Competes with: Land Rover Range Rover HSE, Bentley Bentayga, Porsche Cayenne
Looks like: The same SUV since 1979, intentionally
Drivetrains: 621-horsepower, twin-turbocharged 6.0-liter V-12; seven-speed automatic; all-wheel drive
Hits dealers: Early 2016
Starting price: $218,825 (includes destination fee)
CARS.COM — The number of V-12-powered vehicles for sale is exceedingly small, but now you can get one in one of the most capable off-road trucks on the market — not that you’ll ever take this mega-dollar SUV off the pavement. The 2016 Mercedes-AMG G65 features the monstrous 6.0-liter V-12 engine you can find under the hood of the automaker’s most powerful sedans and coupes, wrapped in styling that hasn’t changed much since the original Gelandewagen rolled off assembly lines in 1979.
Few vehicles have had such little styling change between the original and the present-day version, but the G-wagen soldiers on with the boxy slab-sided military look that has made it a popular niche truck all these years. Changes between the G65 and lesser G63 are simply not visible — aside from a slightly different grille the differences are all under the hood. Red-painted brake calipers are standard, and 20- or 21-inch wheels are available. The G65 will get some exclusive paint colors, but the real exclusivity comes from the truck’s power plant.
Under the Hood
Pop that boxy hood and you’ll view … a plastic cover. In true traditional Mercedes-Benz style, you don’t get to actually see much of the hand-built twin-turbocharged 6.0-liter V-12 engine, but you’ll certainly know it’s there the first time you fire it up.
It’s a monster of a motor, cranking out 621 horsepower and 738 pounds-feet of torque. For comparison purposes, that’s almost as much torque as a Chevrolet Silverado heavy-duty pickup truck 6.6-liter diesel engine, but wrapped in a much more luxurious package. The AMG G65 routes that power through a seven-speed automatic transmission to all four wheels, with three electronic locking differentials to get you out of the stickiest off-road situations.
On the pavement, it’s good for a zero-to-60-mph sprint of 5.2 seconds, according to Mercedes, but it comes with a big trade-off at the pump; fuel economy stinks. It’s EPA rated at 11/13/12 mpg city/highway/combined.
Open one of the old-school-style doors with handles that feel positively vintage and step into a high-roofed cabin swathed in top-quality leather and wood. A new instrument cluster arrives for 2016, but the G65’s interior is largely unchanged.