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There are plenty of attendees at the over-a-hundred-grand hot-rod-SUV party -- BMW X5 M, Mercedes-AMG GLE63, Porsche Cayenne Turbo, Range Rover Sport SVR -- but only one shows up wearing military fatigues: the Mercedes-AMG G63.

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Our G63 wore the optional AMG Night Package with its black exterior trim and a black front brush guard. Photo provided by Mercedes

For 2019, however, G makes news: for the first time in 40 years its camo costume has been updated (though you'd have to be its mom to notice).

The G-wagen debuted across the pond in 1979 as an off-road/military vehicle. Now, admittedly, my German's a little rusty, but I'm told its formal name -- “Geländewagen” -- translates in English to “off-road vehicle” or “land wagon.”

In any event, the rugged G initially wasn't sold in the U.S., mainly because Mercedes had a tony stateside reputation to maintain. However, as the American sport-utility craze flowered into full bloom, Mercedes' suits concluded that a G-wagen gussied up with leather seats and a fancy stereo might appeal to upper-crust iconoclasts seeking something different.

And so, in 2002, the G-Class came to the U.S. -- looking exactly as it had in 1979. But with leather seats and a fancy stereo.

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Photo provided by Mercedes

For 2019, however, the G is genuinely all-new for the first time in four decades. Only the thumb-plunger door handles and the aft-hanging spare-tire carrier are carried over. Redesigned are all body panels (look closely to spot softened edges) and the entire cabin decor (the changes here are obvious).

There's also 21st-century AMG suspension tuning and transmission calibration.

G-wagen is offered as the powerful, 416- hp G550 ($116,780) and the hot-rod, 577-hp G63 ($148,495). We drove the latter. And I'm here to tell ya, despite being a product of the box-it-came-in school of exterior design, and despite tipping the scales at a portly 5,842 lbs., the performance of this uber-pricey G63 is head-spinning.

We hit 60 mph in 4 seconds. And we did it in a vehicle whose styling exhibits all the sleek aerodynamics of a barn, whose heft is nearly 3 tons, whose ground clearance is 9.5 inches, and whose permanent 4WD boasts off-road-tough locking capability for all differentials -- center, rear and front.

The blistering acceleration is courtesy of a new, hand-built, 4.0-liter, twin-turbo V-8 that sends to all four wheels 577 hp and a pavement-rippling 627 lb.-ft. of torque through an equally new paddle-shift, nine-speed automatic. Zoooom. See ya!

In a 130-mile round trip to Ste. Genevieve, Mo., we registered 16 hwy mpg. Subsequently, we drove an additional 70 miles around St. Louis. In our 200-mile city/hwy total, we realized 14 mpg.

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Photo provided by Mercedes

On the highway, the ride is firm, regardless whether Comfort, Sport or Sport-Plus is selected from G63's drive modes, but handling, cornering and steering response are aces -- particularly considering G's girth -- while the cabin feels as secure as a bank vault. In fact, the doors seal so tightly we actually felt ear-drum pressure when the door of an otherwise closed cabin was slammed with its signature "whoomphhhh."

The build quality is incredible.

Room is great throughout the five-passenger cabin while perks -- at long last -- are 21st-century modern. We not only had G63's standard 12.3-inch widescreen infotainment display, but also the optional 12.3-inch widescreen instrument cluster. None of it is touch-screen controlled, however, so plan some learning time with the center-console knob.

All that said, some old-school awkwardness remains. For example, the sun roof is a tiny rectangle, the side steps are too narrow to be much use, and the key function does not include proximity entry; you've got to fish the key fob out to unlock the vehicle, pretty much canceling the convenience of the standard push-button start.

But let's not quibble. G63 is a remarkable performance vehicle aimed at well-heeled driving enthusiasts who want an SUV that's different from the one everyone else in their gated community drives.


This content was produced by Brand Ave. Studios. The news and editorial departments of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch had no role in its creation or display. For more information about Brand Ave. Studios, contact tgriffin@stltoday.com.

This article originally ran on stltoday.com.

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