Mercedes-Benz G55 AMG is a fantastic blend of SUV qualities, off-road ability, a commanding driving position and sports coupé performance

One glance at this big Merc makes you wonder what the big deal is all about. The new G-class looks like any other durable, reliable and rugged off-roader with its boxy styling and body-on-frame construction. But, don't be fooled by these plain-Jane looks, because it is anything but a run-of-the-mill off-roader.

The AMG badge gives a hint of its capabilities. Step on the throttle, and you get an idea of what's in store. Performance is mind-blowing. Here lies the brilliance of the G55 AMG — it has a fantastic blend of desirable SUV qualities such as high ground clearance, off-road ability, presence and a commanding driving position, and the performance of a sports coupé.

A massive 5.5-litre V8 motor powers the G-class. But AMG wanted more out of it so they supercharged it. It now makes a whooping 507bhp. The tremendous thrust that this engine instantaneously musters is so addictive that you have to make a conscious effort to keep this beast at sane speeds. This heap of power propels this car to 100kph in a scarcely believable 6.23 seconds. Keep your foot down, and it closes on its 210kph top speed with the ferocity of a great white shark, all the while covering ground at an incredible pace. The five-speed gearbox is quick and very obedient, downshifting every time we ask it to. The exhaust sounds so good that people try to spot a supercar everytime you pass a busy junction.

Around corners, the stiffened suspension shows good poise but you can always feel the weight of SUV and the unresponsive steering is another deterrent. While it may not have the handling prowess of a sportscar, in a straight line the car feels rock solid. The ride is firm and thumps over sharp bumps, but it doesn't get as uncomfortable as you would expect. Ride at high speeds is pretty flat and the G55 feels at home on the highway.

A transformed car

But, take it off-road, and you get to see a transformed car. The high ground clearance and small overhangs make it one of the most potent off-roaders around. You also get a full-fledged four-wheel-drive system with diff locks, rigid front and rear axles, and low range gearbox in case the going gets tough. You get loads of grip from the wide 275 section tyres and the G55's colossal 71.38kgm of torque means off-road prowess is rapid too. The only downside is the low exhausts, which are bound to get damaged if you plan to do serious off-roading.

Interiors are typical Mercedes — high quality. The seats are comfortable and the high front seat gives you an unobstructed view of the surrounding. The rear seats are supportive and at a good height, but legroom is limited.

The dash design is minimalistic, and you get most of the features of a Mercedes. You also get a reversing camera, which is important considering that the rear door-mounted tyre obstructs your view.

The G55 AMG is an excellent package both on and off the road, but it doesn't come cheap. It is priced at a stratospheric Rs. 1.24 crore (ex-showroom, Delhi).

But, it is as exclusive as it gets because Mercedes is going to sell only a limited number of G55s in India.

If you want sportscar performance with off-road credibility, then end your search here.