Look, it’s not a huge secret that Mercedes-Benz’s four-liter biturbo V8 engine isn’t long for this world. Blame it on emissions targets or diminishing performance returns, the V8’s light has faded from compact models already and more models are likely to follow suit in the years to come. However, every great should really go out with a bang, and Mercedes-AMG is kicking off celebrations in a wonderfully preposterous way. The monster truck G-Wagen 4×4 Squared is back.
Sure, there’s no announcement yet on the Mercedes-Benz press site, but if you can get into a special site for G-Wagen owners or find the right unlisted video, the three-pointed star is spilling some details. Let’s start with the obvious: The 4×4 Squared is now a full-on AMG model, adopting the G63 moniker. While this means that overall capability is slightly compromised by the current AMG front bumper, it also makes for some proper numbers. How does 585 horsepower sound? Sure, it pales in the face of something like a Lamborghini Urus, but this jacked-up G-Class would likely teach the Urus about the power of the People’s Elbow and leave it to die on the mountain. More importantly, the old G550 4×4 Squared made 416 horsepower, so we’re talking an extra 169 horsepower here. No small number, that.
Alright, AMG bit done for now, now what about the 4×4 Squared bit? Well, I’m pleased to say that ride height gets a lift courtesy of portal axles present at all four corners, a unique challenge due to the current G-Wagen’s independent front suspension. See, a live front axle doesn’t really have to worry about camber curves or the sheer unsprung weight of portal axles because there’s no camber gain under cross-axle compression and live axles are seriously beefy things anyway. With an independent front suspension setup, unsprung weight stresses the suspension arms while camber is absolutely gained when both front corners are under compression. Still, Mercedes seems to have pulled it off, a very respectable feat.
Back up a second – what the hell are portal axles anyway? Well, typically, if you take off a center cap at the middle of any driven wheel, you’ll see an axle shaft. The shaft goes straight through the middle of the wheel, spinning it through the splined hub that the wheel bolts to. The problem with this is that the height that the axle shaft sits above the ground can be no greater than roughly half the radius of the tire, and just increasing tire size isn’t always a good solution for a number of packaging, handling, fuel economy, and other reasons. You could lift the vehicle’s suspension; this would pull the inboard size of each axle upwards, but then the axles would find themselves at a steep angle, which compromises CV-joint longevity. Other suspension and steering geometry would be out of whack, too.
Portal axles allow you to offset the drive axle (which can remain nice and level) from the wheel/hub centerline, increasing the axle’s ground clearance for better off-road capability.
It’s basically a single-speed gearbox of sorts between the axle and the hub. Portal axles have the cool effect of raising a vehicle while maintaining axle and steering geometry and raising the pumpkin on any live axle they’re attached to. It’s a bit of a complex solution, but it’s rather genius. What portal axles mean for the G63 4×4 Squared is that it can fit huge tires without a huge suspension lift (which, again, could screw with steering/suspension/CV-joint geometry). The tires work with the portals help bring ground clearance to a proper 13.8 inches (351 mm). That’s 4.3 inches more than a standard G63 has to offer, but 3.4 inches (86 mm) less than on the old G550 4×4 Squared.
Speaking of off-road capability, let’s talk wading depth. This G63 4×4 squared rocks 35.8-inch (910 mm) wellingtons, perfect for flood zones, hurricanes, you name it. Yet despite the insane clearance and wading depth, this jacked-up G-Wagen can still climb at a 45 degree angle without tipping over. Honestly, I’m rather curious about ramp travel index, approach angle, departure angle, and breakover angle, but I’m sure those will all be revealed in due time.
Then again, I really doubt that anyone will take this thing off road. The massive wheel arch extensions to fit the new tires are made from carbon fiber, as are the protective body moldings, the spare wheel holder cover, and the light bar on the roof. Come on, nobody’s going to risk marking those up with scratches from branches. Nor will anyone risk scratching the paint. See, the G63 4×4 Squared in these pictures is finished in the same Green Hell Magno as the AMG GT R sports car, one of 40 different colors on tap for buyers to choose from.
I’m still stoked to possibly see one of these out on the street, even if I’ll never see one out on the trail. If I was still eight years old, riding my bicycle through the neighborhood, and one of these rolled by, my jaw would be glued to the tarmac for at least a week. What a statement this makes. The massive ground clearance and Incredible Hulk paint selection create an insane level of presence. Simply knowing it has the serious off-road chops to back up the steroid-injected look feels absolutely good enough.
On the inside, the G63 4×4 Squared also gets some upgrades over the standard model, starting with the rear-view mirror. It’s one of those digital mirrors, a bit useful given the height of the vehicle and obstruction from the spare tire, but still a rather annoying piece of kit. Other touches are more minor, like an engraved grab handle, top-spec leather, and interior customization through the G Manufaktur program. Matte carbon fiber trim and a suede steering wheel? Sure, that’s the sort of thing this program is designed for.
Right, so if you happen to have Scrooge McDuck levels of cash reserves and want to absolutely crush your neighbors with the weight of your hubris, you’re probably wondering how you can get your hands on this beast. Well, Mercedes claims that the G63 4×4 Squared will only be available for a limited time. The old G550 4×4 Squared was only available in America for two model years, so it’s likely that this new 4×4 Squared will be available according to demand but only for a model year or two. As for pricing, Mercedes hasn’t announced numbers yet, but expect an upper-echelon window sticker. The old 4×4 squared started at $225,995 in 2017, and that wasn’t even a formal AMG model.
As wasteful as the 2023 Mercedes-AMG G63 4×4 Squared is, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t absolutely adore it. We’re supposed to be living in the twilight years of internal combustion, why isn’t ever carmaker going completely mad? Sure, sensible family crossovers are perfectly fine, but why not use some of the profits from those to fund the ludicrous dreams of the engineering and design departments? The G63 4×4 Squared is a wonderful caricature of the G-Wagen, it’s Arnold Schwarzenegger rolling up to the Oscars in an actual tank. It’s insane, it’s unnecessary, but it’s the stuff dreams are made of.
Lead photo credit: Mercedes-Benz