There are few cars that are truly offensive anymore. Lamborghinis are screaming jumbles of polygons for people who live in Dubai. Paganis are obscenely fast chrome-and-carbon art pieces, but they’re hardly repugnant. Want to actually insult people? Get the biturbo V12 Mercedes-AMG G65. It’s great.
(Full Disclosure: Mercedes wanted us to drive the G65 so bad that we requested an S550 convertible for Pebble Beach week. We were all set for that until just a few days before, when Mercedes informed us that the S550 was still in Germany and would we take a G65 instead? We said yes, so we drove it from LA to San Francisco and a whole bunch of places in between.)
Objectively, the G65 is terrible. Atrocious. Beyond the BITURBO V12 badges, there’s not one single redeeming feature. Not even the V12 itself. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but that’s bad, too.
The one we tested cost $221,725, and that was a giant “FUCK YOU” too. Everything about it is designed to make monocles pop, to make the rational go “What the hell?” To make people frustrated and angry and confused. It’s ugly and it’s mean and it doesn’t even make a good noise. It doesn’t do anything right and it does a lot of things terribly. It doesn’t make you any friends and since it’s just another G-Wagen it won’t make your enemies care, either.
Sid Vicious is dead, so we have to look for the last punk in the world elsewhere. While its price tag and opulence carries none of the punk ethos, its effect on the world does. This is it, baby.
The Geländewagen has seemingly been around forever. Originally designed to defend the Fulda Gap from an onslaught of Soviets and takeover small banana republics, it is often now spotted in Russian neighborhoods here in New York and cruising past Banana Republics on the way to Barneys. In the States it’s already dropped most of its utilitarian pre-tenses, with the “base” G550 model starting with 4.0-liter biturbo V8 spitting out 416 horsepower. That’s 62 horsepower more than the original G55 AMG, and the G550 starts at an eye-watering $119,900.
There’s also the G63 AMG, which is complete horseshit and isn’t even the biggest anymore, so literally who cares. If you’re going to give the world a middle finger, you might as well get the biggest middle finger you can find, right?
And the 6.0-liter, twin-turbo’d 621-horsepower, 738 pound-feet of torque V12 engine in the G65 is a huge middle finger. So huge it looks like it barely fits under the hood.
It’s perfect. There’s no extra space under there for superfluous nonsense. It’s all very fluous nonsense.
The original designer of the Gelandewagen had a straight-edge, a ruler, and a brick.
The designer of the G65 had an air conditioner and a fistful of glitter.
There’s now big chrome and polished stainless steel everywhere, with a smattering of LED accouterments. The front fascia’s been lowered to accommodate the massive ventilation needed to keep the big engine cool, and it sits on tacky, disgusting shiny wheels with tires very much meant for the street fitted. It’s got the same side-exhausts fitted to the G63, which are wonderful for burning off your leg hairs while getting something out of the back seat and cutting down the ground clearance, but not much else.
The doors don’t really shut with the satisfied, hefty thunk of a normal Mercedes, but with a tinny thwack more akin to a Jeep Wrangler. It’s still all slab-sided and boxy, mind you, which is excellent for armoring and seeing where the corners end for off-roading. But none of it really works together.
The end result is a bit like if Vince Wilfork showed up on the football field one day dressed like Graffiti Bridge-era Prince with zero explanation. It’d enrage the demented and maladjusted ones among us, while leaving everyone else just sort of bemused.
In a modern Mercedes-Benz, you might find such luxuries as massaging seats that actively adjust the side-bolstering to the corners in the road. You might find your fingers gracefully sliding across swaths of carbon fiber and little metal niblets wherever they may fall.
You might even find that every little thing has supreme touches of quality, where not a thing moves as it shouldn’t, and everything is just as how it should be.
The G65 is not a modern Mercedes-Benz. Yes, it does have metal switches near the shifter and in the form of those differential locks, but those are pretty much useless thanks to those tires that are meant to see a gravel path, at most.
But a lot of everything else is just plastic, much of which fits as if it was taken off of some other car and hammered into place. You’ve never seen play in an air vent like this.
Someone has also gone completely mad on the seats, the doors, and really everywhere you could find with the diamond quilting. A little here and there is great. The G65 has it on the inside of the rear hatch, for some reason.
“Would sir like a little diamond quilting?” a square-bespectacled German designer once said.
“Yes,” came the reply.
“And where would sir like the diamond quilting?” the German asked.
“Yes,” came the reply.
And so it was.
Don’t get me started on the cupholder, either, which is just a basketball hoop. $223,915, and you get a poorly made basketball hoop.
This thing is great.
Now here’s where I’m supposed to tell you that you stomp on the go pedal, a mighty roar bellows from the 12 cylinders under the hood and out the side exhausts, flames spit, children cry, women wail, men start gnashing their teeth and the whole world turns into warp drive.
Except none of that really happens.
Don’t get me wrong, when you do get moving it’s still very disconcerting, though that may be attributable to the G65 affording you the option of sitting up nice and high like you’re in a semi. But thanks to the G65 weighing 5,691 pounds, or roughly the weight of a medium-sized family home, it never actually gets you going as quick as that 600+ horsepower and 700+ pound-feet of torque would seem to imply. The zero to 60 mph of the V12 G has been tested at somewhere around five and a half seconds, and I don’t doubt that.
And while that’s certainly a damn sight faster than anything weighing that much has any right to be going, we do actually live in a world where the Tesla Model X P100D now exists, and that’ll get you there in about half the time.
But no, the Tesla does not have 12 cylinders. It does not even have one cylinder. And that’s the whole point of the G65. To have more cylinders than any other truck out there.
That being said, the V12 doesn’t actually sound, how can I put this, “good.” It sounds like a truck, and it’s actually quieter than the V8 in the G63. It’s a bit like a hopped-up vacuum cleaner.
Trying to drive it in a sporting fashion is bound to disappoint as well. Get it on a twisty backroad, and you can see the lean from miles away. The steering is somehow both stiff and numb, and unlike on some other AMG models, you can adjust the feel. It’ll tug at you seemingly at random, and you have no idea what it’s on about. The suspension, designed for off road use and coupled with the aforementioned street tires, bounces you around like you’re a lone jelly bean in a big candy jar.
But all of that belies the point. The Mercedes-AMG G65 isn’t for going down backroads. If you spent more than $200,000 on a truck, surely you can afford a little more for a Miata or whatever for that. It’s for driving around town, impressing the right people, and seriously disturbing the wrong ones.
We didn’t see a single other G65 at Pebble Beach week, which is either a good or a bad thing, depending on your worldview. But we did see a guy in traffic in a Ferrari 612 Scaglietti.
“Is that a real V12?” he asked.
Yes, yes it was.
It has them.
If you’re sitting here reading this review and wondering how the hell I can declare the Mercedes-AMG G65 “great” and “perfect” with all of its flaws, then you’ll never understand it. If you’re wondering how an SUV that gets an observed seven miles per gallon and with diamond-quilted leather everywhere could be the savior of automotive wonder and taste, then you’ll never get it.
There was a time when cars—all cars, no matter what they were—sought to elicit some sort of emotional response. Joy, excitement, sadness, even rage. In the pursuit of the appliance, we’ve gotten rid of all that.
But the G65, that brings the rage back. It brings the anger. It brings the sadistic, joyful smile of a terrible prank. It’s hilarious. It pisses everyone off. It makes no one happy. It makes the sensible confused, and it makes the classy froth at the lip.