Remember Huey Lewis, he of soft-rocking combo Huey Lewis and the News? Back in 1986, I reckon Huey must have had a premonition about the design of future tough-truck SUVs.
Why else would he have written those immortal lyrics: “Don’t tell me that I’m crazy, don’t tell me I’m nowhere. Take it from me, it’s hip to be square.”
Hip to be square indeed.
Fast forward 33 years, and the hippest set of wheels money can buy right now is the boxy, rectilinear, rolling cinder block that’s the 2019 Mercedes-Benz G-Class.
Yet it’s also so hip that it’s become the luxe SUV of choice for pretty much every major-league sports athlete, A-list celeb and Russian oligarch.
Previous iterations of the iconic Geländewagen have been driven by everyone from Justin Beiber to Gwen Sefani to Sylvester Stallone. The Kardashian klan buy them by the dozen.
That’s pretty amazing for a rough ‘n ready vehicle that started life 40 years ago as a barebones, utilitarian military run-around.
Up until last year, it’s fair to say the G-wagen was all head-turning style, but not too much substance. Yes, it could crawl up the side of the Empire State and spin heads on Rodeo Drive. But to drive it was about as satisfying as piloting a UPS truck.
Not any more. This latest 2019 G might look nigh-on identical to its predecessor, but it’s completely new from lug-nuts up. In fact only three items are carried over — the door handles, spare tire cover, and headlight washer nozzles. That’s it.
In a truly inspired piece of marketing genius, Mercedes changed everything apart from the one thing owners loved: that iconic design. The rest? All new. And hugely improved.
To expand interior space — a big complaint before — this new G-Class is longer, wider and lighter. Now rear-seat riders get a massive 5.9 extra inches of legroom.
And the entire cabin has been brought into the 21st century with twin 12-inch digital touch-screens sprawling across the facia delivering the definition and clarity of Apple’s retina display.
Arguably the biggest changes come beneath that classic, blast-from-the-past body. In place of the kind of front suspension used on Fred Flintstones ‘Flintmobile,’ there’s a brand new, fully independent set-up.
Add to this new, variable-ratio electromechanical power steering, and the new G feels a million times more dynamic, agile and responsive than before.
As for power, take your pick from two sensational 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8s. For the new G 550 model — prices from $124,500 — the V8 cranks out a not-insignificant 416 horsepower. Step up to the totally insane AMG G 63 — yours for $147,500 and up — and you are blessed with 577 stampeding ponies.
While the G 550 is fun, the G 63 is Disney-roller-coaster thrill-ride fun. Fun as being endowed with an ability to catapult off the line and rush from standstill to 60mph in under 4.5 seconds. And keep going to a limited — thank goodness — 149mph.
Fun as in having AMG-tuned twin exhausts poking out from both sides of the truck, each set capable of emitting an Earl Ray Jones Wrath of God soundtrack.
But the true joy of this new G 63 is being perched so high up with amazing, full-360-degree CinemaScope visibility, looking out over that vast clamshell hood and feeling King of the Hill.
Yes, a Bentley Bentayga V8 may be more luxurious, a Lamborghini Urus may be faster, a Porsche Cayenne Turbo more agile. But I’d pick this new Mercedes AMG G 63 over all three because it still dares to be different.
Old Huey was right: It really is hip to be square.
Test drive the 2019 Mercedes-AMG G63 at Crown Eurocars of Pinellas Park, Mercedes-Benz of Tampa, Lokey Motors of Clearwater, Mercedes-Benz of Wesley Chapel, and Mercedes-Benz of Sarasota.