(WORLD EXCLUSIVE) First Drive: Mercedes-Benz G500 4x4 square

Feb 24, 2015 07:30 AM EST | Jens Meiners

Does it get more over-the-top than a Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen?

Conceived as a military truck in the early 1970s and launched in 1979, the Gelandewagen (G-class to us Americans) was eventually discovered by the lifestyle crowd, in its everlasting quest for authenticity. Today, more than half of the G-Wagens built are AMG versions. And coincidentally, the truck just had its best year ever. It's the oldest Mercedes-Benz on the market, but quite possibly the coolest.

With the G500 4x4 square, Daimler just announced one of the most outrageous G-Wagens ever built. We know, because we drove it—on the road and off. Here's what we found:

Inspired by monstrous greatness

The G500 4x4 square is inspired by the three-axle G63 AMG 6x6, but in a more digestible format. While the massively oversized 6x6 was impossible to drive anywhere except for the Middle Eastern desert, or perhaps your ranch in Montana, the 4x4 square is right-sized for the city. Okay, it's wider - but since the G-Wagen starts out as a relatively narrow vehicle, total width remains at a reasonable 82.7 inches. What's shared with the 6x6, of course, are the portal axles, which use a portal transmission to achieve a ground clearance of a whopping 17.7 inches. Prepare to bend at the drive-thru window.

Really, it can go anywhere

The massive ground clearance means the 4x4 square can go anywhere. We flogged it on heavy off-road terrain, over boulders, and through a muddy, semi-dried river bed in southern Spain. First, the locals threw their hands up in the air. Then their kids came to take photos. None of them could believe what they saw. Neither could we.

Biturbo guts of glory

With a 4.0-liter, twin-turbo V-8 derived from the AMG GT engine, the 416-hp G500 4x4 square is seriously quick. This is the first show for this new engine, which will eventually replace the Benz's larger-displacement V-8 engines everywhere. It's strong enough to catapult this 3.2-ton behemoth to 60 mph in just over 6 seconds, and top out at 130 mph. We saw triple digits and were not intimidated. That said, the steering isn't great, and don't even think about hunting down that BMW X6 M.

Spared a spare

The G500 4x4 square comes with two sets of tires and wheels. For on-road driving, there are 325/55 tires on 22-inch alloys. For extreme off-roading, switch to M/T off-road sized 37x12,5x18-inch rubber on beadlock wheels. No, you probably won't be able to switch those tires in your garage. And the tires are so heavy that the tailgate of this G-Wagen remains free of a spare tire.

Tuned to move, but not by AMG

Thanks to the ultra-tall portal axles and generously applied AMG styling elements, including polished dual sidepipes left and right, this (non-AMG) G-Wagen might well be the most intimidating thing on the road. And we suspect that'll be just fine with a lot of wealthy customers out there.

Is it only the G-wagen of our dreams?

Mercedes-Benz sold over 100 units of the G63 AMG 6x6, way beyond planned volumes. Yet the official word is that the G500 4x4 square is just a prototype that they might build (wink, wink). Having spent a full day behind its wheel, both on and off the road, we submit that they would be crazy not to build it.

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