MOUNTAIN BIKES, MUD AND MERCEDES: IS THE AMG G63 THE ULTIMATE LIFESTYLE VEHICLE?
Leon Poultney is a writer, driver, rider and lover of all things automotive, who has written for the likes of Wired, T3, Stuff, The Sun and DriveTribe.
Darling of oligarchs, sheikhs, footballers and your local dealer of illegal substances, the Mercedes-AMG G63 almost needs no introduction.
You probably know the Geländewagen's well-trodden story by now: the Shah of Iran apparently approached Mercedes-Benz back in the early 1970s with the idea of creating a proper military vehicle, but one with the mechanical backing and everyday usability of a trusted German manufacturer.
As a result, Austrian military vehicle manufacturer Steyr-Daimler-Puch was drafted in to help construct the oily bits and the resulting muscular machine has served in numerous European armed forces ever since.
Horsepower is replaced by leg power. We know which one we prefer. Image by: Will van Wingerden
But fast forward to the late 80s and Mercedes-Benz started stuffing its muscular machine with all manner of luxurious trinkets, while handing it over to its revered tuning arm resulted in one of the most weirdly alluring vehicles to date: the AMG G63.
If a Range Rover suggests to fellow road users that you dabble in a spot of clay pigeon shooting at the weekends, a jet-black AMG G63 implies that shooting is more than just a pastime.
But as a daft as transplanting a 577bhp 4.0-litre bi-turbo V8 engine into an air raid shelter sounds, this latest generation is arguably the most practical, comfortable and lavish yet.
Screens galore make up the lavish new interior. Image by: Will van Wingerden
Punch #G3 into Instagram and you'll be rewarded with the finest collection of 'lifestyle' imagery known to man.
Girls in bikinis draped on bonnets, muscular men with angry pit bulls, and trucks filled to the gunwales with shopping bags are just a few.
With that in mind, we decided to load up the latest incarnation with a couple of #lifestyle mountain bikes and head for the picturesque surrounds of Dartmoor and its meandering trails to see what this machine is really made of.
Air in a G63, don't try this at home. Image by: Will van Wingerden
The route snakes along the south coast of the UK along some of the most frustratingly slow roads known to man, but the sight of an approaching dual carriageway gives the 577bhp 4.0-litre bi-turbo V8 engine time to shine.
Pin the throttle and the rear of the G63 squats for a moment before propelling passengers forward at a rate that has the potential to pickle internal organs. Those twin side exit exhausts produce a soundtrack that Satan himself must have engineered.
Alas, the instant fuel readout fails to raise smiles, as the space age interior 12.3-inch TFT screens often reveal single digits. If you're getting 17mpg, you're winning.
The Moors host plenty of roads to explore. Image by: Will van Wingerden
After a brief stretch on the motorway, we pick up signs for Dartmoor and peel onto much smaller, twisting roads that lead towards the vast, open expanse of Britain's first officially decreed National Park (1951, fact fans).
The 368.3 square miles of boggy vegetation will be familiar to anyone who enjoys the great outdoors and it's possible to partake in everything from a long hike to some wild water swimming without anyone batting an eyelid.
An impressive 37 per cent of Dartmoor is common land, meaning there are 450-miles of public right of way, most of which doubles-up as excellent single track terrain for mountain biking.
AMG engines are still signed off by hand. Image by: Will van Wingerden
Routes range from the fairly gentile and picturesque to extremely rocky and technical, with one famous 24km loop that charts the northeast of the park boasting technical sections that include the slightly worrying 'Widowmaker'.
Amazingly, the stubby rear end of the latest AMG G63 manages to host two bikes (albeit broken down into many pieces), kit and camera equipment without breaking a sweat.
This is a big car but somehow, it doesn't feel particularly large inside, despite the 2018 model packing larger dimensions.
Larger dimensions mean (a bit) more space inside
But ignore its luxurious cabin and modern infotainment tech, the latest G-Wagen retains the brilliantly utilitarian side-hinged rear door, which swings open with all the heft of a Hollywood bank vault and allows easy access to the rubber-lined rear.
It is bitterly cold and blustery, which means we barely see a fellow human being on the numerous trails and the wintry weather has turned large parts of the route into slushy bog, which requires alloy bike frames to be slung over shoulders and hiked to the next waypoint on my bike computer's GPS.
The riding is demanding, with peak elevation of 1,583ft at one point, and the weather often makes exposed sections eye-wateringly unbearable, but the tricky rocky terrain keeps the mind sharp.
At home in its other natural habitat. Image by: Will van Wingerden
Thankfully, with its complex array of mechanicals (including locking differentials and a low-range gearbox for anyone interested), the ex-military machine is impressive when the going gets tough.
In spite of the huge engine, ghetto fabulous 22-inch rims and twin side-exit exhausts, this AMG-tuned model will still happily climb a mountain and wade through the odd ford when it's not drag-racing Lamborghinis.
We think about driving to the top of a particularly demanding bike route (because we are fat and lazy), but a quick Google search for 'green-laning in Dartmoor' only throws up a news story about a mud-plugging enthusiast's recent arrest for illegally chewing up land that's designed for walking boots, not knobbly tyres.
The boxy silhouette might be simple but it's imposing. Image by: Will van Wingerden
Despite some fun, heart-pumping moments during our two-wheeled descents, the sight of the G63's menacing black paint job is a welcome one, as fiercely aggressive posterior heaters and plush, cosseting seats are just what the doctor ordered.
With only a shard of daylight remaining, it seems foolish not to make the most of Dartmoor's blissfully empty B-roads. The AMG G63 might roll around corners like a rubber dinghy in a Force 5 storm, but its straight-line speed is hilarious.
Official figures state that the horsepower is enough to rocket the 3.5-tonne beast from 0-62mph in just 4.5-seconds, but the accompanying cacophony of engine note and thumping automatic gear changes make it feel even quicker.
The new infotainment system is slick and a vast improvement over the old unit. Image by: Will van Wingerden
This version is undoubtedly the best yet and it is very good at facilitating those lifestyle moments but it still makes very little sense.
It's big, weighty, looks bizarre and has the most annoyingly heavy doors in the business, but you can guarantee this would be on 99 per cent of lottery win lists for those very reasons.