Engine transplants have been around since the dawn of tuning time and we have watched in wonder as bright men with spanners forced the largest possible powerplant through the smallest possible aperture to create a bucking bronco the original manufacturer never envisaged. This, though, is something else. This is the Mansory G-Couture, the military G-Wagen crammed full of, wait for it, an SLR 722 engine. Seriously.
The Geländewagen has proved increasingly popular with tuners since the one-time German troop carrier somehow crossed the line and became popular with executives, entrepreneurs, and the odd rapper. Spinner wheels, neon lights, hydraulics, it has seen them all, but this is the end game, the atom bomb of G-Wagens. If you're asking yourself why, then you just don't get it. "Because they can" is the only reasonable answer, and that seven obscenely rich men will pay for it.
And as it explodes into life in the grand entrance hall of Mansory H.Q. in Hof, just a stone's throw from the Czech border, it almost doesn't matter that the car makes no logical sense. This is quite simply the biggest, baddest, most extreme machine of its kind and Mansory will have no trouble at all selling all seven, even with a price of $750,000 for the "very basic version." The car before our eyes costs upwards of $1,000,000 and they will get more expensive.
Company owner Khourosh Mansory has never been one for timid conversions and has brought us everything from the widebody Bentley to the naked carbon-fiber Bugatti Veyron and a "distinctive" blue-and-yellow Panamera. The naked carbon look has become his calling card in recent years and he went for the works with the G-Couture.
The front apron and rear skirt are completely new, but there are obvious problems with ditching the main body and so the roof and side panels are simply added over the original steel. So the carbon on show here isn't designed to save weight; it's all about the looks, and whether you love it or loathe it there is no denying the car's pure impact. Its angular appearance serves to increase the size and everywhere I look there's another razor-sharp edge, another vent, another box section. And look at that carbon fiber closely and you'll see another trick-there are metal fibers running right through it to create a shimmering metallic effect. It's just mad.
The blades across the front look ready to slice and dice cars in front when it looms large in their rearviews and feed the remains through the gaping vent in the bonnet. Just in case they haven't noticed the bus screaming up to their rear from a thousand miles away, too, there are LEDs in the roof and the indicators are nestled just under the lights within the carbon.
The slab sides at least look in proportion with the gigantic 23-inch wheels, and then there's the back, which is somehow utilitarian and stark despite the expensive materials that even extend to the spare wheel cover. That is part of the G-Class's charm, but Mansory has added its own touches like soft-close and one-touch-opening doors to help justify the price and remove the strain of pulling open these giant slabs of metal from the magnate buyer. Although it looks simple, the rear end is made up of 10 separate parts for the bumper and diffuser alone and even the lights are held within a carbon cage. The diffuser-shaped skidplate maybe takes it too far, but where is the line here?
Not inside, that's for sure, where Mansory carried on with the carbon-fiber mentalness and then replaced the seats with racing shells before shoving most of the weight back in with heavyweight leather that's finished better than the sofa you have at home. There's even some python skin in there...
A state-of-the-art entertainment system keeps the passengers happy, too, while the driver concentrates on keeping the car on the road. In the wet, that could be quite a challenge.
Because the G55 AMG is simply quick; the G-Couture is window-licking crazy. As I spark the 5.5-liter supercharged powerplant to life the glass in the vast hall quivers. Blipping the throttle might literally bring the house down-it's that loud.
How Mansory gets the parts to build the engine up to SLR spec remains a mystery, but rest assured Mansory has the contacts to get such things done. A modified block, SLR compressor, new pistons, rods, a camshaft, the original cylinder head with serious work, an SLR crankshaft, new throttle valves, watercooled SLR intercoolers, a separate circulation system for each intercooler, a new air intake, a beefed up clutch to cope with the power, and more go under the hood. And just check out the pipe to deal with the airflow under the hood. The exhaust doesn't just come with a 100 cell-catalytic converter, either. It comes with a remote control to turn down the noise to save jail time in sensitive places. It's an awful lot of work and the original engine is basically a waste product.
The result of all this is a 700-hp engine with 650 lb-ft of torque, which is insane in a vehicle this size. There's no time to drink it in, though. We're headed for the open road and the storm that has enveloped this small corner of East Germany. It's hardly the ideal day to test a supertruck in a carbon business suit, but it's our only chance and Mansory's marketing boss Michael Stein insists we get out there and plant the throttle to feel it.
With the car in Drive I stamp on it, feel the 'box skip several gears and drop the engine right into the sweet spot. There's a violent shunt underfoot, that's the microsecond of warning I get before the engine simply kicks the car up the road like a football. Broken down into slow motion it's a rocking motion as the engine tries to yank the front end off and then the monstrous G-Wagen catches its own weight and catapults forward on the lowered air suspension. But we don't live in slow motion.
The raw figures say it does 62 mph in 4.3 seconds and will go all the way to 157 mph, which may not sound like much, but you have to remember the 2.5 tons it is pulling and that your house has smoother aerodynamics. Sitting so high up and looking down on the world is a surreal feeling. It's like driving a rocket-powered bus and it's more than fast enough.
In the wet, the top end of the high-speed envelope is totally out of reach, as even a brief run up to 80 mph breaks me into a cold sweat as the car starts to slide wide on a sweeping bend and the wheel in my hands seems to uncouple from the wheels on the road.
It would take weeks to find the true limits of this machine as the goal was to create an overpowered monster bus. And such cars are an anomaly, so there's no frame of reference. The Mansory G-Couture is truly unique, a motoring oddity, a weapon of mass destruction in a straight line that almost always arrives at a corner too fast for its own good.
But the technicalities simply won't matter to the kind of man that can afford one. This is a car for the man who has the best of everything. He will likely have a Ferrari, an SLR, a whole fleet of supercars in the climate-controlled garage already.
This is a different vibe, a statement car. When even your SUV comes with a supercar engine you have truly arrived in the world, and with all the badge-hungry, ostentatious rappers, oil barons, and entrepreneurs in this world, I suspect that seven of these won't nearly be enough.
Longitudinal front engine, all-wheel-drive
5.5-liter V8, dohc, 32-valve. SLR compressor, pistons, roads, camshaft, modified cylinder head, crankshaft, throttle valves, water-cooled intercooler, air intake, clutch
30mm lowered air suspension
Wheels and Tires
Mansory alloy, 23-inch
Pirelli Scorpion Zeros, 305/35
Carbon body panels, front bumper assembly, hood, rear valance, rear diffuser
Carbon seats and accents, full leather re-trim, snakeskin detailing
Peak Power: 700 hp @ 6700 rpm
Peak Torque: 650 lb-ft @ 3250 rpm
0-62 mph: 4.3 sec
Top Speed: 157 mph