front, middle, and rear axles, with the rear being driven by a separate shaft. The vehicle has five differential locks (one for each rear wheel, and one for the front axle) that allow all six wheels to be locked at once, controlled by three switches mounted on the dashboard.
No landscape too extreme
Having so much power on hand would not be any good without a geometry that makes the best use of it. The G63 AMG 6×6 has rigid axles that are independently suspended (as opposed to independent wheel suspension), and the two rear axles are only 1,100 mm apart (on a 4,220 mm wheelbase), giving the 6×6 excellent articulation even on extreme ground contours.
In addition, the axles are of porter axle design, which puts the wheels below the axle centerline, improving ground clearance. In action, the unique suspension design makes the 6×6 behave more like a tank or a bulldozer than a truck, allowing it traverse terrain even some tanks probably cannot manage: According to Mercedes data; the 6×6 has a breakover angle of 22 degrees, and approach and departure angles of 52 and 54 degrees, respectively.
It’s still a Mercedes
Even though the G63 AMG 6×6 is built to find the most brutal terrain the planet can offer and grind it under its wheels, Mercedes did not neglect to add the comfort and style the marque is known for. Various interior treatments are available – for nearly half a million dollars, one is able to make requests for at least a few custom touches – but if the show version of the 6×6 is any indication, the standard passenger cabin is plushly appointed. Contrasting two-tone leather is highlighted by colored stitching and diamond-pattern quilting, and a new, lighted instrument package – including, of course, a large multifunction touchscreen infotainment unit – has been supplied. The 6×6 also comes equipped with four individually adjustable seats with their own heating and cooling systems, and separate rear seat climate controls in a rear console.
Production numbers are not readily available, but never exceeded 20 to 30 per year between 2013 and 2015, and the vehicle is officially out of production now; unofficially, however, according to a source familiar with the Graz works, it can apparently still be ordered. Given the 6×6’s rarity and a local price tag somewhere north of P40 million, the G63 AMG 6×6 is not likely to be seen in the Philippines anytime soon.
Which is perhaps just as well; owning a G63 AMG 6×6 and being able to conquer any landscape on Earth might just become boring after a while, and have one seeking some excitement on some other planet.