We’re not going to lie, the abundance of unexciting SUVs on the market has us feeling a little low. The immense number of boring models in production must be offset by rugged performance, so Mercedes has a prescription that might leave you a little high. Installing massive rubber is not a new way to increase ground clearance, but it puts a strain on your entire driveline. If your differential has battle scars from the trail, you might want to consider a lift kit. The economical way to do it, lift kits change your suspension geometry and make the ride less tolerable. Engineers who designed your SUV went to school for years to build the perfect compromise of street and off-road abilities, so why would you second guess them?
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Mercedes-Benz has always chosen the other direction in their 4WD products. Much like the Unimog, the G-Class has remained relatively unchanged for decades. But when they were given an infinite budget to create the 6×6, some of the lessons learned were applied across the lineup. G is for Gelndewagen, which literally translates to cross-country vehicle. Designed to go anywhere, it is probably the last production 4WD to have solid axles front and rear. They are nearly indestructible, which is why most off-road enthusiasts prefer their rugged design over an independent front suspension. The only disadvantage is the differential housing, often called the “pumpkin,” is the lowest point on the truck.
Sure big tires will help, but if you really want to avoid scrapes, portal axles are the best way to go. A portal box at each corner allows the differentials and driveshafts to remain tucked up close to the floor and away from the rocks. Portals also incorporate a gear reduction which relieves stress on the driveline. Only the Unimog and the 4×4 Squared have adopted them in production form because they are incredibly expensive. The amount of time involved in fabricating the gears and boxes are why they have been limited to industrial and military use until now. Because of the sizable investment Mercedes has made, Dealers in the US have been reticent to order the Squared without a sizable deposit. That’s why every example we upload is gone within hours. I saw one at the Ritz-Carlton parking lot during the Amelia Island Concours and I couldn’t keep from crawling under. Looky here!
Of course, the axles are heavier, and yes they add unsprung weight, but dual shocks at each corner keep the meaty tires under control. The 22″ wheels are wrapped in 325-55-22 tires, which measure in at 36″x13″. We have experienced the 4.0-liter twin turbo under the hood of the AMG GT S and the new C63, and it doesn’t disappoint. But it doesn’t have the same massive torque found in the G63 or G65, so clever gearing was needed. The transfer case of the 4×4 Squared has a more aggressive low range and combined with the reduction in the portals it allows the turbos to get to work. The engine is rated at 416 horsepower and 450 lb-ft of torque, which is more than enough for a muddy afternoon. If you don’t need 17.7″ of ground clearance, the twin turbo 5.5 liter G63 and the battleship powered twin turbo V12 in the G65 are still available. The only reason they don’t have the trick suspension bits is because they make too much power. If you need an uplifting experience, here are a few for your consideration.