Holy crap, the Mercedes-AMG G63 4x4 Squared. It’s twice the price of a standard G-Class, but also twice as cool. It’s a leather-and-suede-lined luxury tank with 577 hp, 627 lb-ft of torque, three locking differentials, portal axles, side pipes, all-terrain tires, a carbon-fiber light bar and one of the gnarliest rear bumpers I’ve ever seen. It has more ground clearance than a Ford Bronco Raptor and you can have it painted bright-ass neon green. Yes, it costs $350,050, including $1,050 for destination. But like, what the hell else even comes close? The G63 4x4 Squared is a rolling hyperbole.
It’a also a relatively simple updo. The Squared is essentially a taller, wider G63 jacked up on all-terrain tires, and the addition of portal axles increases the G-Class’ wading depth and just-drive-over-it ground clearance. Unlike the last-generation G550 Squared, Mercedes is now making this monster truck out of the AMG G63, which is totally the right move. The G63 outsells the G550 by a huge margin, especially here in the US, and its inherent absurdity is a good baseline for the 4x4 Squared.
Full disclosure: Mercedes-Benz dropped a G63 4x4 Squared off at my house with a full tank of gas and told me to keep it rubber-side down.
Taken as a whole, the G63 4x4 Squared is… well, it’s a lot of things. It’s funny. It’s ridiculous. It’s excessive. It’s perfect. Standing still, you can tell it just wants to drive over everything everywhere all of the time. You know it’s going to be a pain to park and it’ll get, like, 10 mpg on a good day. And you know it’s going to piss a lot of people off just by its very existence.
But you know what? Screw ‘em. Driving the G63 4x4 Squared is a blissfully selfish experience. With 13.8 inches of ground clearance, you can’t see anyone snarling at you, because you’re literally hovering above them. With a 0-to-60-mph time of 5 seconds, you can just blow the doors off any newfound enemies. The sonorous rumble of the twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 reverberates through the exhaust pipes under the side sills like a guitar riff of “screw you, I don’t care.” All of this makes the G63 4x4 Squared so incredibly fun to drive.
I could’ve spent a week just bombing around Los Angeles feeling like a king. But it would be a total waste not to take something this cool, and capable, on some kind of adventure. To that end, I set my sights north to a once-important road that’s now an oft-forgotten piece of California history, a place where a truck like the Squared would perhaps feel more at home.
Just over a century ago, way before the 5 freeway was ever a thing, if you wanted to get from Los Angeles to Bakersfield over the Sierra Pelona Ridge, you had one choice: the Ridge Route. A long section of the original Ridge Route remains, stretching from Castaic north to Gorman, a good deal of which is no longer maintained by any official roadworks organization. It’s a really neat drive, and only takes a couple of hours to complete. And you don’t need a serious off-roader like a 4x4 Squared to do it, either, though I recommend something with a little ground clearance for the rougher sections. A Subaru Crosstrek, at least.
In the G63 4x4 Squared, ripping along the Ridge Route is an absolute hoot. You can see up over crests and well through hairpin turns, and with the Squared’s appreciable ground clearance and 325/55 tires, obstacles like dirt ruts, potholes and rogue rocks are hardly causes for concern. Mile after mile, the Ridge Route starts to feel less like an old convoy road and more like a forgotten rally stage, with scenic turnouts sprinkled along the path letting you take in the majestic mountain views. There’s even the stone remains of what might’ve been a watering hole. It’s probably the only place up here where you can easily stop to take a pee.
Driving the Ridge Route reminds me of all the reasons why I love the Mercedes G-Class. You can see all four corners, including the added width of the Squared’s carbon-fiber wheel arches. A forward-facing camera gives you a look at the rocks ahead, and the high-mounted portal axles mean you can drive over these boulders without worrying about damaging underbody components. Tall sidewalls and deep tire treads can take abuse from all sorts of punishing pavement. You just keep going and going; there is nothing the G63 4x4 Squared cannot do.
The old Ridge Route dumps you out on highway 138, at which point it’s a quick jaunt west to the 5 freeway. But I’d be remiss not to pull off at the nearby Hungry Valley State Vehicular Recreation Area for some legit off-roading, though once again, it’s not like anything at Hungry Valley is a real challenge for the 4x4 Squared. Even the park rangers just laugh when they see this thing coming.
There are a few super-steep hills at Hungry Valley with deep ruts that challenge the 4x4 Squared, but only momentarily. Throw it in low-range four-wheel drive, lock the center differential and don’t let off the throttle, and that’s usually all you need to climb up, over or out of anything. Severely rutted paths designed to twist truck frames are nothing more than a game of hopscotch for this China Blue G63, eagerly throwing a wheel into the air, making for an experience so easy-peasy-breezy you won’t even spill your coffee in the cup holder.
And that right there is the beauty of the G-Class: All of this capability happens while you’re wrapped in the tender and loving embrace of warmth and luxury. The supple leather seats are heated and cooled, and you can dial up different massage functions for when the weight of your importance causes your muscles to ache. The Burmester stereo is absolutely bangin’ and the vibrant ambient lighting can match any mood. The G63 4x4 Squared has a few extra niceties, including a digital rearview camera, which is helpful since that massive spare tire cover blocks any rearward visibility. All of the driver-assistance systems are also reprogrammed to account for the Squared’s extra width and height, so they’re still just as seamless to use as in any other G-Class. Crucially, this full safety suite is standard equipment, too.
You can of course make the case that a standard Mercedes-AMG G63 – or indeed, even a regular ol’ G550 – can tackle all of the same obstacles. You can also argue that any ordinary G-Wagen is a strange and unusual thing that’s packed with opulence and exclusivity. Both are correct. But nothing I’ve ever driven gives me the same sort of giddy sensation as the G63 4x4 Squared. It’s ridiculous and ludicrously expensive, and it makes me feel like a million bucks.