Like something assembled from a bunch of Legos, or jumping out of the Minecraft videogame, the Mercedes G-Wagon's box profile has remained virtually unchanged for the past 30 years. Although coveted in North America, it's a workhorse in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, loved by law enforcement, forestry service and emergency crews. Hell, even the Pope rides in a G-Wagon! In short, it's functional, utilitarian transportation that's defied evolution.
Its stoic nature has made it so popular because the Mercedes-Benz G-Class is both capable and dependable and, as I would soon learn, able to transform itself into a supercar.
A long-time favorite of AMG, the first tuned G-Wagons included high-performance V8s, while later models were fitted with superchargers and eventually twin-turbochargers. A few lucky folks even experienced the G65 AMG with its hand-built V12 biturbo motor that made a 604hp and a planet-spinning 738 lb-ft of twist.
Launched last year to celebrate AMG's 45th anniversary, the G65 was mind-numbingly expensive (about $350,000) and won't be coming to North America because they know we'll just fit 30" rims and gold-plate them. But don't fret: Bodo and the wild bunch at Brabus devised a solution.
Like most Brabus vehicles, they started with high-grade stock, in this case the G63 AMG, and gently massaged it until things got interesting. Not that the G63 needed much help; its 5.5-liter V8 biturbo makes a healthy 544hp and 560 lb-ft. In fact, Mercedes claims its 5622 lb beast hits 60mph in 5.3sec, but that simply wasn't good enough for Brabus.
In its R&D workshop in Bottrop, Germany, the Brabus technicians developed what they call the PowerXtra module. The black box is integrated into the engine electronics, altering boost, fuel and timing curves. Unlike typical software programming, the G63's ECU is untouched so that factory ECU upgrades won't futz the code.
Along with intercooler mods, the B63-620 conversion produces an advertised 620hp at 5750rpm and 604 lb-ft at 2000rpm. Once installed, the Flying Brick manages to breach 60mph in a scant 5.1sec - something I learned firsthand while seated behind the wheel.
The cabin feels like my grandpa's study but with none of the cigar smoke. I romped on the gas and it felt like the entire room has been rear-ended by a TGV train.
The Brabus B63-620 is cartoonishly fast: the kind of fast that tears toupees from old men. We squirt up and down a canyon a few times, leaving small wormholes in our wake.
Peter Moeller from Brabus USA presses a button and the B63 belts out its full roar as a by-pass valve is opened on its stainless steel exhaust. To me, it sounded like a cross between an offshore powerboat and a Titan heavy-lift rocket. Brabus needs to bottle this noise; it's very good.
"The B63 has either a sport or coming home exhaust note," Peter explained. "The sport sound is good for blasting around with your friends, while the other is when you creep back into the driveway after a night out." He gives me a sly wink and a nudge. I'm 50 years-old with like 17 children. I don't know what he means...
Brabus also outfitted the car with its Widestar conversion. It consists of front and rear aprons plus gigantic fender flares that extend 5" beyond the factory location. There are also door panels and this car had additional running boards and roof spoiler. The flares were fitted with LED lighting that wink on when the car is remotely unlocked or a door handle pulled.
Unlike many aftermarket kits, the Widestar package has a fit and finish on par with factory offerings. In truth, only a trained eye could tell there was something different with this machine because it looks as if the G-Wagon was born this way.
The wider fenders mean the big Merc can handle bigger wheels. Much bigger wheels. In this instance, it had whopping 23x11" Platinum Edition Brabus Monobloc F wheels. These forged beauties wore 305/35 R23 Yokohama Advan tires but, unlike regular car tires, the Yokos have a strengthened carcass to handle the B63's substantial weight. Standard tires don't live long under a B63.
Inevitably, the suspension was also revamped to deal with the extra load. Brabus calls it Ride Control and it uses uprated springs and electronically controlled Bilstein dampers. The control module has two settings: Comfort or Sport. The system actively monitors load parameters and will modify the dampers settings on the fly.
Despite carrying almost three tons, the Brabus Ride Control does a fantastic job, providing an incredibly smooth ride while keeping the chassis balanced under hard cornering.
While the B63-620 has more than enough muscle to tackle off-road challenges, its massive running gear and low-profile tires makes it better suited to the street. Personally, I'd like to see this rig on a set of 17s with all-terrain tires. Then it would be unstoppable.
Over the last 25 years I've been fortunate to park an array of cars in my driveway but the family rarely took note. However, I couldn't pry them out of the G-Wagon. The damn thing was equipped with every convenience know to man: COMAND cockpit management and data system with 40GB hard-drive navigation, six-disc CD/DVD changer, iPod/MP3 interface, SiriusXM with traffic, HD Radio, Harman/Kardon Logic 7 surround-sound system, enhanced voice control, Bluetooth, 7" color display, Zagat restaurant guide, and auxiliary audio input. All wrapped in leather, wood and brushed aluminum from Brabus' own shop, I wasn't surprised at their infatuation.
The Brabus G-Class B63-620 is a larger-than-life vehicle, with performance and style that's so over-the-top it seems like it's invented in a 13 year-old's imagination. And that's not a bad thing!
2013 Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG/Brabus B63-620 Widestar
Engine 5.5-liter twin-turbo V8 32v DOHC with Brabus PowerXtra module, intercooler upgrade
Brakes AMG six-piston calipers, 14.2" drilled rotors f, four-piston, 12.6" r
Wheels & Tires 23x11" Brabus Monoblock F Platinum Edition forged wheels, 305/35 R23 Yokohama Advan tires
Exterior Brabus Widestar front spoiler, rear apron, fender flares with LED lighting, door panels, roof 106spoiler, running boards
Interior Brabus shift paddles, pedal kit, door lock pins, floor mats, stainless steel scuff plates