Traversing Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains in the Mercedes-Benz G63
Author Jordan Heller Illustration Brett Affrunti
Most vehicles these days look the same. But the G-Class, first introduced in 1979, is iconic with its uniquely boxy design. Credit the SUV’s military roots for its imposing exterior, which, in 1980, was considered tough enough to serve as John Paul II’s Popemobile, dubbed the “Papa-G.”
An hour south of the Mason-Dixon Line, folks tend to prefer American-made cars. But after pulling up next to a Harley-Davidson and revving the bi-turbo V-8 engine—which takes the G-Class 0–60 mph in 5.3 seconds—we earned respect in the form of a hearty throttle and a salute.
When pulling into the Lone Oak Tavern in Boyce, the preponderance of Harley-Davidsons—and their gruff owners—was intimidating. Luckily, we had PARKTRONIC technology—ultrasonic sensors on the front and rear bumpers—to help us avoid knocking over any bikes while parking.
More than 60 countries’ militaries have G-Class vehicles in their arsenals, but we doubt they’re as nice as this one. Nappa leather abounds, a nifty tablet computer on the dash features everything from satellite navigation to Sirius satellite radio, and the steering wheel? It’s heated.
We took a new G63 into the Blue Ridge Mountains. On Skyline Drive, the 35 mph speed limit was frustrating, but the adaptive cruise control—which keeps tabs on the vehicle in front of you and automatically slows down as needed—kept us coasting safely so we could enjoy the view.
The G stands for Geländewagen, German for “cross-country vehicle.” With more than 8 inches of vertical wheel travel, 7.7 inches of ground clearance and gas-pressurized shock absorbers, this Benz was perfect for the rugged back roads around Shenandoah River State Park.
With live country music and $5 pitchers, the Lone Oak Tavern is a must-stop in this part of the country. But the G63’s “Google Points of Interest” app gave us other ideas, too, including Harpers Ferry. If John Brown had shown up in a G, we thought, he may have avoided capture.
We could tell you about the three lockable differentials that balance torque and traction, making any terrain nothing more than a bump in the road, but this is a Benz, people. The G-Class is about style. In that spirit, peep the baller deep-tinted windows on the rear cabin and cargo space.