I recently had the chance to get behind the wheel of the 2017 Mercedes-AMG G 65, which is a fairly innocuous name considering this vehicle is a $250,000 file cabinet with a V12 engine. I mean all of this lovingly. I like how the G-Wagen looks. I like its boxy styling. I like that they were crazy enough to put a V12 in it. I figured I’d like the G 65. See the 2017 Mercedes-AMG G 65 models for sale near you
I did not.
Before I explain why — I’m sure you can’t possibly guess why someone wouldn’t like a $250,000 V12-powered SUV designed in the 1970s — allow me to give you a brief overview. The Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen came out, indeed, in the 1970s, and initially it was a military vehicle and, then, a civilian truck aimed at farmers and mountain-dwellers. Over the years, rich people started to appreciate the boxy styling and the extensive capabilities, and Mercedes-Benz answered their call by beefing the thing up: more power, more equipment, better styling.
In 2002, the G-Wagen came to the United States, and by then the "military vehicle" and "mountain-dweller" thing was long gone. The first U.S.-bound G-Wagen had a standard V8, leather everywhere and all sorts of nice equipment inside — including a standard navigation system. Soon after, there was a high-performance AMG version, and that got the celebrities hooked: Now it’s the vehicle of choice for the Kardashians and all sorts of other people who have television shows where an entire episode can involve taking their dog for grooming.
And so, it only seemed logical that they should create the G 65. It slots above the standard G 550 ($125,000 with shipping) and above the G 63 ($144,000 with shipping), and it features a 621-horsepower twin-turbocharged V12 with 738 lb-ft of torque. It starts at $222,000. It is, quite possibly, the most ridiculous vehicle ever manufactured by Mercedes-Benz. Or by any German automaker. Or by anyone.
So I had to drive this thing, and I decided to rent it at the Los Angeles Airport using Turo, which is this service that lets you rent other peoples’ weird cars instead of normal ol’ regular rental cars, and, folks, an AMG G 65 is not a cheap vehicle on Turo. Turo gives me a budget to rent interesting vehicles, and I used the entire month’s budget on one day with the G 65. However, it was worth it, because I impressed many people in Los Angeles, all of whom thought I was tremendously cool. They showed me this by honking at me and flipping me off with surprising frequency.
Seriously, that’s one of the first things I noticed about the G 65. It may have been the matte paint job, or the fact that it had New York license plates and I was driving it in Los Angeles, but I truly think more people honked at me and gestured angrily at me while I was driving that vehicle than in any of my other cars. People just assume you’re a jerk when you’re driving an aggressively-styled, V12-powered luxury SUV with a $222,000 price tag. I wonder why?
But the kind of people who buy this thing don’t really care about their image in the eyes of regular everyday peons, so I’ll skip right on to the driving experience: It’s awful. Actually, only the steering is awful, but it’s so awful it makes everything else awful by association. I’ve never really driven a modern car with steering this bad, and you can feel it the moment you begin to turn the wheel: It’s vague with your first 6 inches of turn, then somehow it tightens up, unexpectedly, and at no time do you ever really feel like you’re fully in control of the vehicle. It doesn’t help that it feels like it’s going to tip over every time you go around a tight corner.
So, fine, the steering is bad, but it must be fast, right? Well, yes, it’s wildly fast. Zero to 60 is something like 5.1 seconds, but it feels like 2 seconds because you’re just not used to this sort of speed in a vehicle that looks like a refrigerator. Flooring the accelerator is cause for massive joy and elation, because it really does feel like a thrill — but jamming on the (surprisingly weak) brakes is cause for even more massive joy and elation, because the G 65 is wildly quick, and you really don’t want to go very fast in that thing for very long. It just doesn’t feel right, or appropriate. When you floor the accelerator, you also get the sense you’re going very fast in something that weighs very much, and you feel like you have a responsibility to the world to stop this right away. Naturally, I punched the accelerator at every opportunity.
Oh, and by the way: The G 65 may feel fast, and it may seem fast on paper, but it isn’t actually fast. Here’s a little fact for you: The G65 does zero to 60 in 5.1 seconds. The G63 — which is $80,000 cheaper — does it in 5.2 seconds. So, uh, why would you get the V12 version again?
Certainly not for gas mileage. Despite my little quip above regarding my right-footed irresponsibility, I drove the G 65 pretty reasonably during the day I had it — and I still managed something like 10.5 miles per gallon. Somehow, the EPA was able to manage 11 mpg city and 13 mpg highway, which makes it the least-efficient vehicle on sale today. Unfortunately, 13 mpg was a mere dream for me in the bumper-to-bumper traffic of Los Angeles.
You also certainly don’t buy the V12 for the technology, or the modernity of the ownership experience. I go through this in the video above, but the features and equipment in this vehicle are laughable. It’s missing a lot of stuff you’d expect, due to its ancient design — a power tailgate, for instance, is impossible with its huge rear door; keyless access is unavailable thanks to its push-button door handles — and the interior is filled with ridiculous old-school design features, like a giant parking brake right in the middle, and a tacked-on cupholder in the passenger footwell that looks like a basketball hoop.
I could go on for days about this thing, but I’ll leave you with my verdict: It’s absolutely awful, it’s ridiculous they made it, and it’s tremendously rare as a result of everything I’ve said above. Naturally, I want one. But I think I’ll be willing to wait until the new G-Class debuts at the Detroit Auto Show in January, presumably with many of the current model’s problems corrected. Like, for instance, maybe it will get fourteen miles per gallon. At that point, it’s basically a Prius. Find a 2017 Mercedes-AMG G 65 for sale
Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.
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