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Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG is a beautiful kludge (pictures)

Mercedes-Benz mixes old and new components, off-road chops and on-road performance, luxury and old-world mechanics all together in this monster truck.

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Wayne Cunningham
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1 of 22 Wayne Cunningham/CNET
Mercedes-Benz originally designed the G-class as a military truck for the German army, replacing a Volkswagen design that was similar to the United States Army Jeep from World War II. The G-class remains popular enough as a luxury SUV that Mercedes-Benz continues to produce it and export it around the world. This version is enhanced by Mercedes-Benz's high-performance AMG division, giving it better on-road performance.
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2 of 22 Josh Miller/CNET
As an example of the collision of old and new in the G-class, it retains the round headlight casings originally designed for incandescent lamps, but they now house smaller HID lamps.
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3 of 22 Josh Miller/CNET
The hand-built AMG engine is a direct-injection 5.5-liter V-8 using twin turbos. It produces 544 horsepower and 560 pound-feet of torque.
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4 of 22 Josh Miller/CNET
Part of the G-class' appeal is its legendary off-road capability. Its body-on-frame architecture gives it a rigid platform for the axles, full-time four-wheel drive, and three switches that lock the center, rear, and front differentials.
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5 of 22 Wayne Cunningham/CNET
The G-class is not as comfortable as some luxury SUVs on the road, and its low fuel economy makes it a poor choice for road trips.
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6 of 22 Josh Miller/CNET
The G63's dimensions enhance its off-road capability. Although it looks massive, it is less than 15.5 feet long. The driver position is higher than in most vehicles, and the hood is low, giving the driver good forward visibility.
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7 of 22 Josh Miller/CNET
The height gives it a big cargo area, although it is not particularly wide.
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Mercedes-Benz gives the interior a luxury treatment, an odd fit in this utilitarian truck.
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The rear bench sits a little higher than the front, affording rear-seat passengers a good view.
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10 of 22 Josh Miller/CNET
With no cupholders built into doors or console, Mercedes-Benz fits this odd little hoop in on the passenger side.
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11 of 22 Josh Miller/CNET
As part of its old-school heritage, the G-class uses hydraulic power-steering boost, rather than an electric system, as in most newer cars.
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12 of 22 Josh Miller/CNET
The gauges are enhanced with a center LCD showing driver-configurable information, such as trip data, audio source, and turn-by-turn directions.
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13 of 22 Josh Miller/CNET
The G-class has an electric shift lever for engaging drive modes. The cabin tech control dial sits behind it.
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Mercedes-Benz makes the vehicle's entire manual available on the main LCD, so the driver can look up useful information such as how to operate the differential controls.
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Mercedes-Benz fits the G-class with its standard navigation system, featuring very nicely detailed maps.
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Mercedes-Benz also has an apps feature, but it runs very slowly, which can be a little frustrating.
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The G-class also features a weather forecast as part of its connected suite.
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The radio has this classic-looking interface for station tuning.
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There are many audio sources available, including the truck's own onboard hard drive.
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The digital-media interface shows album art, when available.
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Mercedes-Benz also implemented this Cover Flow-like means of selecting music, which works very well.
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22 of 22 Josh Miller/CNET
The audio system is from Harman Kardon, and produces a much more civilized sound than you would expect from this big truck.

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